24 hours in Toulouse

Okaaaay, I am fiiiiinally ready to talk to you guys about the most aggravating, annoying, adult-y problem I’ve had in my entire life, and I’m writing this in the hope that you readers can avoid it in the future and maybe not be as naive and trusting as I’ve been throughout this process.

As you all know by now I spent semester 1 in Toulouse, and had the best time ever there. Alice and I were lucky enough to find the best flat I think I have ever, and probably will ever live in, it was the dream. Mum and I went to Toulouse in the summer to flat hunt, we saw some pretty dodgy flats, and at one point I was about to settle for the best of a bad bunch, that had a strip club downstairs to it. My mum persevered and forced me to keep looking and to go into random estate agents and see if they had anything. After 4 failed attempts, the strip club flat was starting to look more and more appealing. We were sat on a bench (probably rowing because we were so stressed), when mum pointed out a street called ‘Rue d’Alexandra,’ and on that rue, was an estate agents, Centre Immobilier Toulousain. Fate?! I think so. We ran in and asked if they had anything available, to our amazement they said yes, and we could go and view it in 20 mins. We impatiently waited outside until we could go view it. Situated just around the corner from the main square, and more importantly, round the corner from zara, and adjacent to 4 (yes f.o.u.r) chocolate shops, we were practically sprinting up the 3 flights of stairs to see the flat. In front of us stood one of the most beauuuutiful doors of life, wooden and pink. As soon as we walked in the flat we both knew it was the one, traditionally French, 2 bedrooms with balconies, a living room/dining room, kitchen, dodge toilet room, and a bathroom. Perfect. I got in touch with Alice to see if she fancied bunking up with me for the semester, and we signed the contract the next day.

I wouldn’t take back that appartement for the world, Alice and I literally had the time of our absolute lives in it, and I will never ever ever forget it, and it’s for this reason that I’m so upset with how we’ve been treated by CIT (the estate agents), probably because they think they can, with us being English and students. Well, think again CIT, you messed with the wrong gal. When we signed the contract, we were told that because we weren’t French, and I didn’t have a French bank account, that our deposit would be 2 months rent, and that we would have to pay 6 months rent up front, AND an agency fee. Obviously, living off the government pretty much, I don’t have that kind of dolla, so my mum kindly (and probably stupidly) decided to help us out and pay it for us, under the condition that she would get it back.

I also applied for something called the CAF, an enterprise ran by the French government to help out students with paying their rent. They are pretty strict with this, because I think a lot of people try to cheat the system, so I was in and out of the CAF office every week for about a month until they told me they had everything they needed and I would get the money soon. This never happened so I kind of gave up with it, until my friends who I’d been through the process with started getting their CAF money. I logged in online and according to my online statements, I’d been paid almost 700 euros. I went into the estate agents the next day and they said that it had been paid to them. Erm, sorry, what/why? They said they would keep hold of it until I got my deposit back and they would pay it, by cheque, to my mum. I had kind of given up by this point so just agreed to let them do it their way (very silly of me indeed).

We left the flat exactly how we found it, if not cleaner according to the man who came to do the Etat de Lieux de Sorti (basically just someone who comes to check the flat is clean and proper in order for you to get the deposit back), said our farewells, and moved in Valencia. About a month later, we’d heard nothing, so I sent about 4 emails, and got no replies. Eventually, we heard back from them, stating the flat was in a ‘state of filth,’ and that they legally had 2 months to sort out the bills and give it back to us ‘if it hadn’t been exhausted by cleaning/damage fees.’ I don’t usually swear on this blog, but this was absolute bullshit. We decided that our French wasn’t quite good enough to fend for ourselves, so my mum’s amazing best friend, Anya, and her husband Rory, decided to take the lead, and things got pretty messy. They also told us they had given the CAF money back to the CAF, and that we wouldn’t see it, at this point it had added up to 885 EUROS. After Anya doing some digging, it turns out on their account it states that I’ve been paying them monthly for bills/utility fees, even though I don’t have a French bank account and they don’t have my bank details. Basically, they have tried to find a way to keep the CAF money, without it showing up on their system as CAF money. Thought you’d get away with that too did you? They sent us their pathetic excuse of an Etat de Lieux de Sorti along with half of the deposit. No evidence of this so called filthiness or damage. No evidence of bills. Just a lack of money, and some very angry English hormonal women. So, after various screaming battles, numerous ignored emails, and unanswered telephone calls, I’m now on a 8 hour train to Toulouse to meet Anya, and go to court with them. We have all the relevant information we need, so tomorrow, hopefully this stress will all be over and I’ll be able to go and sit in my favourite little cafe, and write up the follow up to this post. Fingers crossed anyway. A demain.

Ok I know I said see you tomorrow, but just a quick update. Train just got to Barca and shock horror the French have gone on strike so my connecting train to Toulouse is cancelled. Only option is to get the bust at 11.45pm and arrive in Toulouse at 5.55am, looks like I’ll be getting a taxi straight to court, wish me luck.

HELLO!! I know to you this looks like just a paragraph break, but to me it’s a new day. I got into Toulouse at 5.30 this morning pretty much dead and luckily enough my friends were up and let me into their flat, so I freshened up and headed to get a quick croissant and a cafe au lait and met Anya. I’m writing with a huge grin on my face, as everything went perfectly, and I couldn’t really have asked for a much better outcome. However, the horrendous estate agents somehow managed to trick me into signing what I thought was the ‘lieux d’etat de sorti,’ when I left the flat, and what I was actually signing, was a document stating the flat wasn’t sufficiently clean, and that there was a few damages (wear and tear which is completely natural), so this gave the estate agents the right to charge us for any necessary fees regarding cleaning and maintenance. What they didn’t know, is that we were already one step ahead, we’d found out they had tried to charge us 473.11 EUROS for 14 days rent (which they had already been paid by the new tenants – big up my saviour Miranda), 400 EUROS for a new shower/tap that were supposed to be replaced before our tenancy began and that still hasn’t been replaced AND 196.09 EUROS for something we still aren’t really sure what is. The kind lady who was dealing with the case, and just so happened to have 2 daughters in England on their Erasmus year, agreed that these charges were to be refunded to us, resulting in us getting back the entirety of the deposit, and then some. The cherry on top of the cake was that the estate agents didn’t even have the decency to show up this morning, making their guilt even more present.

In conclusion to this essay and update on ma life, I would just like to raise awareness on the dangers of renting abroad. This has been an absolute nightmare, and I think I’ve spent a good portion of everyday thinking about it, and I know I’m not the only one who’s had issues, my friend Izzy’s landlord had a bloody CCTC camera in the kitchen!! I’ve had issues with landlords in Bham too, so it isn’t just abroad I know, but people will try and manipulate you for the fact that you’re a student and can’t speak the language, and I think we were so desperate for a flat that we just signed whatever they gave us and handed over however much money they asked for, another silly mistake. Look at reviews, ask questions on anything you find a bit odd, and take photos of EVERYTHING. On the plus side, I got to be back in my fave flat ever and see some of the best gals ever, so from the big negative, has come plenty of positives. Thanks to Anya and Rory for being my absolute guardian angels during this process, my mummy for listening to me cry countless times over the phone from stress, Miranda for giving me all your current tenancy deets and Liv and Dal for your wonderful sofa bed. Now I’m going to go and devour a magret de canard and dauphy potatoes at my fave restaurant ever..take a guess?

Lol another update my train from Toulouse back to Valencia has been cancelled and I’m now waiting 5 hours until the office opens to find out what’s going on. FML.

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