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Hellpp!! Anyone in the St Antonin Noble Val/Cazals area?

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I'm in need of urgent help/information!

I have a house in Cazals, 82140, had it 10 yrs but haven't been able to afford to renovate it yet. I'm planning to move over there in Augst and start, but in a very slow way, and doing most of it myself, because I basically have no money, though I'm hoping to get some teaching (I'm TEFL qualified) when I get there.

I just got a letter at my house in England from Monsieur le Maire which says the roof at my house in France needs repairing because tiles are coming off in high winds and falling into the street. It says if I don't get the work done by 30 June he is going to 'declare cet immeuble en batiment menacant ruines'.

What the heck does this mean for me? I presume the phrase means 'a dangerous structure', but does anyone know what the significance of this 'declaration' will be for me? Can they confiscate my house? Can they knock it down? Would they do the work and charge me?

I've never had a problem with the tiles before, and I'm now wondering what happened to the roof in the hurricane last winter - my house is in the hamlet of Cazals, which is down in the gorge, & I was hoping the winds had gone over the top.

I've no money to go there and check, or to do the work, which I presume will be to fix on the tiles, as they are canal tiles and are not hooked on. I'm going to email the Maire to ask if he knows the extent of the problem, but trying to plan what to do if it's the worst case scenario.

The house is big, I think the plans said the floor area was 120 sq m, which someone told me means the whole thing is 480, because it's got 4 floors - so scaffolding would have to go a long way up! Or could it be done from inside?

Does anyone 1) live in the Cazals area and could go and have a look & see if my whole roof is in the street, 2) know how much it might cost to put a tarpaulin or something temporary over it, 3) know a roofer who lives in the area, preferably speaking some English? My French is ok for face to face conversation but explaining things on the phone is a bit of a nightmare!

I'm absolutely terrified that this is the end of my 'French dream', and that I'll end up with a ruin. If anyone can suggest anything, I'd be pleased to hear it.

Thanks in anticipation!

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Tessa, you really do need to speak to the Maire and explain that you're coming out to France (?permenantly) in August and that you'll start renovating the property when you arrive.  And that you've spoken to your insurance company about it and they're sending an expert to assess the damage, which they certainly will want to do, they're usually flexible for dates and you may be able to make the appointment for when you're here.  Unless one of the slates hit somebody or something, he's likely - but not assured - of cutting you some slack on the date if he knows you're coming.

Doesn't anybody 'keep an eye' on your house for you?  After 10 years of ownership I would imagine that you must know somebody in the village who might be able to update you in an emergency.

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You hit the nail on the head, Baypond! I am not insured...... I fell into huge cash problems a while after I bought the house, considered going bankrupt, everything requiring payment had to be stopped. I've hardly been able to get to the house, just once every year or two -last time I went I hadn't been for 3 years.

For the last few years I've been trying to get myself back on track, and the dream of getting to France and getting on with the renovation has been the only thing keeping me going! Now I'm nearly there .... and this has happened!

I've done a bit of research - not v. cheered by it, it seems the 'batiment menacant ruine' is a legal sort of term, if they declare it so, you have to do the work within a time limit - then there's something about calling in experts, then they knock it down, I think. My French isn't perfect, so I'm a bit hazy on the bit in between the experts and the demolition!

Now the shock has worn off slightly I've begun to come up with a plan of action - am contacting a builder who previously did work on the house to ask for a devis, I've emailed the Maire to express my concern and to tell him this, and I'm going to go down next week to assess the situation - my lovely mother has offered to lend me £1,000 if I need it - how much that'll buy me I've no idea, but I used to pay this builder in stages, so I'm wondering if I might manage to get something started at least.

I hope to God I don't find my whole roof's gone! If that's happened I'm sunk.

Well, if anyone in the area does see this, I hope you'll respond - or does anyone know any other way I can find out whether Cazals got hit badly in the hurricane? I've looked at the news online and stuff, nothing about my immediate area, though I know Toulouse got it pretty badly. Also, if any of you know trustworthy/reasonable builders in the area, please give me their details.

Thanks for your input, anyway.

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I wish you all the very best. I have a house in the Gers which is just a bit too far away to suggest the builders in that area. Also, anyone I know is more on the route down to Toulouse.

I am sure as people settle down for the weekend and sign onto the forum, they will read this mail and you will get some positive feedback.

Finger's crossed, and hoping that the damage is easily sorted.


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Hi Tessa,

I do hope things get sorted for you, but realistically I'm afraid I can't see how on earth they will, financially speaking. I don't see how the damage can be 'easily sorted' if the maire has written such a letter to you. If the only money you have to spend on the property is what your mother has offered to lend you, it will not go nearly far enough. Are you up to date with the tax payments on the house? If not, as soon as you are resident, they will be chasing that up. Recommending builders is not helpful, if you have no money to spend on the restoration - if you want good quality work done above board, I doubt very much you will find someone who is happy to be paid in dribs and drabs.

I really don't mean to be pessimistic - I hope very much you can live your dream here in France, as so may people on this forum have done, but Cazals is not Paris or London, and it is not easy to make a living here. There are a lot of english-speakers living there already who will have explored the english-teaching avenues. Are you registered to teach, do you have work lined up, etc...You might well find it a much better idea to sell up, if you can, buy/rent something much smaller and livable-in, and then start up again with a big renovation project when you are settled in. Renovations eat money. Starting up a business eats money. We bought a property to renovate - my other half did a lot of it himself, we had an initial lump sum to spend, we costed it out, etc, but it still cost about double what we had estimated, and took twice as long. Having no money is not fun and it's extra hard if you don't speak the language...so please take care. You can, I am sure, make it work, but the extra hassle of a major renovation job could ruin it for you.

