29 March 2017

Housing Hazards

Housing Hazards

Are We Home Yet? Our move has been so uncertain, and then so slow... But I finally feel like we're really *Home!*
Dad's painting of The Sutter Buttes - now showing in France ;-)

Our saga began in late January, when we landed in France. We had arranged for an apartment and car for the month of February, so the clock to find a place by March was ticking right off.

Our Timeline:
First week of February: look for possibilities... Dennelle at Renestance vetted a lot of places for us, and even stretched that proverbial box by approaching vacation home owners and AirBnB owners about a 1 year lease.
8 Feb: First apartment - We were getting quite anxious about finding anything at all, when we saw our first possibility. It's biggest "plus" was that we had a fall-back, and so our odds of meeting our March deadline were improved. As was our stress level :-)
10 Feb: 2nd apartment - Dennelle found another possibility - but we wouldn't be able to see it until late the next week (so, not until more than halfway through our month). But, we could read the description and see some pictures - and it looked good! In fact, it was one (of the many) that I had noticed in my pre-move research.
15 Feb: Appointment for 2nd apartment (we couldn't see the garage, since the agent didn't have the key); we also saw a 3rd apartment (in centre-ville)
17 Feb: We submitted​ our application for apartment #2 (48 hrs to wait for a response)
20 Feb: Our application was accepted! We have an appointment for the 28th to sign the lease and move. Dennelle will get the electricity and gas on, and the account in our names.
21 Feb: but! they want a Caution (1 year's worth of rent as a deposit in a bank - this is not paying a year in advance; it is a deposit). We start a money transfer for this, and find out it could take a week!
22 Feb: contact our bank about setting up the caution; our representative can't tell us whether they can do this or not - we'll know Monday (that's the 27th, one day before we want to move!)
23 Feb: money transfer is complete (quite a bit earlier than expected)
24 Feb: Dennelle was finally able to get the street address (but not apartment #), and arranged to get a pre-copy of the lease in the works. We later got the odd numbered pages. Our birthdays are wrong.
27 Feb: We got the rest of the lease, including the apartment number. Dennelle was able to arrange electricity and gas account. We found out that electricity requires an "emergency" appointment to turn it on. And! the gas won't be on for several more days (no hot water or heat). We changed our rental insurance and printed out the attestation. Then we contacted the bank - our account is *still* blocked, but we were assured it would be unblocked by tomorrow. They finally tell us that Cautions are only for young people (!!!). We pass that info on, and the agent doesn't seem to care...
28 Feb: Moving Day?!? We went to the bank to get our card and make sure the account is unblocked. It was not! We had money, but no way to access it! We tried to get a bank check to pay our move-in fees, but couldn't. Shortly after we got back to our apartment, our bank representative calls - it was unblocked now, and we could get the bank check in a Sète branch, or arrange a payment online. We packed up and cleaned the apartment, and drove to Sète for our lease signing appointment. Things went relatively smoothly. No one mentioned the caution, and the agent indicated that we could pay the move-in fees the next day (or two). We didn't get to see the garage (still no key). There was a surprise or two about the electricity and gas, but at least while we were there, the electricity was turned on. We decided to stay in the apartment without gas for a few days instead of going to a hotel. After signing the lease, we brought in our suitcases and drove back to our old apartment to check out. We got the rest of our things, got our deposit back, said good-bye, and then stopped off for groceries on our way back to Sète.
1 March: We returned the car (and *forgot* to fill the tank! that mistake cost us 30€), then transferred our move-in fees electronically at the Sète bank office (we had some more hoops to jump through, as the account had been blocked again!)
2 March: The gas was turned on, but soon after the men left, it stopped heating the water! The agent gave us the name of a plumber, and  Rick arranged for him to come the next morning. A handyman came and fixed the closet door, and (while he's there) showed us how to remove the light fixture (The living room light was not working; it turned out it was just the bulbs, but we had no way of knowing that...)
3 March: The plumber came​, and we (finally!) had hot water (yay showers!). But, we had to pay him directly. In cash, since we don't have checks yet. The agent hadn't arranged​ to pay him directly (as is usual, we found out). So we saved the receipt. We tested the washing machine and dishwasher. Rick ordered internet. We're getting closer...
7 March: We had been working on the inventory list, preparing for our follow-up appointment with the agent. She called to move it to the next day.
8 March: We got a second set of keys, still didn't see the garage; we accidentally get the elevator code :-\. We were assured that we would be reimbursed for the plumber (the agent took the receipt; we kept a copy). We were assured that we would get the 2 different garage keys, and that someone would fix the extra items we had noted as broken. We were assured that the vacuum cleaner would be fixed or replaced. Tomorrow... Later, I followed up on a hunch, and tried a different key on the garage - it worked! We still needed the key for the corridor, but I could see that the garage was usable (there were some things stored there, but there was still room for a car). The internet company told us the box was ready for us, and we went to pick it up! Rick spent a lot of time trying to get it to work (it didn't).
11 March: The internet tech guy came​ out and fixed the phone line, and! the internet worked!
23 March: Our agent has not returned any calls. We don't have the garage keys, nothing is fixed, and we don't know which method they want to use to reimburse us. We bought a vacuum cleaner - either it will be ours, or they will reimburse us for it.
24 March: I finally got the apartment mostly clean! We'll probably ask the neighbors to let us copy their garage-corridor key. We decided that we'll (that would be Rick) either write a letter or go to the office, but say that we will deduct the plumber from the rent unless we hear otherwise by the end of the month.
27 March: Rick sent the letter, and later that day, we got a response (from the accountant ;-) ) - they have deducted the plumber fee from our rent. And! they​ fixed my name (it was right on the lease, but wrong on the bill) - this is important for proving my residence, necessary for so many things!

So, yes, we are home :-)
And it only took a month...

Some things we wish we could have done - advice for our future selves (but probably not possible):
  • have all the dossier documents copied and with us; that lets us fill out the application on the spot (there's no fee, and no obligation)
  • get the exact and full address when making the appointment; it's easier to find, and you can move forward with other important aspects of moving, like turning on electricity, changing renter's insurance, banking, signing up for internet...
  • get the RIB (bank account information) for the agency (and full name and contact info for the agent) when making the appointment
  • arrange for electricity and gas turned on before moving; ideally, between the agreement and the lease signing. Even better, sign the lease (or intent to lease - is there such a thing?) well before moving
  • arrange for internet before moving (it can take a week)
  • get all the codes and keys when signing the lease
  • get the name and apartment number of the gardien / caretaker (ideally, get introduced) when signing the lease

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