Of Mice and Men
As an expat, without the luxury of having the Embassy or my company relocate me, finding apartments in Paris is hard work. Most places won’t rent to you without a dossier and a French guarant, so your only options are to rent above market rate from short term companies, which still require a dossier, but are more flexible with their requirements.
I rented an apartment through Morning Croissant. A company I had never heard of, but I had somehow found them through SeLoger. I considered myself extremely lucky to find the apartment I had found. It was the only apartment available on their site. Which should have been a warning sign.
The apartment was located in the unfashionable 10th near Louis Blanc. Most American expats would turn their noses up at this area but I don’t mind it. After spending my first year in the Marais, I preferred the non-touristy areas, and to me Gare du Nord is just central enough to still be considered proper Paris. Plus Christian, my boyfriend, came in on the Eurostar every other weekend. He would come in on Friday night and leave on Sunday or Monday so being that near to Gare du Nord made it a great location.
The apartment itself was a studio, but large, maybe 27sqm. The kitchen had a window (that opened), the bathroom had a large window, there was lots of light and to me that is the most important thing (windows). The owner also did a good job with decor. It was 400€ above market rate, but I was happy to finally have a home after such a long and arduous search and living in hotels.
The first night I slept I kept hearing scratching noises. The neighbor next door had a dog and I assumed that it was asking it’s owner to be let out. The next day I found out where they were actually coming from.
I was still making the home my own when I went to a bench in the corner of the room. It opened from the top and housed extra pillows and an extra duvet. I saw what I thought was a large black feather. I didn’t have my glasses on and pillows equal feathers for me because my down pillows always shed. When I went to reach for it, it scampered away. It turned out the apartment had mice. The very next day the building put up signs saying there was a mice problem.
This is why I will never recommend Morning Croissant to anyone. In order for the building to come up with a plan of attack for the mice problem the owners would have had to meet and hashed out the logistics. That means money. They all have to agree to pay for the building’s repair, which means bids from companies. This is France so this is not a simple matter handled in 2 hours. This takes weeks, maybe even months, so the rental company and the owner were ware of the problem, and this was probably also the reason this apartment was the only one available on the website on such short notice. It wasn’t the price. It wasn’t the area. It was mice!
I contacted the rental agency and they couldn’t care less. They told me they would send someone out and that was that. When I protested they offered to take 10% off the rent until it was under control. But they weren’t even going to try to get it under control. They didn’t care.
Christian tried to tell me mice were no big deal. “Everyone has them. I had them in my dorm when I went to Oxford”. Ok Cinderella that might be fine and dandy for the hovels he lived in but never in my life have I been up close and personal with a mouse. In my years in Paris I had seen one mouse in the metro. But I had never had any. 30+ apartments, no mice. Not to mention all of the apartments I’ve been in. And every other person I talked to agreed “mice are not normal”. In America no one would just “live with them”. If you have mice that means you live in a hovel that should be condemned.
And the French agree for the most part. A house is not livable if it has a mice problem. I didn’t stay in the apartment long enough to need to get help from an outside agency, but I was told before I fought the rental agency tooth and nail for my money back and broke the contract, that Adil will help with these kinds of concerns. The advice in the meantime was that I should stop paying rent. Money talks and if the landlord won’t jump at the problem, they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. And in France that means mice. It’s not a “livable situation”.
I didn’t sleep the whole 5 days I was there. It turns out the scratching sound was a mouse that had fallen into the trash can and was clawing at the take away bag I had thrown in there the first night. I still feel guilty about causing his death, but I refused to open the cabinet once I knew what it could be.
One day I found one lying dead in the middle of the kitchen. Christian found one dead in the stairwell, poking out of a wall. I think some had burrowed into the couch because I would find fluff. I saw a few scamper around in the evenings, and I swear I could hear them at night. I kept all the lights on after dark.
By the time I left I was so sleep deprived and jumping at every sound that I swear I heard them for a week after I moved into a friend’s apartment, despite knowing with certainty mice were not there. I had to fight to get out of the contract. Like every French company, they thought I would just let them take my money. And to be fair it is really hard to find an apartment, much less on short notice. But I kept at them, despite Christian telling me I was doing too much. If you find yourself in a similar situation, contact Adil.