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Everything posted by thepenofmyaunt

  1. Council and social housing is a completely different thing. We are talking private rents here.  When we decided to rent the house out we took advice from a solicitor who told us that 3 years was the minimum let for an unfurnished property.

    We went over twice to do inspections on the house but each time, we arrived and she wouldn't let us in because the kids were ill, the baby was sleeping yada, yada, yada and as relations between us were very good, we even took over presents for her new baby, we didn't, stupidly, think anything was amiss.

    We do have her address as it is on the legal documents and also have a friend who is a close protection bodyguard who has plenty of contacts who could make her life unpleasant. Luckily for her, I'm a much more moral person and would never go down that route because she has children. Why? I don't know as she has no qualms about destroying our lives and my own childrens' inheritance but there you go.

    We have loads of photos of the property and the state they left it in as our solicitor arranged a a huissier to do an etat de lieux. However, the tenants spent a lot of time telling the huissier how they had left the house unlocked and making sure that there was some doubt as to whether they had caused it all.

    We've now been told we can't oppose the delay to the hearing but that, lucky us, we don't have to be there as.we can get a solicitor to act on our behalf. All we need is 1000 euros.

    The bank has also confirmed yesterday that we need to attend another hearing in France otherwise the court will order the house to be auctioned, no doubt for a pittance, but never mind, if we can't make it we could, of course, just get a solicitor to handle it but that would cost another 1000 euros. It just gets better.


  2. For anyone thinking of letting their property long-term, I would like to share our horrendous experiences so you can make an informed choice about whether you want to do it or not.

    We let our house and giet to an American family in 2009. They presented themselves as a very decent, moral family although in actual fact the woman had children by three different fathers and is now shacked up with someone else. They were a large family so we expected there to be wear and tear. We gave them permisson to rent the gite out for summer lets.  They provided us with evidence of income which we believe now to be faked. Once they moved in, the rent payments started to come in late. Almost every month, they had a different excuse but eventually paid. However, we ended up having our right to write cheques taken away and a 350 euro fine from the Banque de France after we wrote a cheque for our mortgage payments only to find that their rent payment bounced.  More excuses.  I'm sure you are all wondering why, at this point, we carried on. Under French law we were not able to give them notice. They were also claiming Allocation de Loyer which was paid directly to them on their request.  We were a little surprised as they had shown us proof of significant income, however, we assumed the CAF had made the necessary checks.

    After 18 months they stopped paying their rent altogether. Their excuse was a dispute over a water bill. There was a leak at the property and consequently a very high water bill. The area has a history of water leaks due to the terrain and we had advised them to check the water meter every week to ensure that all was in order. They didn't.  We offered to pay what we felt was reasonable for the leak even though there is case law in France that states the landlord cannot be held responsible for the cost of leaked water if the tenant has access to the water meter as we felt it was right to do so but they insisted we paid the entire bill (which was for a whole year). We refused. They claimed that SAUR told them their annual usage should be 40 cubic metres and that we should pay anything over and above this. This is a ridiculously small amount for a family of 9, two properties, two swimming pools, etc but they wouldn't budge.  A few months later we breathed a sigh of relief when they gave notice. However, they told us that they intended to keep the gite as they wanted the money from the summer lets and offered to pay us 400 euros a month. The property nets 900 euros a week. We refused and told them that was impossible. They then withdrew their notice although, unknown to us, they left the property before the summer, refusing to return the keys until after the summer season was over. They took all the money for the summer lets and still refused to pay us any rent. There was nothing we could do. 

    When we finally got access to the house they had trashed it. The place was filthy, one toilet had to be removed as it was completely incrusted with faeces, electrical sockets had been ripped out of the walls, the children had gouged their names in the plaster, windows were broken, furniture was missing and the kitchen had to be replaced. It was completely unsaleable and uninhabitable. We had to pay 400 euros to have all their rubbish removed from the property including broken appliances and two years worth of used sanitary towels stuffed behind the boiler. They had done none of the maintenance that the law requires, the boiler was broken and the chimney completely blocked. We immediately put the matter in the hands of an avocat who sent a huissier to do an inventory.  The tenants pointed out  to the huissier that they had left all the doors to the property unlocked for 2 months which, get this, under French law meant that we had to PROVE that they did the damage and not some random passer by. The avocat told us to forget about it as it would cost more than the unpaid rent to prove they did it, even though they had already admitted to some of the damage in writing.  It cost us 2000 euros for the avocat to come to this conclusion! The repair bill has come to around 15,000 euros.

