The Poster Child of French Property Predicaments
Volume XXI, Issue 30
There are many reasons to spend time in Nice, not just because of the warm Mediterranean waters that await a beach lizard like myself, but for all the important events in which we are involved, both business and personal.
Later today, we are hosting our bi-monthly coffee gathering, Après-Midi, with best-selling author and restaurateur, Craig Carlson, speaking to our Niçois community. We’ll report on the event in next week’s Nouvellettres®, and because we will record it, you will have an opportunity to view it for yourself on YouTube, regardless of where you are.
The other reason I hightailed it down to Nice was for yesterday’s General Assembly of the co-ownership of my Nice apartment building. If you have followed the saga of my “sanibroyeur” toilet, then you know that our last mention of it was in a recent French Property Insider titled “Top 10 Mistakes Not to Make When Buying a Property in France!” from April 20, 2023, Volume XXI, Issue 16. It was Mistake #1, but I’ve written about it many times over the past 12 years.
The bottom line is that I still have the sanibroyeur, and fortunately it functions, as long as it is maintained properly. Immediately following the purchase of the apartment and the discovery of the toilet, I sued the seller. After eight years in litigation, I won the case (including an appeal), but never collected the settlement money because his company had been dissolved by then. Now, my downstairs neighbors are suing ME to install a real toilet, yet won’t give me permission to plumb it using the common parts of the building (the stairwell is the logical place)! (I swear this is true.)
My next-door neighbors won’t give me permission to plumb it by going under their bedroom floor (the only other alternative, and the solution both the expert and the plumbers recommend), and so now I have brought them into the lawsuit, at the recommendation of a new lawyer in Nice, in order to get the toilet plumbed one way or another. And BTW, the pipes already go under their floor, but are very small, and make an L-shaped turn at one point before connecting to the outside sewage pipes.
This new attorney explained that the dispute is not between me and either of the neighbors, but directly between the two neighbors who have opposing opinions, since the only thing I care about is getting it plumbed so that it uses the real sewage pipes and is no longer dependent on electricity or a pump. I don’t care how we do it and I am willing to pay for all of it. He explained, “You are simply a spectator.”
This General Assembly was held to primarily address this problem, I am quite pleased to say! And here’s the text of the scheduled vote noted on the “Convocation” (translated from French):
4. Proceedings in progress: In October 2018, Mr. C. [downstairs neighbor] summoned Ms. Adrian Leeds, co-owner, and the homeowner association to appear before the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Nice to request that Ms. Leeds be ordered to remove the chemical toilet in lot number 15. As Mr. C. did not ask for an order, the homeowner association did not have a lawyer to follow the proceedings. As Ms. Leeds has now summoned SCI XXXX [next-door neighbors], it now appears necessary to choose a lawyer to represent the homeowner association in court.
What this means is that there are now four parties involved in the case: me, my neighbors downstairs, my next-door neighbors and the entire building of owners. In all honesty, I am THRILLED, because, for the first time, there appears to be some “light at the end of the tunnel”—one way or another, this will get resolved.
What I imagine is that the building lawyer will call for an expert to review the best way to plumb the toilet and ultimately the court will dictate how that is to happen. This could take years, but as long as it is finally resolved, I don’t care. Until this is resolved, our properties cannot be sold and their values are reduced. Until this is resolved, no one will entertain installing an elevator, either, which we’d all like to do.
None of my neighbors are happy with the situation and that means they aren’t happy with me, even though none of this is my fault and I am fully the victim in the case. There’s nothing I can do about their dismay, other than get this resolved so that we can all go back to fully enjoying our property!
In the end, the meeting went very well and was incredibly cordial. It was held on the upper terrace of a restaurant opposite our building so that we could see our newly renovated building perfectly from that vantage point. It was quite a lovely sight to see our own apartments at eye level. There were only a handful of us and everyone understood the problem with the toilet and voted to hire an attorney to see it through. I was very pleased.
Before leaving Paris on Monday a claims’ adjuster representing my homeowner insurance company came to review the structural problems in my Paris apartment. You may have kept up on that problem I’m facing, as well, and if not you can read all about it in a recent May 18th French Property Insider titled “Cracking Up and Cracking Under Pressure.”
I had hopes that the insurance will cover the cost of my move since the homeowner association voted to do the work, but they voted against any compensation for me! At the time, I was left holding the bag to pursue an insurance claim and revise the estimates to something more palatable.
Just as my attorney warned, the adjuster explained that the insurance will not cover any of the expenses because the claim has nothing to do with anything specific to me as a homeowner…such as a leak from a neighbor’s apartment, or a fire, or other. The structural issue is purely the responsibility of the building and again, I am the victim. He also explained that by law, they must restore the apartment to its original condition once the work is complete on the ceiling beams, including replacing all the custom cabinetry that will likely be destroyed. That’s at least a positive note in my favor as the apartment is fully outfitted with such cabinetry touching the ceiling and therefore at risk.
Now, we must go back to the drawing board to find a solution, as it is not my responsibility alone to pay for any portion of the work that must take place, including the cost of moving out for the period of the reconstruction. Without the homeowners’ approval to cover the costs, I see no way I can move out and allow the work to be done.
Just like with the sanibroyeur dispute in Nice, until this is resolved and the work is done, no owner in the building can sell their property (who wants to buy a property that clearly has structural problems?) and their property values have been greatly reduced. An appraisal I had done recently claimed a value of about half of what it normally would be thanks to the structural issues! (Maybe a buyer is willing to take the risk for half the price??)
As a result of both the case in Nice with the sanibroyeur and the structural problems in my Paris apartment, I have become the company’s poster child for things that can go wrong with a property purchase in France!
It’s a pretty funny situation for us/me, wouldn’t you agree?
The point is that one can expect all sorts of problems surrounding property ownership of any kind, anywhere, including property ownership in France. We at the Adrian Leeds Group are not here to whitewash the trials and tribulations of property ownership and provide a rosy-colored lens that doesn’t give you the true and honest picture of what you can expect.
“Au contraire!” It’s our job to ensure your eyes are wide open going into any investment in property in France. And not only that, but if we can manage such issues for ourselves, first-hand, up-close, and in the mud so to speak, then we can, and will, watch out very closely for any issues that might arise for you as a property owner.
It’s a big reason you want to have people like us to “have your back” and provide the insurance you need to make the investment with complete confidence. If we can manage it for ourselves, then we can certainly manage it for you!
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. Due to a last-minute rental cancellation, Le Jardin de la Promenade in Nice is available for rental bookings until August 26.
Visit our website for details and contact information TODAY!