Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The good news is that we officially don't have to pay our rent anymore.
The bad news is that our building is slowly sliding down the slopes of Montmartre.
Earlier this week a man knocked on our door. Greg was in the living room wearing just a bath towel so I opened the door. A scruffy looking man in his early sixties was standing in our hall way. He had longish hair and a stubbly beard. I assumed he was a nicely dressed chlochard who had come to knock on our door and ask for money. Bold I thought, as I half listened to his spiel. He asked me if I am a renter or an owner in the building? I told him that we are renters. He then says, "Well I have good news for you ce soir, you can stop paying your rent!". "Well isn't that something" I say smiling, realizing that this man is nuts, shooting glares at Greg hoping he would put pants on and get rid of this guy.
The man goes on to explain why exactly we don't have to pay our rent anymore. It turns out that there is a problem with the foundation of our apartment building and the three other apartment buildings that surround us are also part of the problem. Apparently the individual owners of each of apartment in each of these four buildings have been arguing for the past 10 year about how to fix this problem and this guy has been spear-heading a movement to have our buildings officially declared to be in "a state of peril" so that we can legally stop paying rent in protest.
The unkempt appearance of this man, which I mistook for a life sleeping under bridges, is in fact a popular look for his generation which lived through the infamous protests of May '68. A wave of demonstrations and marches swept across France that spring. University students took over the city, throwing cobble stones and throwing out the capitalist ideals that were starting to creep in to society. Many of the socialistic protections and benefits we enjoy in France today are thanks to the work of these revolutionaries. As the man continued to share the history of the situation with us, I could see embers of his fiery youth reigniting in his eyes as he was explaining to us how we are going exercise our rights and stick it to the man!
He told us that we should keep our eyes out for an official posting from the Prefecture de Police and once we see it we can officially stop paying rent in protest of our landlord renting us a apartment in a building with a cracked foundation.
Sure enough, the very next day a four page document was hung in our entry way declaring that our building is in a perilous state. Due to a structural issue originating from the shared foundation of our building the rich and evil (ok I added that part about rich and evil but that is the tone we are dealing with here) land owners who are renting these slums to innocent workers are no longer allowed to collect rent. As long as the repairs are not done the renters are allowed to live in the building rent free. Based on the fact that it took between 10-15 weeks to set up our internet connection in our apartment I cannot fathom how long it is going to take these land owners to meet, decide, delegate, fund and fix the foundation. I think it could take at least a year.
Now I should say that we live in a beautiful apartment, in a lovely building, in a great part of town. Anyone can see that the people who created this law didn't intend to cover buildings like ours and renters like us. But thanks to our activist neighbor and our apparently negligent landlord we find ourselves in this little legal loop hole that allows us to save 800€ a month! Vive la France!