    In the end we put the matter in the hands of a debt collection agency (sefairepayer.com) who were fantastic. Within weeks all the various letters had been sent out and, with no response from the ex-tenants, they took the matter to the Tribunal who found in our favour. The tenants were given 1 month to contest it and didn't so a 'Titre Executoire' ordering them to pay the money was issued.  Hooray, you're thinking, justice has prevailed in the end. Wrong!  In August, two months after the deadline and the Titre Executoire a letter appears, backdated to within the 1 month period, but dated stamped by the Tribunal at the end of August, contesting the demand on totally spurious grounds. It was full of lies and mistruths but we didn't worry too much as the debt collection agency told us that the 'oppostion' was not actionable as it was outside the timeframe for contesting the order.  The tribunal had other ideas and, despite being the same one that had issued the Titre Executoire, which clearly states 'as you have not contested this order within the permitted period...' we were told we had to appear before them, at our own expense of course.  Then three days before we were due to go to the Tribunal, having booked flights, car hire, accommodation, etc, we got a letter from a solicitor acting on the ex-tenants behalf saying he was asking the Tribunal to delay the hearing. So we've now lost all the money we paid out and it is unlikely we will be able to afford to pay it all out again for a new hearing. If we don't go, they win the case.

    To add insult to injury, our mortgage company has now foreclosed on the loan on our house as we have not been able to pay the mortgage while we paid for repairs so it could be relet or sold, and so on top of the thousands of euros we have already wasted on legal fees we have now lost our house.

    So in conclusion, the law in France is a total ass. Landlords seem to be viewed as capitalists who can afford to lose the money, tenants have rights that seem to extend beyond the law. Tenancy agreements, and I'm talking proper French ones, are not enforceable and make better toilet paper than they do legal documents.  Even when the law is on your side, it really isn't. Don't rent out your house, or if you do, don't have any expectation of getting it back in a decent state, if at all. That seems to depend on the tenant rather than the law. Bitter? You bet I am.

  3. E-mailing anything to an organisation in France, more often than not, will not garner any response. When I asked about why I had not had a response to an e-mail I sent to a government department I was told that 'e-mail is not considered a valid form of communication in France because many people do not own a computer'. I didn't bother to point out that as I had e-mailed in the first place, the chances are that I did. Faxes are acceptable though.

    As others have said, there is little point in trying to do anything before you arrive as you have to enrol your child at the Mairie of the village where the school is situated and to do that you have to provide proof of residency. You are moving to the land of rigid rules and round pegs for round holes. While the new carte scolaire has supposedly made it easier to go to school outside of your designate one, France is still a long way from Open Mornings or school tours for prospective parents. Most still go to the nearest school or the one nearest the parents place of work. There are no maximum class sizes in France so getting a place is unlikely to be a problem. There is no need to warn them as your child will be treated the same as a new French child arriving at school and no special action will be needed.

    Help with French is by no means certain and your child may also not be welcomed with open arms for the new 'diversity' he'll bring to the class. A foreign child with no French language skills is often more of a hindrance than a help. I had a teacher at one of my children's schools come up to me when I was out shopping to ask me to tell all my friends not to move to France because it wasn't fair on the French children or the teacher to have foreigners holding them back! And this from a school that had only 4 non-francophone students.
  4. Peter Gumbel's Facebook followers (for his book rather than personal) are almost entirely French. I think he has very wide acceptance among the French and in all the interviews I've seen with him, the subject of his nationality has rarely if ever come up
  5. Our tenancy agreement expressly states that the locataires must provide access for at least 2 hours per working day for viewings during the last 2 months of the tenancy. What does yours say?

    Mind you, it also said the tenants should pay their rent - which they haven't for 5 months - and leave the house in the same state they found it - they left it uninhabitable. It also says they are responsible for the costs of recovering unpaid rent - nope, can't enforce that one either according to our avocat - From where I'm standing it seems that whatever is written down and agreed is not even worth the paper it's written on and absolutely nothing can be enforced without the consent of a juge - megabucks

    Don't be tempted to pay him a visit or send anyone else. It will only reflect badly on you. Good lucki
  6. In French for those who read it.

  7. Rose - You need to read the actual report rather than what the Guardian said. I've read it cover to cover including the notes about statistical anomalies. France might, overall, have a higher ranking but it also has less people over-achieving and more people underachieving. Also if you look at the results for the constituent countries of the UK it tells a very different story due to the poor performance of Wales in every category.

