Right old muddle!

Hi all, just wondering if any sage souls out there had any helpful suggestions....... I moved to France with my small son in Aug 2008 after my divorce. Initially I was offered a position as an 'Agent Commercial' with a local estate agent and found rented accommodation in a property that had been on the market for a number of years but was reassured that it was extremely unlikely to sell in the near future and that the tenancy was secure. We arrived in August and by December sods law decreed that a buyer had been found and we were given until 1st week in March to vacate. By this time the estate agent I had been working with had closed her business ( a combination of the slump in the market at that time and certain 'legal problems' for which she was apparantly notorious - unbeknown to me).As small son was happily esconced in his new school and with no CDI, renting was obviously going to be difficult, so armed only with a grim determination to stay in France and a couple of CDD contracts (I'm a Celta qualified Business English teacher) I took the plunge and in Jan 2009, under pressure to find somewhere to live fast,I offered on a brand new house, which seemed like the quick and sensible option ( trying very hard to change the habits of a lifetime!) - low maintenance, energy efficient etc etc. The property was built but not finished when our offer was made and accepted and is situated on a new development of 2 apartment buildings and just three houses of which mine is the end house. At the beginning of Feb 2009 I received the devastating news that my father had died whilst on an extended Christmas break in the UK ( he lived in the Charente ) and I had to return to the UK to organise the funeral and then hotfoot it to the Charente to finalise his affairs and clear his house. Immediately upon my return, I then had to pack and prepare to move into the new property, which I was then told would not be completed until the first week in May, thus requiring that all my worldlies went into storage for two months as well as incurring the cost of renting short term in a holiday complex until the completion date.

Finally got the keys at the beginning of May, but had to wait another fortnight before EDF could lay on the electricity however, apart from this inconvenience and a few technical problems with the telephone cabling that had been laid outside, we moved in and whilst surprised by the condition in which the builders had left the property ( covered in plaster, blobs of concrete, etc and with the garden area much reduced from the land area proposed when I first offered and the ground undiggable, awash with concrete, stones and 'buried treasure' ( T shirts, and even some underpants!!) I was informed that this was perfectly normal when you buy a new house here.

Anyway to cut a long story short, the first problems were encountered in the first year. The house is just 75m2, I had no dishwasher, tumble drier or much else in the way of gadgetry and mindful of my dad's experience with electric heating had bought a calor gas heater. (In any case, I had had to remove both radiators from the living/kitchen areas in order to accommodate some of Dads furniture). Based on our previous consumption, I elected to pay EDF by monthly direct debit of 100e, a slight increase on before and which EDF suggested should more than cover it. At the end of the year, the meter was read and I was absolutely astounded to receive a bill for an additional 800e, bringing the annual bill to a mind boggling 2000e!! Within the week, my neighbour had paid me a visit to ask if i had received a huge bill as they too were taken unawares by a bill that was even bigger than mine.the only house that was unaffected was the house in the middle, owned by some friends of the builder and electricity/plumbing contractor that laid on the services to the new development (funny that!) Even EDF admitted that it was an abnormal consumption, but as the meters in both houses were found not to be faulty, they couldn't do anything about it. in the course of my enquiries, I also found that additional services had been requested on my account, using my name, but giving a birthdate of 1978 ( very flattering as I'm 47!) and incorrect birthplace. Again EDF said that this was peculiar, apologised and cancelled the additional services, but repeated attempts to get to the bottom of what happened have drawn a blank. With an extremely limited income, the right to absolutely no assistance at all ( as a homeowner, albeit with a bloody great mortgage and as a foreigner, my application for RSI was refused by the department of Vaucluse on those grounds and that I was obliged to have sufficient funds to support and my child in France for 5 years after entry)

Other electrical 'weirdies' were the occasional smell of burning around the front door and occasionally from the staircase area and the absolutely arctic conditions for the past two winters on the first floor of the house, with the wind whistling through the roof space and resulting in many a 'duvet day'!

