Warning: Long post about my ongoing flatmate nightmare ahead!
I've just come back from the tax office, since that seemed like a completely fun way to spend my day off. Actually, I first went by in the morning, only for there to be a huge queue in front of me. Since there wasn't that much time left before they closed for lunch, I thought I would be all clever and turn up before they reopened their doors after the break.
Usually, if I need to go to this part of town, I make a detour past the best damn briocherie in Tours. I was kind of embarrassed this morning, cos the lady knew my order without me having to say. Maybe I've been there a couple of extra times lately, with the train trips to Chenonceaux and Poitiers (it's right next to the station), but I swear, normally it's only like once a month max that I end up nearby! Or maybe she just looks at me and thinks "definitely the chocolate chip version for that one"? But anyway, having already got my brioche fix in the morning, I tried to take a shortcut to the tax place and ended up lost in Sanitas, which is officially 'the dodgy part of Tours' - a quartier made up entirely of high-rise HLMs (State Housing) right next to the train tracks. The dodgy bit wouldn't have bothered me too much - it's broad daylight, and it's pretty much just code for 'Here Be Non-White People' I suspect - but I was literally on the wrong side of the tracks and there was no way to get over. By the time I finally found a pedestrian overpass, I had overshot the tax office and had to walk back up the road again, thus negating any possible benefit the 'shortcut' might have had. (On the bright side, this route did lead me past a building which is now a retirement home but was, in the Middle Ages, a home for lepers! You don't see that every day! I had a bit of a chuckle at the symbolism of having a 'ghetto' retirement home in an ex-leper colony. In fact, the leper home ended up giving its name to the whole area, 'Sanitas' being derived from sante - French for health. PS sorry I lost my special short keys to do accents when my laptop crashed, so you'll just have to imagine the accent on sante.)
Normally, I would take this as a Sign From Above to continue eating brioches (and also a good opportunity to work off like 1% of said brioche), but by the time I turned up, 5 minutes before the agency was due to re-open, there was a queue of about 35 people, which swelled to approximately 50 naughty French improper queuers by the time the doors opened.
Why so many? Well, as I would later discover, the taxe d'habitation is due TOMORROW. I still haven't received anything about it in the post, so I had no idea. I had to laugh (and internally hit my head against a brick wall) when I was talking to the tax agent later on and he told me La Poste doesn't forward any mail from the tax department, because otherwise people will try to get out of providing their real addresses to the tax man. This is literally the ONLY reason I paid them 23 euros to forward my mail. I haven't received one piece of forwarded post. Ah hahahaha, you just have to laugh or you'll cry.
Talking of crying, I almost did when I got to Man #1, who was in charge of screening people into the appropriate offices. I explained my whole situation to him - for those who aren't au courant, I was flatting with a French girl, I wasn't on the lease, I gave my rent money directly to her, she didn't pay either her rent or my rent for a year and lived off approximately 4000 euros of my money while quittin' her job to lie in bed all day. When this came to light, we were "asked to leave" the apartment and I had to find a new place without her lifting a single finger to help me with anything. Everything got squared away with the rent money, but I was still left incurring at least a couple thousand euros of expenses in the move. Anyway, I explained a brief version of all this, and the guy was all like "but you weren't on the lease?", "No", "then you shouldn't be responsible for paying". HALLELUJAH! But 2 minutes later he was just all "well, *normally* you shouldn't be responsible for paying, but for some reason the full amount is in your name, nothing's in her name and so hey, guess what, you're on the hook for the full 450 euros". He basically just did his best Gallic shrug when asked why that should be if I was never on the lease and he JUST SAID that I should therefore not be responsible. And then he was all "you can wait to see my colleague if you like, but he's just going to tell you the same thing". This is about the point where I was ready to burst into tears, but I held it together and said I would wait for his colleague, which just earned more "it's your funeral" type shrugging from him.
So, colleague it was, and I must say, this guy was super nice. He took the time to listen to everything I had to say and give me a little fatherly advice about how you should never be in a flatting situation without something in writing, even if it's with friends or partners, even if it's not a proper lease but just something scribbled on the back of an envelope. So yeah, too late for me, but maybe someone reading this will learn from my mistakes...
Another "pro tip" from the pit of despair - we talked about why it would be that it somehow ended up in my name. At first he just said that he didn't know how it worked, but maybe since they had two names on the tax declaration (she did apparently declare she was living there too, which is at least a start I suppose), they just picked one at random. Then he said something interesting - that I might have 'missed something' on the tax form. He explained that you can tick that you're in a flat as an owner, a renter, or that you're living there for free. Now here's the interesting bit - living there for free, in the eyes of the taxman, doesn't necessarily mean you're not paying rent, it just means that you're not legally responsible for the place e.g. you're not on the lease and therefore you don't get assessed for the tax. I had no clue about this, so I obviously ticked 'tenant'. He suggested that she might have been maligne (which means clever, but there's an air of 'sneaky, tricky' about it - you can see the relationship with malignant in English) and ticked that SHE was living there for free, and thus landed me right in it. And you know, that wouldn't bloody surprise me a bit. He also said I was naive - perceptive one, this taxman!
So Mr. Nice Taxman suggested that I needed to get on to the agency that rented us our old flat (rented HER our old flat, I should say) and try to get either a copy of the lease or the etat des lieux de sortie (the paperwork she would have signed on moving out) to prove that she was on the lease and I wasn't, and then they might be able to shift it on to her, which understandably they can't do just on my say-so (even if they have bloody well stuck me with it IMHO unfairly in the first place). If the 450 euros had been divided in two, I would have just paid my part, but it would really kill me to have to pay her part as well, and I know she's never going to give me the money just if I ask for it (for one thing, I "technically" still owe her for the last two months' expenses and supposedly some rubbish tax (as in, stuff you throw away, not bullsh!t) she'd never brought up in the previous 15 months I was there).
So I've called the agency, the woman I was dealing with is not there and wasn't answering her cellphone, so I left a message and am hoping she will get back to me, otherwise I'll have to like try and doorstop her the way she did when she came to get us for not paying rent, ha ha. Meanwhile, I am still legally responsible for this thing that's due tomorrow, and I don't really know what the consequences are for being late with it - the guy said they will "chase me" (although thanks to La Poste not forwarding their letters, I won't know about it ha ha) but I don't really know beyond that. He suggested maybe paying it and getting a refund, but I don't really trust that that will work out. Honestly, I hope that bitch falls into a well, I really do.