Woody’s wor­ries

French Property News - - Contents -

More puz­zles of French prop­erty own­er­ship

No­body wants to ad­mit they have been ripped off by a rogue trader – es­pe­cially if it was by Pat the Ex­pat Plumber or Bob the Brit-aboard Builder.

I’m prob­a­bly more em­bar­rassed than most be­cause I work for a prop­erty mag­a­zine and it’s lit­er­ally my job to know how to hire French ar­ti­sans and com­mu­ni­cate that knowl­edge to oth­ers. But the year be­fore I joined FPN I fell head-first into the ex­pat trader trap.

It was Jan­uary 2016 and we had just picked up the keys to our lit­tle stone cot­tage in ru­ral Brit­tany. There were a few bits and bobs to sort out of course, such as the leak­ing shower and the falling­down garage, the sep­tic tank pump and the bomb­site of a gar­den. But one of the most press­ing things was the need to in­stall a wood­burn­ing stove. So when a lo­cal ex­pat cou­ple agreed to be our key­hold­ers, we asked them if they could rec­om­mend any­body.

Yes, they knew of just the man, an ex­pat friend of an ex­pat friend who was a stove in­staller. What were the chances? I don’t think for one minute the key­hold­ers were de­lib­er­ately try­ing to mis­lead us. No doubt they thought they were be­ing help­ful to a cou­ple of clue­less fel­low Brits. Not only were we naive but we were in a hurry, try­ing to cram home im­prove­ments into whirl­wind week­end trips to Brit­tany. In typ­i­cal Bri­tish style, we wanted things sorted and we wanted them sorted main­tenant, vite, aus­sitôt que pos­si­ble – none of which was very com­pat­i­ble with the gen­tle pace of life we’d come to en­joy. So even though I have a de­cent com­mand of the lan­guage and had hoped to hire lo­cal French trades­men, we leapt at the chance to get things done.

It makes me cringe to think of what we did next... or rather what we didn’t do. Firstly, we didn’t do any back­ground checks on Mr Stove Man. We should have de­manded his SIRET num­ber (the 14-digit code iden­ti­fy­ing the ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion of all French busi­nesses) and fed it into Google so that we could see what he was ac­tu­ally qual­i­fied to do. If we’d done that we would have seen that his ‘ métier’ (trade) was listed as travaux de maçon­nerie générale; he was a gen­eral builder and un­likely to be an ex­pert in ‘in­stal­la­tion de chauffage in­di­viduel’.

Se­condly, we didn’t ask him to pro­duce his dé­cen­nale in­surance cer­tifi­cate, which all trades­peo­ple are le­gally re­quired to hold be­cause it guar­an­tees their work for 10 years. If we had, we would al­most def­i­nitely have seen that he was not in­sured to in­stall stoves.

Thirdly, we didn’t get our trois de­vis, the rec­om­mended three quotes. We did ring a cou­ple of plom­biers chauf­faugistes and left mes­sages on mo­biles, but they never called back – prob­a­bly be­cause they saw the +44 di­alling code and as­sumed it would be an ex­pen­sive or dif­fi­cult phone call.

Fourthly, we didn’t ask to see any examples of Stove Man’s pre­vi­ous work or tes­ti­mo­ni­als.

Ouf! Do I re­ally need to hu­mil­i­ate my­self more? Suf­fice to say, we paid Stove Man sev­eral hun­dred eu­ros that sim­ply went up in smoke. We never got the in­stal­la­tion cer­tifi­cate he’d promised and we spent a lot more time and money putting his botch job right. It’s no con­so­la­tion that I’m not the first Brit who has been conned by a cow­boy and I won’t be the last, though com­pa­nies such as Ar­ti­san Cen­tral ( ar­ti­san­cen­tral.fr) have ap­peared on the scene to vet ar­ti­sans and help Brits hire re­li­able peo­ple. I should add, of course, that I’ve met some ex­cel­lent ex­pat trades­peo­ple in France and a cou­ple of un­scrupu­lous French ones. The bot­tom line is that if you’re fresh off the boat, do your re­search so that you’re only left red-faced from curl­ing up next to your lovely (and pro­fes­sion­ally in­stalled) wood­burn­ing stove.

Ruth Wood con­fesses to fall­ing into the ex­pat trader trap

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