Hard on the heels of this horror came the demand from the syndic of the co-propriete for 700 e ( having informed me when I bought the house that the charges would not exceed 200e annually - my neighbours were told the same thing) these charges mainly relate to the cleaning and maintenance of the two apartment buidings as well as their security lighting and the maintenance of the ' espaces verts' which seem in part to have purloined from the garden land the house owners hadbeen expecting when we offered on our houses!

Over the period of time we have lived here, we have been made aware that the builder/developer in question is known to be a crook and a chancer of the first order, he has a shocking reputation locally, confirmed by the very kind lady at the CAF whose heartfelt advice was to sell the house and get the hell out of here.

Even with 5 different jobs, financially it has been a nightmare and so the house was put on the market and finally I received an offer in October. The DPE was carried out and surprise surprise, we have lived here for nearly three years with NO insulation in the roofspace whatsoever!! ( photographic proof) additionally it has come to light during our notaires investigations that the development has being built in direct contravention to the permission and spec demanded by the Mairie for the site, the apartment buildings are misplaced by a significant distance, the wooden shutters approved replaced by rollers, garages built with no permission resulting in two of the three houses being misplaced ( not lost, just not where they should be!) and the list goes on.

At this point I lost my cool and armed with a copy of the DPE ( energy rating E on a new house, thus affecting its mortgageability) photos of the 'naked combles' and copies of the threatening letters sent to the developer from the Mairie and legal representatives regarding the infractions of his original permis de construire ( he risks a 300000 fine at the minimum - not sure if worst case scenario would be demolition & rebuild - difficult as houses and appts all either sold or rented now) I went straight to his office and slapped the documents on his desk and demanded an explanation. He was evidently a bit taken aback that I had copies of the correspondance pertaining to his infractions of the building permission and agreed to send a company to insulate my property within a week, which he did.the DPE rating was then revised to D and the sale is progressing.

I'd be interested to know whether the illegality of the development as a whole would invalidate any part of the regles de co propriete ( not sure if you can apply legal obligations to a development where people have bought in good faith but is later found to be contravening perhaps both european standards and departmental/local law. At the 2010 annual meeting of the syndic & co propriete The houses were assured of a reduction in charges to take into account our subsidy of the apartments and our lack of benefit from most of the incorporated charges and services - naturally this has not materialised.

Would there be any point in seeking redress from the developer given that the houses clearly didn't conform to spec or accepted standards of construction etc

I am still left with the residue of a huge electricity bill to pay, thankfully edf have been extremely patient and have made it clear that they too believe something to be amiss and have given me numerous stays of execution. My own feeling is that either a) we were charged for elec used by the developer ( the bill initially arrived in the name of the SCI) b) the middle house has been pulling electricity from the two either side or c) there's an major wiring problem.

I'm now facing my 4th move/house clearance on my own in three years, my son who has dyslexia and mild Aspbergers)has recently had to return to the UK to live with his father due to a combination of the uncertainty and a deterioration in his behaviour probably caused by school stress, my own stress and the long hours I had been working which haven't even allowed us to 'break even'. I have no idea where I will go, do not have an income that will support another mortgage and am feeling more than a little 'punchdrunk' with it all!

A big 'Thank You' in advance to those that have read this and managed to stay with my ramblings' I'd really appreciate any advice from anyone with a better knowledge of building rules, regs and legal process here than I have!

Again, big thank you to you all for your support, Nick,bless you once again for continuing to give your valuable time & expertise to my chaos -just a little renewed hope makes such a difference, fired up again now! Will mail you with some interesting observations from the plumber who fixed the boiler and piccy of latest damage. Sheila, thank you, I read the article on the Dublin development and as ever remain appalled by what these people have been put through - no winners, just an awful lot of unnecessary heartache. Lets hope 'what goes around comes around' for these 3rd rate conmen. Annie, thank you for warmth of the virtual hug and kind words, Carol & Maria too. (Carol, I really empathise with how your brother & sister in law feel -how sad that what should have been a wonderful experience for them turned so sour. Certainly no amount of sun, fine wine etc could compensate for that amount of aggro - Sherborne sounds good to me too!!) It's been a salutory lesson and certainly if I can ever escape my own little nighmare, I will never consider buying a property here again! Thank you all again and I look forward to having cheerier news to post next time! xx

Vicky once again SFN goes into action.....I am sure Nick and co will manage to help you....this site is magic for so many of us...bolstering us when we are low and offering amazingly useful advice when we are feeling well and truly b******d! Good there are others in the same boat and hopefully willing to fight the good fight with you. My brother and sister in law are now happily esconsed in Sherborne....and wont even visit us for a holiday.....France off limits for them for a few more years methinks! Anyway.....good luck and really hope you nail this particular b******d!