    Interesting article from Les Echos about the same report the DM article quoted

  8. Joanna, I'd be more inclined to look at the PISA reports which give a much better indication of achievement. For example, in Science the UK has 1.9% of students achieving level 6 compared to 0.8% in France, while at the opposite end, the UK has 3.8% below level 1 while France has 7.1%. The UK has higher percentages at each level.

    My son was top of his class in Science in France. When we moved back to the UK he was put in the 4th set as he was way behind. Maths results are largely similar with France having slightly higher percentage at level 6 but also a higher percentage at Level 1.

    France and the UK both have 99 percent literacy according to the United Nations Development Program in 2009. Both are beaten by countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Armenia however you have to bear in mind that each country publishes its own stats and defines its own baseline so the whole matter is entirely subjective.

    The WEF literacy report does not actually look at how well children do in tests. It asks the question (on p 445) 'how would you assess maths and science teaching in your country's schools' with 1 being poor and 7 being excellent so what it actually ranks what people think about the quality of education. Not the same thing at all but judging by the misleading garbage printed in the UK press and especially the Daily Mail, it's hardly surprising. It took you in so it probably took in thousands of others who didn't look any further than than the newspaper article. I don't rate British railways very highly, but they're probably better than Albanian railways. But maybe an Albanian would say his railways were good so he would rate them higher. Does it mean Albanian railways are better? No. Does it mean that Albania rates higher in Maths and Science? No again.

    As someone else has pointed out, these figures for student loans are wildly exaggerated. Most students will never pay them back. To be honest, I'd rather my children ended up with a degree from a decent university and a student debt than a degree from a French university, which fare very poorly compared to the UK in all the international surveys into graduate education. You get what you pay for in this world. Just my opinion though. A French education is perfect for someone intending to stay in France but in the global marketplace it isn't that highly rated.

    And as for thinking for themselves, international graduate recruiters often comment that French educated students have very little capacity to do this compared to those from some other nations, the UK included.
  9. Thanks for your suggestions. AndyH4, sadly their caution is long gone on unpaid rent and damage to the property. We are just waiting for a court date to go before the tribunal to try and get back all the money they owe us.

    I wouldn't mind but they have just bought a house for cash so money is clearly no object, they are just a bit short on morals

  10. Our tenants have moved out leaving a very large unpaid phone bill. It's in their name but when we tried to have the line moved back into our name, they phone company (Phonexpat) told us that it couldn't be done until they pay their bill and that the line has been blocked for outgoing calls.

    We have new tenants moving in who need the phone and broadband immediately. Is there any way round this other than the tenants paying up?

  11. I'm afraid my advice would be that it is far too late at 13 to consider this move. Of all the teens I know who moved to France often at a younger age, than your daughter, not one has really managed to master the written language. Spoken, not so much of a problem but her written French is unlikely to be at a sufficient level to gain any meaningful qualifications. Bear in mind as well that the French system uses the calendar not academic year to assign children to a year group. If she is born between September and December she sill be put in the year above where she is in the UK. It is likely she will have to redouble at least one year which may have a social impact on her,

    French school children are some of the most stressed and unhappy in Europe and for good reason. They are tested, tested and tested again, learning is by rote and is expected to be regurgitated word for word, help for non Francophone children is patchy so don't rely on it and also don't expect your child to necessarily be welcomed with open arms. Some schools, especially the underfunded ones are far from happy at having to spend their hard won funds on kids that don't even speak the language. The education system in France is in crisis at the moment. If you can get hold of a copy of Peter Gumbel's book 'They Shoot Schoolkids Don't They' have a read for a warts and all take on French education.

    I can't imagine why you think your child would have a better life in France. My children would certainly not agree and would not trade their new life in the UK for their old one in France.

    I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but I've babysat so many parents who've dumped their teenagers in French schools then watched in horror as they have become functionally illiterate and gone off the rails.

    I know some people say 11 but IMHO 9 is the latest you can leave it before the child's education will be seriously affected.

    If you can't find a way for your daughter to stay in the UK until she has finished her education then I wouldn't even consider moving.
  12. Thanks for all your suggestions everyone (well,maybe not the Sangatte one :)), I've passed them on to my friend.
  13. Some friends are planning to come over in the summer and are looking for a campsite that's suitable for families, preferably around a lake or near a beach within 100 miles approximately of Calais.

    Has anyone got any suggestions?

    Thanks in advance
  14. Hi Chancer, sorry for the delay in responding. We just have the ordinary tarif so I'll look into electricity meters and see if that works.

    Thanks for your replies
  15. Nomoss, I have no idea what I'd do in the UK or any other country I'm afraid. That's why I'm asking if anyone has the same situation.

