British-American Rosemary Jaworsky says issues started when she hired a lawyer to bring action against a tradesman she had allowed to live in an annex at the gîte in return for restoration work.
He allegedly refused to leave.
She claims the lawyer made mistakes and warns anyone embarking on legal action to be very careful. She is now looking at suing the lawyer.
Divorcee Ms Jaworsky bought the property near Panjas, Gers, in 2004. She restored the main building to become her home and two outbuildings to rent out as gîtes.
In 2008, after completing her renovation works, she allowed the British trademan to rent her last unfinished building, an annex to the main house.
He had proposed renovating it, living in it, and running a small business from it.
He paid a nominal rent of €1 a month but promised to do renovation works, for which he would pay up to €38,000, within the three-year lease period.
Ms Jaworsky says the work was far from completion two years later. “Plus the electrical and plumbing work did not conform to French standards and it was uninsurable.
“I asked him to leave. He refused and I started legal action.
“After speaking with a number of lawyers, I appointed one who spoke good English.”
She claims she was advised by subsequent lawyers this first lawyer made significant errors, which resulted in her losing the case and being ordered to pay legal costs, plus €38,000 to the builder.
She appealed and in 2013 took on a second lawyer, who told her she had a good case, but then had to take on a third lawyer, who could represent her at the appeal court.
In 2016, she was told the Appeal Court had upheld the lower court’s decision and her legal costs were nearly €100,000, including €38,000 owed to the tradesman, who had returned to the UK.
The court gave her two years to settle the bill. Though her gîte business was performing well, she knew she would have to sell her property to pay.
She tried more than 20 banks and loan companies to get a loan, using the property as collateral, but with no luck.
She has four American-born children, but only one of them, her daughter, was old enough to be put on her SCI (Société Civile Immobilière) domestic agreement as a co-owner.
However, the fact that her daughter is American and no longer living in France proved a sticking point for a loan.
In June this year, the property went to auction and a bidder paid €203,000 for a property previously under a compromis sale agreement for €550,000 (the buyer failed to secure a loan).
She claims the auction photographs gave a poor impression as they were taken in winter when it was being roofed, and there was a large tarpaulin over part of the roof (see left).
She will now return to the US and said: “My fond memories of France have been severely tainted by the experience. My retirement plans have been shattered. I have lost my home and my business of 14 years.
“I relied on a professionally certified lawyer to represent me with due diligence and professionalism.
“He did neither and caused me huge emotional suffering and devastating financial loss.”
A new avocat is reviewing Mrs Jaworsky’s case with a view to presenting it to the Cour de Cassation, the highest appeal court in France, on the grounds that there were several irregularities in the case presented to both lower courts.