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Chris Slatter

My Blog


In and Out in 4 Years

Tags: france lyon real estate 

 Rune of the Day: Inguz, Fertility


Those of you who read this blog regularly (thank you for tuning in) will have noticed that I haven’t posted for more than a month. It’s because I have been moving. No other task in my life – and I have had some beauties - was ever so brain-numbing as the move from France to Italy. Or, indeed, as was the move from Italy to France. Confused? I’ll start at the beginning. 
It used to be that it was hard to get into some countries. Tibet, for instance, was apparently a bitch for anyone of foreign origin. Read Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson and you’ll find out that Siberia was pretty hard, too. In fact, any of the Soviet satellite nations were acknowledged as no go for foreign visitors. But nowhere seems to mention how difficult it is to get into France. By ‘get into’ I do not mean crossing the border, I mean settling there.
Real estate agencies in Lyon gazed at us in disbelief when we presented our pitiful sheaf of documents which included rental references for the past ten years, business bona fides and bank statements going back a decade. Where were our four recent and consecutive French rent receipts? Our CDI(long term work contract)? Our RIBs, which are printed details of our French bank accounts? “It is impossible, monsieur, dame, to help you.” My partner and I moved into a one room holiday let, paying 1200 euros a month, triple what you would pay for an apartment of similar size, so we could acquire the four rent receipts. My partner managed to get a long term work contract, something I never achieved, and after several interviews, we were finally allowed to open French bank accounts.
At our place of work, a television broadcaster, our original birth certificates were
required. It was understood that we would never see these again. As I was unwilling to part with the original I flew to London to acquire a certified copy of mine, my partner obtained her bona fide copy from her place of birth, Giugliano, a town near Naples, the first time she had visited since she was five years old.
And so, after four expensive and tense months living in one room, we had the documents required to be considered for the tenancy of an apartment. We retained the
services of Astria, a government agency which helps foreigners find apartments (but only if you have the right documents). We took the first apartment we saw in spite of the holes in the walls, the 30-year-old faded paintwork, the years of grime and filth, the dangling, naked light bulbs and exposed electrical wires because by then we were at the end of our tether. Of course, we re-decorated, spending a month filling holes, cleaning blinds and painting. We bought light fittings, furniture, carpets, a washing machine and stove because when you rent an apartment in France you get nothing but the walls and the floor. Finally, we had an apartment we really liked.
And after four years it was time to leave.
In Australia and the UK one month’s notice of leaving is considered sufficient. In France it’s three months. We had decided to move to Rome, to a furnished apartment, so all the furniture we had bought for the Lyon apartment had to go – that’s beds, refrigerators, tables and chairs, couch, cutlery, bedding, kitchen appliances - everything. Remember, when we moved in to the apartment it was as bare as a cave. The real estate agency required it to be returned to its original empty state. Fortunately it turned out there was a thriving market in secondhand goods via a website called Le Bon Coin. Finally we were down to the almost bare bones. We scrubbed and cleaned and re-painted (my partner much more than me) the apartment to a pristine state that couldn’t be faulted. It was a million miles from the drab slum we had rented four years previously. Our deposit was safe, or that’s what we thought.
Misgivings began to surface in our minds when the real estate agency sent in their
assessor, a dour and driven man, who began taking photographs of minute scratches
on the stone sink that had probably been created in the 19th century, he found minute
holes that we had never seen before and photographed them with a macro lens so they resembled lunar craters. There was discoloration on the tiles of the balcony, a scratch on a tile in the bathroom, smears on paintwork all faithfully photographed and recorded. Records of the previous state of the apartment seemed to be non-existent: there were no photographs of the holes in the wall that we had repaired; the peeling wallpaper, the filth and grime that we had encountered and cleaned were unrecorded.
After two hours of this humiliation we were ushered out of the apartment – an apartment we are still paying for – like unwanted visitors. We sat in our car outside the apartment block in stunned silence before setting off for Italy. Never have I been so pleased to leave a country as I have France. Next blog I’ll tell you about arriving in Rome and the delight it brought to both of us.

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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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