    I had heard of small flow meters that will just count the units of electricity/water used but all the electricians and plumbers I've spoken to have no idea what I am talking about
  16. We have a property which consists of a main house and guest house. To date the whole property has been rented out to one person but we are now in the position where we have different people interested in each house. The problem with this is that the utilities are billed for the whole property rather than each separate house and there is only one water meter, electricity meter, gas tank, etc. Is anyone else in the same position and if so, how do you handle this.


  17. I'll be interested to see how much difference it actually makes. My brother has already worked out that if his son gets a place at Cambridge as predicted it will cost him less under the new fee structure than before.

  18. @Tony in 24

    We have a house in France which we can't sell. We lived in it for 5 years until circumstances meant that we had to move back to the UK.

    The house is rented out long-term while we live in a small rented cottage in the UK. The rental from our house in France does not even cover our costs and it is unlikely we will make any profit if we do eventually sell.

    Please do not assume that every non-resident who has a house in France is rich. When this tax comes in it may well be absolutely devastating for us.
  19. I'm in Wiltshire too, in fact I work in Trowbridge and it has the top 4 most deprived areas in the whole of the county. The friend I mentioned also works in Wiltshire. However, you can't judge the West Country by what happens in Trowbridge. Overall the West Country economy is doing better than the economy overall. While Vodafone and Virgin are closing, there are some other larger businesses moving in and a new discount supermarket opening up next door to Matalan so more jobs coming. In my town some shops have closed down but new businesses have opened to take their place. I work for a large employer and we are currently advertising about 15 jobs that we certainly can't fill by on spec applicants.
  20. Cendrillon, I'm just basing it on what I'm seeing. I lived in the SE for 40 odd years and my SE friends who come to visit are all so stressed and unhappy compared to my friends who live locally. I know that 'community' exists in the South East. My parent's village in Sussxe testament to that but since moving to another region I've realised that community ties are much stronger here. Just my experience and the reason I said I would never move back to the South East, much as I love it there, but everyone's experience is different
  21. Sara, England is categorically NOT in deep recession. While there are certainly areas that are feeling it more, where I live in the West Country, the economy is doing well and, comparing what I see happening in my town to where I lived in France I would say that on balance we are in far better shape. I found a job within a few weeks, another friend who moved back found one in a day! My husband is inundated with work now too. I come from the South East and would NEVER move back there. It's far too materialistic and money-centric. People seem miserable. Down here, we were recently voted some of the happiest people in Europe and I agree. People are friendly and warm, don't care what size your house is or what car you drive and there is a real sense of community.

    We came back to the UK 18 months ago, partly because of the global financial situation which hit my husband's area of work hard, but mainly because I had no confidence at all in the secondary schooling my children were receiving in France, and their college was considered the best in the department.

    My daughter went straight back into Year 7 with no need for any extra tuition or home schooling. She was ahead in some things, behind in others but it soon evened out. My son went into year 9 so had a year before he had to make his choices for GCSE. Obviously some of the subjects taught are not even on the French curriculum - design, IT, RS, etc, so it was important for us to get him back into school in the UK for that year. The main thing that teachers commented on was that their general knowledge was not at the same level as their peers and, interestingly, their knowledge of Europe. While they could name every river, departement, region, etc in France, outside of that they knew very little about the rest of the continent. Both sat their French GCSEs immediately and the school embraces their language skills.

    We had immovable deadlines and as we couldn't sell our house in time we rented it out. It's not without its problems but it enabled us to get back to the UK where we are renting until such time as the house sells.  Maybe that is something you could consider.

    We have not looked back since returning to the UK.  The education is excellent (nothing like Waterloo Road which, sadly, some people seem to think is a documentary rather than fiction) and their school is fantastically well-equipped with truly inspirational teachers. They have a well deserved outstanding rating from OFSTED which I know is not the 'be all and end all' but it's how I would rate the school personally too.  I love how they are now involved in the local community, fund-raising, volunteering and doing charitable work which never happened in France. They do more sport, are far more active, fitter and healthier than they were. They have far more freedom and independence than we could give them in France.  They've both blossomed back in the UK and neither would return to France, in fact, our son won't even come back with us for a week in the summer. He'd rather be here with his friends and his sport's clubs.

    I don't think either would have found work in France in the future and if you look back into the archives when the question was asked about what British kids did when they finished school, very few seemed to stay there. There are hundreds of thousand of young French people working in the UK. That says it all really. Think how often you've found a British person working in a bilingual job in France.

    Of course it's a big step but it needn't be a huge one.  Good luck.


