Even after living here for thirteen years, French bureaucracy still trips us up.

This latest ‘huh?’ moment occurred yesterday. Ruadhri is about to begin his first year at university. Having been through this process twice before with his big brother and sister, we were fairly well clued up, although there has been the addition of a few new complications over recent years. However, these were relatively minor and we rose to the challenge.

***pic: huh

We really thought we were on top of things by mid-July and were just waiting to make an appointment for Rorz to take possession of his reserved student accommodation. Allegedly you can make this appointment via a website, but it didn’t work for us. It kept not working, so yesterday, with a week to go until rentrée, I emailed to ask for this rendez-vous.

Well, I was flabbergasted and horrified by the response I got (all in lower case, by the way: not one single capital letter in the four-paragraph reply). Madame X told me that she’d left a message nearly a week ago on Ruadhri’s answerphone to the effect that I wasn’t acceptable as a guarantor for his room rental contract, basically because I’m self-employed and don’t have a uniform monthly income. We’ve never come across this before. I’ve guaranteed the contracts for all the assorted accommodation the other Dagg progeny have rented, in three different countries in two continents.

I was floored for two reasons: the first was that Madame X considered a phone message to be adequate notification. I dare say it meant she could tick the box saying ‘have you made contact regarding this problem’ but it’s totally inadequate. Something this serious surely should be put in writing in an email at least, and most certainly it should be communicated to the rejected party concerned i.e. me. What’s particularly galling is that along with all the various paperwork we had to send in we had to provide a stamped addressed envelope in which the signed rental contract would be returned to the guarantor. So, since they couldn’t countersign the contract I’d pre-signed you’d think they might have used this now defunct envelope to send a brief letter to inform me of this momentous problem. Jeez.

***pic: woman on phone

Fortunately there exists a state scheme that guarantees the rental contract for students and young persons with no or low income. It’s called a garantie visale. We’ve put in our application and should have a response in two working days. Once we get the necessary form from we can send that in and then maybe at last get our appointment. Lectures begin on 3rd September for Rorz, so time is running out…

I’m furious though. I signed a contract to say I’d guarantee my son’s rent and that is precisely what I would do. We may have an irregular and modest income but it’s more than enough to cover the year’s rent should Rorz refuse to pay every month. Which, of course, he wouldn’t, and anyway, they’d chuck him out after a couple of months of non-payment anyway! Also, Rorz is in receipt of a grant which is greater than the rent, and this grant is issued by CROUS who are the same crowd that are renting him accommodation. He will also be able to claim an allowance towards his rent from CAF. The situation of him ever owing any money on his rent just won’t come to pass, so why the heavy-handed, patronising treatment I don’t know. I feel totally insulted by being considered as the financial scum of the earth: someone who can’t be relied on to pay what’s owed. Not nice at all, and it’s a completely false assumption on their part being pure and simple discrimination against the self-employed.

I’m still reeling from the unexpected left hook. This was something I definitely didn’t see coming. But, that’s the way it is with red tape in France. We’ve got a lot better at spotting it and dealing with it over our time here, but, as this episode has proved, every now and again it still manages to lasso you and send you sprawling!