Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Waiting for Godot

We returned to Paris loaded with worldly London goods like biblical mules to find we were being leaked on again. This time it was La Fille's room, which I had foolishly assumed was flood-proof unaware that the upstairs neighbours had installed a second bathroom directly above.

The water was still dripping when we arrived, its trajectory from ceiling to floor broken by La Fille's bookcase and her absolutely favourite books. What else? The drip-drip-drip must have been going on most of the time we were away because Charlie and Lola, Gerald the Giraffe, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Winnie the Pooh as well as Anton and Marie Tatin's Thirty-Six Cats had taken a soaking that had all but reduced them to soggy puffed up pulp, and I'm not talking about the plotlines. Of course these were not only La Fille's absolute favourites but some of her most expensive books as the English ones had been ordered and sent from the UK.

The ceiling plaster has gone all scabby and yellow and looks like over-ripe brie and the polished parquet has turned a dull milky colour. Hoppity the rabbit who took a heroic soaking to spare the others has a disturbing orange stain across his face, but it will probably wash out. The books, however, have so far resisted a blow dry with the hair drier and will have to be binned. This is terrible and La Fille knows it. She loves books and we have instilled in her an absolute respect for them.

We will not only have to buy new books but pay for the flood damage as, under bizarre rules we should claim off our insurance even though it's not our fault. As there has hardly been a six month period when we have NOT been drenched by our neighbours, our insurance company has "fired" us. Worse, even though none of these incidents were our fault no other insurance company will give us cover. Our French bank finally agreed to insure us so long as we paid an exorbitant premium and promised not to claim for flood damage for three years. Hard to believe, but true.

We hammered on the neighbours' door and they said something along the lines of: "Are you sure it's us?" There then followed a conversation worthy of Estragon and Vladimir about whether the water could have come from somewhere else; an original idea as there are no other water pipes but those of our neighbours anywhere within 20 feet of the leak. The Frenchman stuck to reasoning while I was ready to smash someone's head in with a mushy copy of the adventures of a British schoolboy and his little sister. God knows my patience has been saintlike until now: tomorrow I'm calling an estate agent.


Lehners in France said...

I can't believe the French insurance companies make you claim for damage caused by someone elses leak. Only in France! Poor La Fille what is she supposed to do if your neighbour doesn't sort the leak out? Sleep with a bucket next to her bed? She lost her teddies earlier in the year and now her books. La pauvre! Debs x

Cimon said...

As far as the insurance part is concerned :

1/ The reason why no insurance company will cover you is because you are a "bad risk". In fact, there exists a contract between almost all insurance companies (called CIDRE, funny, isn't it ?) that specifies that your insurance company has to pay all the damages for your flood, and will get like 800 € from the flooder's insurance company. This means that if the flood costs more than 800 €, your insurance company loses money. If it loses money too frequently, it just doesn't want to be your insurer anymore ;

2/ Good news (in a way) is that, although you have no insurance, you may take direct action against your upper neighboor. Go and see a lawyer and (even more important) an expert : make sure you prove that your neighbour is responsible for all the damage, try to figure out how much money it cost (btw, because of the book law, in France, book prices are usually on the cover, I don't know for UK books) and give him the bill. If the neighbour is responsible, he (actually his insurance company) will have to pay you until the very last cent (expertise and lawyer included). Still it means you'll have to spend money and time on it for a start, as you'll have to do it all yourself. And of course, neighbourhood relationship might get not as good as they were before...

Nicol said...

Wow! I'm SO sorry to hear about this!!! I hope that everything dries out and you have no problems with mold, that you have a way to take care of everything and that if you do decide to sell that you will find something with less problems. I can't imagine what you are going through. And poor La Fille and her books! That would be the worst part of it for me.

Irene said...

I would be absolutely pissed. Excuse my language, but are there especially bad plumbers in France? The insurance rues sound awfully strange too and not at all straight forward. Very French, if you ask me. Convoluted, that's what they are. Then again, I am Dutch and do have my prejudices, even though I can claim one French ancestor.

Parisgirl said...

Debs, thankfully the neighbours sorted it out, but La Fille did have a bucket at the end of her bed just in case!
Cimon, thanks for the information and advice. I didn't know about CIDRE.
Nicol, yup, the books were the final straw.
Irene, I fear most of the problems are down to old buildings and very old pipes, though this was a new bathroom.