Disastrous long-term out-of-season rental of ‘The Cottage’ (actually an apartment above a garage!) at Domaine Lapeze. The only thing this place has going for it is location. But, nearly every place to rent in this part of France is in a beautiful location. It’s surprising how quickly the view fades
when you’re freezing cold and you can’t fire up the gas heating because the gas tank is not “full on arrival or shortly after”, nor separate as confirmed in writing, and you’ve discovered, by mere chance, that gas from your so-called ‘separate’ gas tank that you are required to pay for refilling when you leave is also going to the main house for the owners’ use (confirmed by Mr. Owner when I asked - after this chance discovery, then thoroughly denied by Mrs. Owner as “she should know having lived there for 13 years”) so they now can’t tell you how they will allocate your usage and charge you - now that you know the unpleasant reality;
when your Euros, converted into expensive oak logs, are burning at a ferocious rate in the cheapo wood-burner and all the heat’s going up the chimney, out the single-glazed windows or through the un-insulated roof, so you’re still freezing cold, and it’s not even real winter weather yet (October 2011 – Jan 2012) with no nights below freezing;
when you go to bed dressed for an Arctic expedition and shower the next morning in the Antarctic bathroom - in near cold water - as the owners may use hot water from your tank, and indeed do although they have their own, and don’t even bother to warn you;
when you can’t make a phone call except on expensive mobile roaming because the so-called ‘perfect’ internet and wi-fi relay system that ‘nobody else ever had a problem with’(!) isn’t working again (off for 13 consecutive days just after arrival in October, and many further days too) so you can’t access Skype as you intended and there’s actually no existing working landline to be reconnected as promised, (yes, I tried - opening an account with Orange as urged to do so by Mrs. Owner to solve the internet problem…and drove over 250 Kms back and forth to Cahors over 6 frustrating weeks to try to find out what the problem was);
when you can’t use your email or access websites you need, when you need;
when you can’t work out the labyrinthine French instructions (OK, hands up here) for the combi microwave (no proper oven or grill) to stick your dinner in the oven;
when the old washing machine still doesn’t work, and your clothes have been sitting in water for 12 hours and you can’t open the door, despite having been asking for weeks for someone to please sort it out;
when worst of all, you can’t do the work you came here to do and which you impressed on the owners was vital - and required reliable internet!
So, you give up and turn on the TV but the huge purple splodge that fills a quarter of the tiny screen spoils that view too.
To be fair, but only after weeks of asking, the TV was eventually swapped with another little, old TV from their other gite, and then in a somewhat bemused manner, as if the request for a TV with a working screen was way over-demanding.
The old Danish washing machine was eventually taken away for repair, after several weeks of asking, with the same attitude on display, in spades! As if the only fault surely lay in my inability to read the Danish dials, or my inability, being a woman, to know how to use a washing machine.
Stupide? Moi? Bien sur!
But not for this!
Cash only accepted. Strictly. No cheques or bank transfers. No tenancy agreement (a ‘Bail’ in French), not even something very simple. No inventory with an Etat des Lieux (condition of the property and contents, usually attached to inventory).
Yes, I asked for a ‘bail’ and an inventory/etat des lieux, and was promised. I then even spent my own time drawing them up myself on my laptop and gave Mr. Owner a draft. He came the next day and said that he’d come another time, and we’d talk.
But Mr. Owner just couldn’t find time to do anything more about it. He seemed to be very busy most days rearranging the view by starting to chop down his old fruitless plum orchard in front of my bedroom window (from which there’s the only interesting view from inside), leaving the first few lines, of many to come, of chain-sawed tree stumps in the foreground.
He later came and said an inventory was not necessary as there was “nothing of value in the place”. He was dead right about the latter.
In any case, it’s all on trust, he said.
So, what’s to trust?
They have your monster cash deposit of 1100 Euros (far more than usually asked) and insist on doing “a thorough inspection for damage” when you leave. This involves 45 minutes of Mr. Owner making “his own notes”, alone, of the ‘valueless’ contents that you “might have damaged”, despite having no agreed inventory/ EdL on which to base his inspection. No such inspection, thorough or otherwise, is carried out on your arrival to ascertain the state of anything. Nor do they note meter readings of the ‘separate’ services on arrival or departure. Why not? Because they are not separate.
No financial adjustment was made, not even a cursory or goodwill amount, for their failures to supply the services they promised, and the costs incurred, financial and otherwise, as a direct result of those failures. Not even a slight verbal apology!
I’d originally intended to rent until June. I simply had to leave at the beginning of January.
Trust me on this, please. Naivety is not a good basis for a rental, however much you wish to trust people who are going to live next door to you; who seem friendly (as they accept your lumps of cash), yet give you no guarantee of anything in return and try to avoid anything in writing.
There are far better places to rent, in just as lovely locations but with helpful, trustworthy, genuinely friendly owners, within a very few kilometres of this ‘cottage’.
What an enormous relief it was for me to leave that awful, awful place.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Domaine Lapeze is a 200 year old farmhouse, which is an original pilgrim resting place along the route to Santiago de Compostela. It lies in the French countryside, 25km south-west of the town of Cahors in the Lot department. Lapeze stands in its own 12 acres of hilly countryside, of which there are 4 acres of plum orchards (prunes d'Agen) and 2 acres of vineyard. It is situated up a quiet road away from all the traffic, and yet only 2km from the village and 1.5km from the nearest supermarket. ... more less