Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A day in court

I took the entire day off to go to court for my eviction hearing, since I figured it would take a long time … and it did. The docket was chock full today, and although my hearing was nominally scheduled for 2 PM, it didn't actually come up until nearly 6 PM, by the time the judges managed to wade through all the other cases before them (which additionally seemed to be more complicated than the usual stuff).

So I sat in the courtroom for four hours, with one bathroom break during the single recess, watching the other cases go by. Lawyers seem to enjoy talking a lot. They spend a lot of time telling the judges what the judges already know (and the judges pointed this out regularly, although it didn't seem to have much effect on the lawyers in front of them). This was the Tribunal d'Instance of the district in which I live, so they get all the eviction hearings and a lot of other related stuff like landlord-tenant disputes. I think they reserve one day a week for this type of work.

I met the lawyer representing my landlord. He seemed very nice (but then again lawyers often seem nice, until it's time to argue the case, eh?), and asked if I was still paying the rent. I told him that I had never stopped, I was just behind. Oddly enough, he disappeared during much of the afternoon and returned just before my case came up with someone who seemed like a lawyer in training, and she actually ended up arguing the case. As for me, I can't afford a lawyer, so I represented myself.

I had made lots of photocopies that unfortunately I didn't organize very well, but I got them organized enough to present to the court. I also prepared a two-page written statement of my situation for the judges to read. In my research for the hearing I had noticed that the amounts demanded by the building management company (which represents my landlord) seemed to exceed what I calculated that I actually owed. And I also have some question as to whether they even cash my checks, since I've lately begun to ask for receipts from the post office (where I get drafts to pay the rent), and I have only a small number of receipts for a large number of payments. I put all this in my written summary and explained it to the judges.

The Tribunal d'Instance has three judges. The head judge does essentially all the talking and questioning. She seemed very efficient, but by the end of the day she was clearly tired, thanks to the massive number of cases scheduled for the day and the great difficulty she had in getting lawyers to stop talking. "Summarize!" was a word I heard a lot, but it didn't seem to make the lawyers any less verbose.

I don't really know what's going to happen. At the hearing, I was told that a decision would be made by the court on March 1. I hope they decide in my favor, since I have no other options. Staying with my apartment and slowly paying the overdue rent is the only viable option, since moving anywhere else would require many thousands of euro for moving costs, deposits, etc. (I know, I've done it before). And since my apartment is rent-controlled and prices have skyrocketed in Paris, I wouldn't necessarily be able to get something cheaper even if I had the money to consider it. So there is no “Plan B,” I'm afraid.

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