All the best,




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Hi Tessa, lots of good advice here. I agree with jane though - you have to be realistic about the situation.

From the Maire's/local council's point of view - I am afraid they are really fed up with houses being bought up by foreigners, some being Brits - and then left empty and not maintained. This has a strong influence on the local economy and market. I have recently met an English couple who have bought a house near me in a small ski resort. They have just had a letter from the Maire with a proposal of a cheap loan to help with any renovation/improvement- both to help provide employment for local builders, etc, AND to insure the housing stock is kept in good condition= good impression for immob. In their case, this was not needed as their property is recent and in very good nick.

Remember that although qualified to teach TESOL in UK, you will not be able to get a job in any school in France.

I do so hope you find a way out. Would there be anyway of swapping your property for a smaller one in a better shape?  Perhaps with a Brit with building skills who originally bought small and has finished renovation, and would like to tackle a bigger project? Anybody can advise on this? Or anybody actually interested- if Tessa would be prepared to consider this option?

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Hi everyone, thanks for your input, thought I'd update you - the Maire wrote back thanking me for getting in touch quickly and saying 'provided the work is done very quickly, it shouldn't be a cause for concern', and he was pleased that I said I'd go down there.

It did begin to look as if he was just giving me a wake-up call (though a pretty scary one, and I can't be sure, as he hasn't answered my query as to whether the 'declaration' can be held off if the builder can't start work by 30 June).

I checked up on how work should be paid for and found that the way I paid the builder before is the accepted way - 30% down payment, then in stages, then a last payment after it's finished - so this should give me time to get some cash in. I've now been offered a teaching job for a month in England which should give me about £1,500 to spare, and I've found a couple in France who run the 'St Antonin Owners' Club, looking after properties, tthey've sent me exterior photos which show that my roof hasn't blown off at all, in fact it looks much the same as when I was last there 2 yrs ago. What a relief! They could only see 'some tiles on the ground next to a white car with flat tyres' - my voiturette, which a daft ex-partner of mine left out there, I was intending to go back shortly afterwards but couldn't, and I forgot all about it. I think I can see how I've annoyed people!......

I'm sending keys down and they'll get a devis this week - I'll be on tenterhooks until I find out how much it'll be, but it looks more like a case of 'some tiles off' now, so I'm just hoping a thousand or two will do it......

Then I just have to tackle my debts with Taxe Fonciere and Water, and my blocked bank account ...... and perhaps I will survive after all!

Incidentally, I also have bats in my house, and I discovered they're protected in France as in England - I saw a case in the paper in England where someone who wanted to demolish a house had to spend £250,000 on building an alternative home for the bats before he could do it - does anyone know how this would work in France? I intend to contact the bat group for the area, but I'm just wondering what the implications would be if the Maire really did want to knock it down.....?

Anyway, thanks to you all for giving me your views - I will update from time to time.....


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I forgot to mention that my house had a new roof in 1990 - most people I've told this to have been very surprised when I said what the Maire had told me, as they've been of the opinioon it should not have reached the kind of state he was suggesting in this time....

Another thing ... re teaching, I don't teach in schools, only language schools, have been offered a teaching job one day a week to start in September - but unfortunately it's in Bordeaux - didn't realise how far away it is, and was trying to find a way I could afford travel from my area, but it looks as if it's far too expensive ... does anyone know anything about railcards etc.? I haven't been able to find out how much I could knock off the full price by getting the right cards.

Also, on the ANPE website, there seems to be a lot of teaching going in Toulouse part-time,my plan was to apply once down there as no point until I can get to interviews. Some of you have said how difficult it is to get teaching, yet the jobs seem to be offered - so do you mean there are just lots of people applying? Or is there something else I don't know? I have 10 yrs exp, so don't think that should be a problem. I did see something about social security numbers, and wonder how difficult it is getting them - as I understand it, anyone who offers you a job on a permanent contract has to give you one - that's partly why I wanted to take the Bordeaux job. Anyone got any info? I've now written spec letters to a school in Montauban who were interested in seeing me some time ago, and to the Wall Street Institute in Toiulouse. If anyone teaches EFL or has any info about the situation, I'd be very interested to hear it.

Sorry my posts are so long!

Many thanks for any suggestions,

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Sorry Tessa but from reading your posts you seem to have rose tinted glasses that have an extremely heavy tint.

You seem to be heavily in debt and trying to move to a country that you have no experience of the job market and being offered part-time jobs without really taking account of travel costs, i.e. seeing how you can get to Bordeaux from 82 - it is a long way.

In all honesty I would think your best option is to sell the Frecnh property and to remain in the UK where it would seem that welfare benefits are far more freely available and generous.

Sorry if the above sounds harsh but in my opinion you need to take those glasses of and look at the hard facts of your situation and ensure that you do not end up in an even worse situation.


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  • 1 year later...
Hi Tessa, I know I am about a year out on reading your messages and am sure you have sorted out ALL your problems. A couple of suggestions that I am sure others have told you about already. Firstly, St Antonin has a large expats community, more than most villages around and if you go to the English immobliere which is situated in the square in St Ant, he could point you in the right direction as I am sure he knows EVERYBODY. Jobwise? why not go and see the Maire and offer your teaching services to teach expats French. I live about 30 miles away and have a maison secondaire so am not always down there. Look on Google maps for your area as they had the camera vans down there as well and you may be lucky enough to see your house. Worth a try. and don't let ANYONE put you off France and your dream. I am the only Brit in my village and I don't let on where it is so I can keep it that way. Regards Vince
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