Unwelcome Inheritance and Unexpected Factures

In October 2017 my son’s father, English but domiciled in France, died. He left a property that was to be shared between my son and his friend’s daughter (who, unsurprisingly as it turns out, didn’t want the place). The English solicitor failed to keep my son informed of anything to the extent that my son even had to ask to see a copy of the Will; the solicitor then renounced their role in administering the Will. In October my son received an email from an international debt collector, the result of his father not paying insurance on a car. My son could not have known this and doesn’t drive anyway but, as is the law in France, he had to pay it. He’s a low wage earner and, to their credit, the DC allowed him to pay in instalments and were quite sympathetic. We visited the property in February to assess the situation only to find a house heaving with all sorts of detritus and in an appalling state of disrepair and incomplete renovations. My son had hoped to take this on and still, somewhat unrealistically, wants to. I’d been intending to move to France for several years and have recently sold my house, the plan being to live in this property while I look for one of my own (and in order to help my son out by paying every day bills but no more than that as I couldn’t afford it). However, it is barely habitable (although I could exist there during a warm summer) and there are several outstanding bills, the most recent one being from EDF.Fr. for over 600€ (even though no-one has been in the house for over fifteen months). It would seem that my son’s father, who failed to support him after we separated in 1985, also failed to register meter readings and so all previous bills were based on estimates. And, of course, there will be others, not least the Taxe Fonciere. One of the problems we’ve encountered is that EDF.Fr haven’t provided an IBAN number, i.e. they’ve sent a TIP/SEPA for a DD and his bank (and mine) don’t seem to understand how these work. What I’m asking is, and apologies for this being so long-winded but it needed context, is a) is there any means of help in such circumstances (I do know that according to EU law debts shouldn’t result in hardship) and b) why is it so difficult to get hold of an IBAN number for EDF.Fr? Also, my son doesn’t want to pay by Direct Debit at this stage as he is concerned that EDF will take what they please and that he will incur charges and so further debts.

Selling the house? Sadly, not in its current state and I can’t imagine that anyone other than a builder would want to take it on. Oh - and he doesn’t even have the the deeds yet.

Thank you for your time and in anticipation of any advice.

There are experienced people on this forum who will have more advice than me. What I do know is Edf fr. have an English speaking phone line so perhaps ring them directly.

Thank you Teresa for your reply - we now have EDF. Fr’s IBAN number but for reasons beyond my comprehension Selectra closed the EDF account and set my son with another company, Total Spring. I’ve heard of companies in the UK switching suppliers without the customer’s authorisation but this was totally unexpected (just to add to our frustration!).

I’m just wondering if your Son actually wants to keep the inheritance. I think that if the debts are too steep, one can refuse to inherit…and the estate is disposed of to pay off the debts… no idea if that is true, just something I heard…

Hello Stella - yes, I’ve heard this too and with parents spending more than they used to (with the advent of credit cards and loans) and in general being less frugal, many inheritances are having to be forfeited to pay off debts. However, my son is determined to ‘have a go’ at completing the renovations. I don’t believe this is possible but will help him get the place cleaned up and presentable in the hope that he’ll see sense and sell the wretched millstone. I’m currently trying to understand how we managed to use 100 €’s worth of electricity in less than the four days we were there given that the house is only half-rewired.

Gracious…are you supplying electricity to the neighbours… or is there a fault in the system. Is it possible that the meter is faulty… who knows

best of luck with sorting it out…

Difficult but not impossible to use 100€ worth of electricity in 4 days - it would need a constant load of 7kW (about 30A)

What sort of meter do you have - old fashioned dials, modern electronic one with LCD (but not Linky) or Linky?

Hello Paul - the meter is a modern one and they fitted a LINKY while we were there. Usage was minimal - a small fridge, no heating, no cooking, a kettle for coffee first thing and tea last thing, a vacuum cleaner for half an hour and hot water for the shower and cleaning (from a large but fairly new electric boiler in the basement, probably the culprit, but surely it shouldn’t be that expensive?).