  22. This is a bit of a spin-off from an earlier thread about the brevet in the UK.  Having spoken to quite a few people who are considering or planning to move back to the UK with secondary school age children, some whose children will have sat the brevet are thinking about bypassing GCSEs and trying to get their children straight into the 6th Form.

    The brevet is only graded by UCAS as being worth 4 GCSEs at below grade C. For many 6th forms, my son's included, this isn't actually sufficient to get a place, most of them requiring 5 GCSEs at Grade C and above.

    As my son is now in the first year of his GCSE courses we've been looking ahead to 6th form options and university. He is hoping to study Law and in order to get a place at a good university he is required to have an A grade at GCSE, achieved at first sitting, in other words, he has to get it first time round not at a re-sit. Many universities require all As and Bs for law courses.

    Most universities, especially the better ones, require Maths and English GCSE at grade C and above and to get into medical school many require 6 GCSEs at A grade. My niece is studying medicine at Birmingham and needed 8 GCSE at A or A* and four A levels, also at A.  You also have a far better chance of getting a place at medical school with A levels rather than the International Baccalaureate which is not considered specialised enough.  Many science faculties now require As or Bs in English, Maths and a science subject and again favour A levels over the IB.

    I found an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph about the need for GCSEs which you can read here and with university places becoming more and more competitive, missing out GCSEs might just hinder your child in the future.

    Just something to bear in mind.



  23. I don't think that is strictly true.  It's a bit of a fallacy that GCSEs are not important when it comes to university places. It all depends what your child wants to do. For example, my son wants to do Law. To get into any decent university he needs to get an A at GCSE in the first sitting. If he just had the brevet, which UCAS rates a equivalent to 4 GCSEs below Grade C then he wouldn't get a place. The same also for the best medical schools. Also, GCSE results are still very much taken into account by employers.

    Personally, I don't think that the brevet is sufficient preparation for 6th form, and in my son's school they wouldn't take a student with just a brevet level education as it is not to a high enough standard.


  24. We've found the same with the UK and French systems and are so pleased we made the move back. My son has started his GCSE courses and is way behind in the creative side of English. As he wants to do Law he needs to get an A at first sitting to get into any of the better universities so it will be private tutoring from here on. He was very good at English before we went to France so I don't think that it's him, rather that he did no creative writing, or even analysis of creative writing (other than the parts of speech) for 5 years.

    The opportunities he gets from his school for extended learning and preparation for the future are simply not available in France.

  25. We moved to France when my eldest was 9. He started school in the March and did a term and a bit of CM1 then CM2 before going on to college. He didn't have to redouble which I was happy about as he was very mature for his age. I felt that socially it was better that way. He had a chance to make new friends and could hang out with them over the summer holidays which helped his French and his confidence. The holidays could seem very long and lonely for him, especially if he is a sociable sort.  Bearing in mind that French children start school around 3, by the time your son starts school he will have missed 6 years of French schooling. If you think about how a foreign child would fare in the UK having missed out on this amount of schooling, it should give you an idea of what to expect. It's not just the language skills that are missing but knowledge of the country and it's culture.  They will have no knowledge of things that would be second nature to a British child.

    Extra language help for non-Francophone children is very patchy and ranges from regular one to ones to none at all so that is something you need to look into.  We didn't put our children into school immediately. For the first 3 months they had intensive language lessons with a fabulous teacher who taught them French for school, in other words, all the French they would need to know to be able to understand the teacher. They will spend the rest of their school life conjugating verbs so they did very little of that. I think it worked well.

    I don't personally think there is any right or wrong way to do it as so much depends on the child.  Both of mine took to it like ducks to water but equally I know people that had years of problems getting their children to settle in school.  Picking up the language will take varying lengths of time but in my honest opinion they are not fully bilingual for years, if ever, as they are not exposed to the same variety of language as their peers who are surrounded by French 24 hours a day.  I remember asking my daughter what a  'nosebleed' was in French and she didn't know because the subject had never come up. We'd been in France 3 years at this stage.  As they get more immersed in French life their English language skills start to suffer. I had another friend who has lived in France for 30 years, has brought up all her children there, they had married French partners and now barely speak English. Their own children speak no English at all.

    We moved back to the UK last year and my son is doing his GCSEs. He is now suffering from having missed 6 years of English lessons as he has missed some of the cultural references and language despite us having worked hard to keep up his language skills.  Another friend who moved back after 10 years in France discovered that her very bright children who read in English and watched English TV actually have quite poor language skills and, of course, limited knowledge of British culture and history. Much is made of British children being bilingual but I think it depends on your definition.

    Hope your move goes well.

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