TESTIMONY. “Our houses are in danger of collapsing because of the drought”

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They joined forces to try to make things happen. Sandra Arfa and Denis Cula are part of the association “The Forgotten Heatwave”, which fights for residential claims related to drought are finally taken seriously.

At Denis, tenant of a house in Cosges, in the Jura, the problems started about a year and a half ago. “I have been a tenant for 11 years, and it is true that there have been some cracks in the past, but hey, like in all houses, nothing serious, and nothing inside. But last year, we saw that the cracks got much worse”, he tells us.

Today, the damage is considerable: the doors no longer close, the walls are cracked from top to bottom, the floors are cracking and the floor is “going forward”. It’s a real nightmare for Denis, who has nevertheless tried everything to fix up the building.

“I have done a lot of work, I try to take care of this house. In particular, I redid the bathroom, tiled from floor to ceiling: well, everything has since been cracked”, sighs the tenant.

Same thing on the facade of the house, where Denis tried to fill the cracks with acrylic, year after year. “But everything came together in a few months. We can make repairs, it keeps coming back”.

To finance more efficient work, Denis Cula therefore tried to make his insurance work. In vain.

“Although the municipality had a natural disaster decree, the insurance refused to compensate us. They brought in an expert, who stayed for 30 minutes, just took pictures and gave us some rough guesses. For him, it came from the trees planted in the yard… But for me, it is obvious that it is linked to the drought”, continues the Jura resident.

What worries him is the outbuilding, located in front of the building, and where the electric meter is. “The garage floor, the walls, are all cracked. In the immediate future, it does not scare me yet, but if it continues, it can become worrying, there is still a big risk of collapse”, worries Denis.

In the impasse, Denis therefore became attached to “The forgotten of the heat wave”. “The first thing they were surprised about was that no soil survey had been done. They put us in touch with another expert, who should come at the beginning of September. He will be able to judge if our problem comes from the drought or not. If this is the case, we would like to attack the insurance company”, advances the tenant.

But the road is long to compensation. “We know that the steps will be cumbersome, they do this to discourage people. But I don’t intend to give up, it’s both for me and for my owner that I’m doing it. And then there, it’s dangerous in the long run, there are cracks and holes everywhere, the ground goes at an angle…”, concludes Denis Cula.

Sandra Arfa, owner of a house in Loiret, is also a drought victim. It all started in 2003, the year of the most intense heat wave ever seen in France. “Our house was around 30 years old, but we had never had any problems until then. And there, the first cracks appeared”, she explains to us.

The town hall of Donnery, the municipality of Sandra, is starting a procedure to obtain recognition of a state of natural disaster. Two years later, the municipality was dismissed, alongside 200 other municipalities in the department. “We already understood that there was a problem. That the criteria for recognizing this state were not at all adapted to reality”, blows the owner.

For Sandra’s family, it’s the beginning of a downward spiral. “The cracks have gotten much worse over the years. Until 2011, when the house had become so cracked, it was to be afraid to stay in it”, she worries.

“We ended up doing a soil study, which confirmed that the problem was the clay under the house, and what characterizes clay is that it shrinks when it’s dry and swells in winter. And all these variations damage the house even more”, specifies Sandra Arfa.

In an attempt to repair the damage, she then called on a company to carry out resin injections in the building. “They came in 2011, then in 2012 and in 2015 for “touch-ups”. But it didn’t help. In 2018, with the drought, we had a collapse again”, she says. The bill, however, was salty: in all, the home spent 60,000 euros for its work.

“It is a superficial dressing, to be used only in certain cases, it is not effective on clay soils. We were taken in by this company, and we decided to pursue it”, adds Sandra.

Except that in the meantime, his town ended up being recognized as a state of natural disaster.

“And there, the insurance didn’t want to hear anything, they told us to see with the ten-year guarantee, precisely. We ended up being dismissed from our action against the company. So there, all the doors close again, and we find ourselves with nothing”, the owner is indignant.

“The house is doomed to collapse. We can’t do the necessary work, it costs €250,000, that’s the price of the house! So it is also unsaleable, it is no longer worth anything. If we are transferred, if we divorce, we don’t know what we will be able to do… Psychologically, it’s very hard. Every day, you see that, you have to seal off rooms, windows, doors… The air passes through the cracks, we see daylight from inside the house… And afterwards, we are asked to save energy!”

According to Sandra, many families are thus affected in the Loiret. In an attempt to get things moving, she became a referent for the department within the “Forgotten heat wave”. “There are even people who no longer live at home because there has been a danger decree. But nothing is done, and the situation is getting worse every year. As long as there is no drama, a house that will collapse on people’s heads, it’s unfortunate, but the authorities will not budge on this subject…”, adds Sandra.

The “Forgotten heat wave” association is free. “We ask the victims to pre-register on the site and then send back a form and the supporting documents requested to validate their registration”, explains Gérald Grosfilley, its president.

More information on their website: https://www.lesoubliesdelacanicule.org