My wife and I have just returned to our house in France after a 3 month lockdown in the UK, we called in to see our French neighbours as we had no water supply to the house. They call SUEZ for us as they had recently had a new stop cock installed at their property which turned out to be the problem, whilst we were there the wife said that they had an invoice for us and quickly slipped us a bill for 3200 euros for work they had carried out on a shared (only between the two families) lane to both properties. The work appeared to be for lopping branches from trees along the lane, removing leaves from the ditches beside it and also putting down an amount of new gravel where winter rainfall had washed it away.
My wife and I were taken aback at the sums involved, €6400 in total split 2 ways but a large amount of the bill was for his labour costs as he had itemised the hours he had spent carrying out each task. My question is, am I obliged to pay him for this work or should he have discussed it with us before going ahead?.
They only moved in 2 years ago and are in the process of converting a large portion of their land to incorporate 5 gites and we wondered if this is why he has begun smartening up the lane just to accommodate their future guests.
Seems questionable frankly - if he had had no choice but to get external contractors in to carry out essential maintenance and wound up with a bill for 6400€ for his troubles then fair enough (but I’d still check the going rate for the job, that it was done correctly etc).
But to bill you for his labour (so you’re out of pocket but he has merely spent some time on the project) seems iffy - I’d expect this sort of “shared” maintenance to fall to “I do it one year, you do it the next” or some similar arrangement.
However I am not that well versed in French etiquette, or at all on the law, on such matters - I am sure there are much more reliable commentators around on SF.
The fact that it was quickly slipped to you hints at embarrassment and ‘try-on’.
A) I do think Paul’s suggestion of ‘I’ll put the labour in for the next time, please just nudge me when it should be done’ has a lot of merit - 50% of the materials sounds like it might be acceptable to you.
B) There is also an argument, should you wish to raise it, that if you’re driving one car on the drive a few weeks of the year, most wear and benefit would go to full time residents and 5Gites of guests and therefore the lion’s share of the expense/effort of upkeep should go the same way. Maybe pay a 6th??
C) Alternatively, for another 2,200 you could stay friends, have some-one looking out for you when you’re not around as long as you have the place.
D) I would be stressing that I don’t really have the money (sob story) and won’t be repeating the exercise without being asked first EVER.
I’d start by trialling A, B & D above discussion with the Mairie to
a) get a view on local practice/custom,
b) spread the gossip that I greatly appreciate the effort from my wonderful neighbour but I’m not happy at not being consulted first and really don’t have the cash. Then sit back a while to see if the rumour mill works, maybe after the OP has had time to reflect you may get a friendly reduction/second offer that you can share a glass over and all live happily ever after.
This is only my view on how I would handle it as a personality/neighbourly issue and I’m sure more knowledgeable people can give something based on the rules and local practices etc.
One problem with this is that if David coughs up half (which was 3200€) this time it will probably be taken as a sign that next year he will be just as forthcoming - and very much harder to argue when the precedent has been set.
Agree totally that it has risks.
I put in just to show plenty of options (I’m just one of those that likes just to lay them all out and mull over them) but I would be keeping it very much buried privately in my head as very last resort and be playing the other cards instead, preferably your suggestion of ‘50% of materials and my turn next’ which is perfectly fair and least expensive.
I’ve just got back from my Mairie… where I discussed this situation… (in French of course)
Responses varied but all carried the same theme…
that simply cannot be…
that is not right…
One did make me chuckle…
"the neighbour can’t be French… no French person would do something like that… "
Anyway… the nub of the matter is that both parties should discuss… look at quotes… make a final decision which quote to accept… then sign to agree the quote… and give the go ahead… BEFORE any work is undertaken.
No agreement… no bill to pay…
Sounds like your new neighbour is trying to bully you.
Incidentally… if the neighbour is charging an hourly rate… he is presumably “registered” and knows full well that he should provide a Quote and have it officially Agreed… beforehand… and said Quote will tie in with the Invoice… ???
I’d better stop thinking about this… might put me off my lunch…
Thanks for all your comments (and particularly you Stella for going out of your way to ask at your Mairie) and they certainly echoed my own thoughts regarding prior discussion, incidentally they have invited us down for an ‘apero’ tomorrow afternoon (perhaps as a bit of a ‘sweetener’ as they have only spoken to us about 3 times before) as their English speaking son has arrived from wherever so that is our chance to get our point across regarding prior arrangement before any work should take place on our behalf.
I hope it won’t end with bad feeling but, as has been pointed out in previous comments, we can’t let them bully us. I believe the chap is/was a builder by trade and that maybe why he appears to be charging so exorbitantly and by the hour!
I showed the facture to our previous (also French) neighbours this morning - they only moved about a half mile away - and he was aghast at the sum, we all used to clear away the ditch clogging leaves together before and no money ever changed hands at all, just the goodwill between us.
I would be perfectly polite and charming and very friendly and tell them smilingly, that it is absolutely out of the question that you are going to pay that amount as you simply do not have the money and in any case, had no idea it would cost so much. Good luck and let us know how you get on!
I would be very cautious about paying this - perhaps go halves on the materials and as others have suggested and offer to do the work yourself next year - you could suggest that this would prevent you from having to raise an identical invoice to them for next year’s work when complete.
As soon as you pay, you have accepted the precedent, to your detriment. There is no reason to pay, and you should discuss the way the shared access works. The idea of 7 shares, and you paying 1/7 is reasonable, but only after a quote(s) for the work or an agreement as you had previously. It is way too much money and no one can do work and then charge you for it!