Thank you. I did wonder if we were supplying the mediatheque two doors away as they appear to have the same address as the one on the bill. I almost hope we are and then we’d be due a massive rebate!

What is your supply agreement with EDF 6kW, 9kW, 12kW or higher?

There’s a LED which flashes once per watt-hour (centred in the meter, above the LCD display) - if you’re really pulling 7kW that should be flashing about twice a second continuously. If it is, switch stuff off until it slows or stops.

It’s 9kW and somewhat annoyingly the contract is a continuation of my son’s late father’s contract. I’ll do what you suggest next time we’re over and monitor it closely; goodness knows what it could have amounted to by then …

If you’re not using the house you should only be paying the standing charge for the line rental a meter. Check to see if the neighbour hasn’t tapped into your supply. Hope you turned off the electrics off at the mains when you left.

The property on one side is empty and on the other is an opticians but I do wonder … . As we’d had a LINKY fitted we left it on at the mains but nothing else is on at all so if there has been any consumption in our absence then there must be an issue with the meter.

Although I agree that that amount seems rather high, don’t forget that you are being charged a monthly “abonnement”, even when no electricity is used at all. We had a maison secondaire for 3 years unoccupied, and a bill that was higher than the electric usage, which was only for an electric mower, used maybe a dozen times a year.

Jacqueline, bear in mind that your son could go to a lot of trouble and expense fixing up that house. If he succeeds, the sister? could suddenly decide to change her mind and make a claim on any sale proceeds, or even the house itself. Make sure that you have it on paper that she is completely out of it, NOW!

Looking at all the previous factures it is evident that his father had only had estimates so it’s not surprising that the first bill was so high. However, the second one, for less than four day’s use and with a LINKY fitted is ridiculous - 64kWh used when there is no heating, just seven lights and a modern and efficient water heater. Here in the UK my Smart meter is registering just 110 kWh for the whole month. Consensus is that there must be a fault with the meter - or that we are supplying the entire village. Added to that, Selectra, without authorisation, have opened an account with Open Spring and closed the one with EDF.Fr.

Hello Nancy - this had crossed my mind too but the notaire told us that the French law of inheritance stands (the friend’s daughter not being ‘blood’). And there is no way he could ever afford to complete the work, nor does he have the skills. And now, to add to this wretched saga, EDF, having been paid, have disconnected the supply in the belief that we are with another provider!

Whew on that one! It sounds like you should just try to sell it then, for peace of mind. So sorry you are going through this nightmare.

Thank you Nancy. I think once he’s faced up to the reality of it all and when we’ve cleaned and cleared it, possibly by 2025 given the amount of detritus, he might consider selling it. I’m intrigued by your name - it reminds me that at this time of year, i.e. when it’s cold, I’d usually be curled up crocheting and glowing.

on no account set up prelevements (debit arrangements with the french banks].I had no trouble for over 18 years but after selling my house last november all the services continued to debit my account EDF and Primagaz based on estimates even although the notaire and myself had informed them of the sale with the details of the new French owner. Six letters and numerous emails as well as phone calls to them from a french friend who is a french post mistress they finally re embersed me last week.The commune also informed me i owed a full years tax fonciere and the tax habitation which always has been paid by direct debit fortunately i could prove this had been paid which they were very surprised about.I was told there was another english person with a similar name and the same date of birth hence the error!!!A few days later I was explaining this to an English friend who runs a french cookery school in the village and amazingly she had the same problem, the excuse was a lady had a similar name with the same date of birth lightning obviously can strike the same place twice in FRANCE.The latest episode is I have received a letter this week from the commune requesting information for this year as to wether I am using the property as a second home or holiday house even although they were informed in November I no longer owned the property and all taxes had been paid.It came to my english address .Just to finish friends who have moved to France have had to with 14 months to get a French registration for their english car