Hi Vicky, sorry i cannot help you but wish you all the best in your fight with this awful man and just hope you and Nick can sort something out...Good Luck

Hi Vicky. Can't believe you are still enduring this awful situation. Knowing others have experienced this is cold comfort I know, but a situation in Dublin which was highly publicised resulted in a €1m fine and jail for the developer. They got him on the lack of compliance with fire safety. He has also been made bankrupt and his large house seized. Unfortunately, he has not obeyed court orders to do the necessary repairs. Here's a NY Times article on the whole sorry affair.

You have Nick on your side which is great, and lots of virtual support here on SFN. Nick will know far better than most how you could go about getting the faults remedied, and on which fronts to fight the battle. Bon courage.

That’s great news. Had thought you had thrown in the towel. I’ll draft the letter this week and we can go from there. It would have been better if we had a qualified electrical survey. I’m going to put one more shout out on here to see if we can’t get a survey done (if you are ok with that?)

go for it! Nail him, for your satisfaction and to protect aeveryone else. I'm too far away to give you a hug or say come for coffee........so this is the hug! ( )XXX


Hi Nick, lovely to hear from you and have left a message which details current situation a little better....... More & more info coming to light regarding this guy, how he's remained in business I have no idea .......£££££££ !!!

Have been pretty low recently, but one of the few things I do have left is fight - Ready to explore all avenues possible to nail the b*****d!!

Hi Annie, how are you? Little change here ( except 'wine o clock' seems to arrive a bit earlier these days - must take care when the clocks change!!), I'm soldiering on, ever hopeful that a young, savvy & enthusiastic couple of building experts with no small children and a thirst for a challenge will buy the house......... :-)

Good to hear from you, hope all's well xx

Vicky, long time no speak. I’m going to pm you as I have thought of something else if you still have the fight left in you.

How are things going Vicky????



Hi Carol & many thanks for your reply - Your brother & sister in laws' experience sounds horrific, thank goodness they finally managed to sell - I really don't know how these b******s sleep at night knowing what they put people through. The stress & anxiety in constantly firefighting & plugging holes ( particularly in a system that you are unfamiliar with) is so debilitating and saps energy away from other priorities.Thoroughly depressed, I have now arrived at the same conclusion, better to just cut & run and try and forget the whole experience, just wish I could!! So very far from my dream of a new life here 5 years ago......... Despite very sound advice and kind offers of help ( Nick Ord has been wonderful), nothing has improved and I still can't even find anyone willing to thoroughly inspect the elec. installation and put their name to any kind of report, such is the builders reputation here! Plumbing the same, still cleaning up after boiler leaked for the 3rd time and flooded downstairs, the development ( amongst others built by the same guy) is known to be contravening the original permission to build given by the Mairie, with just about everything ( even down to the siting of the buildings) contravening the norm. When I thought I had a buyer and did the DPE, the surveyor found no insulation whatsoever in the loft, just bare boards, which explained very well why small son & I nearly froze to death the first two winters here!! The plumber who visited last week said he could see clearly abnormalities in the walls & ceiling which will probably result in cracks & fissures in the not too distant future........and on & on it goes. The only comfort is that I am not alone, even the very kind lady at the CAS is another victim of the same builder. I'm just horrified that the laws and regulations seem to mean nothing here and the guy seems to be untouchable. I am absolutely desperate to get out, but with a slow market, little work at the moment, 2 dogs and nowhere else to go, I am resigned to having so sit it out and while awa y the wee sleepless hours with some very dark & creative thoughts of retribution!!

