France and rentals

Moving to France 1.

We need a base six months to one year in order to get to know the area. We have questions unanswered, where would we like to live? Which villages have alternative communities? Which are proto-fascist (some could be)? Where does the sun shine the most? Which schools are good? Which areas get heavy snow in the winter? All these questions can be answered over time.

We found there are several ways to find a home to rent. Firstly there are the cafe bars. We have our favourite cafe bar. It is in Quillan, on the square, and it is called the Fleur. As well as having wifi gratis, it serves up a mean beef tartare with raw egg and is run by a most hospitable couple. They did not know of any rentals but did pass me the address of an immobilien that deals in rentals. These are not the short let holiday rentals but decent local rentals at decent local rates. I did email a few standard sales agencies but they strictly deal in sales not rentals and were not very helpful. We also took up the search in the Esperaza market, asking the Dutch chap, Dolphin, with whom we shared a table with. He did not know of any rentals but had a few sales in mind for us. Anyway, we exchanged numbers. There is also the internet. has rentals – but we never looked at it. The advantage of it is that one bypasses the agency which charges high fees – much higher than in the UK. There are also the tourist offices of larger towns such as Quillan or Limoux. They keep lists of long term rentals again bypassing agencies. Finally there are the Mairies. Work out your favourite village, visit the Mairie (Mayor) on the day that he is working, ask him. We tried this and were given a contact in our favorite village, Bezu, who had a possible rental. The Mairie did not speak English but he gave us his time and attention, we managed a form of communication.

So we took up the advise of the Fleur cafe and popped into Esperaza. They had two ideal sounding properties in St. Julia de Bec, a lovely village that we had our eye on. It is on the road to Bezu. Coincidentally Mara had just met an English lady with a young boy in the Carrefour supermarket who lives in St. Julia. One property was unfurnished, four bedrooms, 450euros a month. The other furnished, three bedrooms, 440euros a month. I arranged for us to visit both properties.

It appears that ‘unfurnished’ in France means that the pikey’s have been in and stripped it bare. Thankfully the water pipes are still there! But little else. It would need re-plastering, painting, some wiring. More annoying is that there were only two ideal bedrooms. The third is accessed through the second. The fourth has no windows. Lots of dead space. Very dark.

I began to feel a sinking feeling, hoping the furnished one is better. It was! Three decent bedrooms, an open plan kitchen sitting room, utilities space, basic bathroom, store room to the side (where the pigs were kept). The house was not overly furnished, beds, tables, washing machine, fridge, cooker and wood burner/fireplace. We agreed to take it.

In France ‘Unfurnished’ means a three year contract. Tenants must give three months notice. The Landlord can not evict unless it is their intention to put the house in the market. One person on an ‘unfurnished’ contract said there was not even light fixtures when they moved in! However, they were able to deduct some of the work done to the property against rent. The landlord can not place conditions on rental e.g. no pets, non-smokers only.

‘Furnished’ is a standard rental agreement. One year contract. Tenants must give one months notice.

Signing the contract is a breeze compared to London (bank statements, guarantors, references from past landlords, character references, one months deposit, one months rent in advance + the first months rent, agency fees – booom!). The agency needs either a print out of my bank balance (not three month statements) or employment contract, and a copy of my passport. Its a walk in walk out with the keys operation. Agency fees are high, worked out as a percentage of the rent. 440 euros comes to 260 euros of agency fees. There is a lot of paperwork to be read through and signed off as read. The contract on a sheet of A2 paper looking more like a table cloth for its size. The efficiency report (a break down of energy consumption, electric, gas and wood for the fire), a hazards report (forest fire risk), EDF electricity rates breakdown (hot water, heating), two inventories, and lots more stuff on rubbish collection, water usage etc.

I was impressed with the smoothness of getting a place to rent. Now its time to settle in, get a bank account, EDF account, internet, a car, car insurance, start French language classes, get registered as
living here (only possible through one months full time work) which entitles us to health insurance and start looking for a permanent home.

Blog end to the first chapter – travel in Africa

It has been a long while since I last blogged. Reason is that we are no longer wandering. We have arrived in the south of France and we hope to make it our home. The last two weeks have been spent with my parents, who have come here to test the prospects for their own permanent home. In the coming weeks we must find ourselves some rental accommodation, income and begin searching for a permanent family home.

These last weeks have been a train ride over Aude. Some of the sites we have revisited since our last sojourn here in October 2012. Others are new. The markets of Esperaza (Sunday), Mirepoix (Monday), medieval cities of Carcassone, Perpignan, Foix, castles of Peyrepertuse and Montsegur, the Templer fortress (for now its location must be kept a secret), on the trail of UFO’s, arks and grail’s in Rennes-les-Chateaux, Cardou and Bugarach, the Abbey of Lagrasse, the labyrinth of Nebias, swimming in the sulphur spring of Rennes-les-Bains, museums of Marionettes (Puivert), Dinosaurs (Esperaza), Hats (Esperaza), Automats (Limoux), gorges of Lys, Galamus and St. George, the cave grotto of Fontrabiouse, waterfalls, rivers, and lakes. Forests and snowy peaks. Bottles of fine red wine (Limoux) and sweet muscat (Maury). A taste of Petite France rubbing against independent Catalan.

We also returned to our friends who had broken down on route back to Czech. After a week their wheel hub finally arrived from Czech. It was for the wrong side but no matter – a little adjusting and it fit fine. The sender forgot to dispatch the rubber seals so we could not disassemble the hub and fit it piece by piece as would have been the correct way. It was an all or nothing job. With all the improvising it took us two days to reassemble. Then we discovered the opposite side wheel had come loose too! The Moroccan mechanic that had been paid to overhaul the wheel had only managed to round off every wheel stud. So our lovely family had to remain in Perpignan one more day to acquire a new set of studs. Hope you made it back to Czech!!

So what will happen to this blog now? I feel it is time to draw to a close the wandering overland travel writing until we are once more on the road (August we go to Austria inshallah).

Thinking economically I may continue to post on this blog about other subjects, our experience of moving to France, building a house, fanciful interests such as treasure hunting. I could and perhaps should use new domain names but that would be not be economic.

For now thanks for following our story and look out for a few more facts and figures to be posted in conclusion.

Adios, Beslamah, Ciao!