Thanks again for the good wishes, they really are much appreciated and I do hope your brother & sister in law have recovered from their ordeal!

Vicky this sounds terrible....you must be stressed beyond words. I really hope you have friends locally who are supportive. Ok...this is a horror story...but the second one I know of and circumstances are similar. My husbands sister and husband moved to France 6 years ago. They bought a flat off plan; an old barn in a high street in a small town near Perpignan. There were to be half a dozen flats with an underground car park. Long story short...it was never signed off....the building regs were all ignored...the stairs up the flats were lethal...every step a different height, which made the most agile person trip. They found out they were responsible for any accidents occuring on the stairs! Wiring, plumbing all faulty; car park could only take very small cars...very reduced height and tiny spaces wouldnt fit an average car if you wanted to park and also get out of the car! best part of the flat was the balcony/terrace of 30ft x 10ft....(1st floor flat)....6 months after they moved in they had a block of flats built 20ft away.. they lost all their light. They appealed the plans and lost..the residents formed a committee and to the day my sister in law left, having managed to sell after 4 years, the committee had spent thousands on taking the builder to court. Not trying to depress you...but think you need to get out asap and put this whole thing down to experience. I am amazed at how often new builds seem to be sold without complying with building regs....should be illegal for a sale to take place without this happening. I wish you every bit of luck in the world and hope you have a quick sale.

Hi Vicky. Just saw this discussion today. I hope as over a month has passed, things are beginning to finally go your way. Like many others, can't offer professional or financial help, but send you warm wishes.

Bon courage!

As I understand things, on every new build there is a "decennal" insurance policy. This covers major problems with the house. Look for the paperwork with your building contract.

Surely faulty wiring and burning smells should be covered. You don't have to pay for it every builder should, by law be covered against bad (or fraudulent work) for ten years.

Don't ever give in - in my experience the knee-jerk response in France is "NO" and the only way is to persevere.


Rick Coppage

Again, I can only re-iterate how terribly grateful I am for everybody's input and support here in every form received whether practical, advisory or moral. It's been a tricky time and it's been very tempting to 'ostrich' on it for many reasons, not least the complexities of getting to grips with the legalities, terminology and brick walls that I'd come up against, all of which were pretty energy sapping! It's been very, very, helpful to have had the benefit of all of your combined expertise, practical suggestions and kind thoughts, all of which have have cheered and fortified me considerably!

Nick, I will endeavour to get together all the info for Monday - Thanks again............

Bless you all XX

Well done Nick. Let's hope you can help,

Hi Vicky,

Ahead of our conversation on Monday, would it be possible for you to find out the permis de construire number and if there have been any permis modificatifs ? Should be readilly available at the local Mairie (you may already have obtained it).

I'll go through the other stuff with you on the phone. You can call the office number as I intend to be in all of Monday afternoon: 01 40 38 64 24.

Kind Regards

i'm sorry if this is a little harsh, but EDF is only charging for what goes through the meter plus their standing charges? I suggest to all having problems with "excessive" billing, manage your EDf account online, there you can see your year on year consumption as a graph and tell them your real readings. I'm not a fan or employee of any utility Co here, just paying for what i legitimately use of their services.. as people pay me for the services i provide for them. There's 2 of us in our house, and pay 750€ ish per year.. with 2 freezers running, various clocks, phone, modem.. they all quietlt draw power but we forget they're doing so.. i have a remote wireless switch to turn off the tv, hifi, sat decoders,dvd, and all the other items which cost a fortune on standby.. but still use my compressor, drills and other power tools without concern..

Sorry I can't help with too much practical advice but I feel so sorry for you and just pray that something will go right for you this year! Had the same scenario with EDF ourselves and paid 90e a month only to receive a bill for 899 at the end of the year. Perhaps this is an EDF thing!!!?

I think we've had some difficult times in France but this is one of the worst scenarios I have heard of and I think you are a very brave lady to have stuck it out and wish you well, just sorry I can't give either practical or financial help......

very best wishes