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Friday, October 21, 2011

Imagine


Imagine this, the location will be revealed later…

Mid 1997, I decided I would buy a property, having been a resident in the country for just over two years, having a permanent job, and having decided that a property purchase was better than renting.

I wasn’t really seriously looking, just trying to get an idea of property prices and researching the mortgage market – how much could be borrowed based on my income etc.

I mentioned to a friend that I was looking to buy a house and she retorted immediately that she was “house sitting” in a house that was for sale. I made an appointment the following week and went round to view the property. I fell in love with the place immediately and made an offer equating to €180,000. The house was built sometime in the first half of the 17th century and is a “listed building” – a building of national historical interest.

The house was split into two apartments, the upper one coming complete with an old lady who had lived there for more than forty years, paying just over the equivalent of €70 per month in rent! I never increased that rent.

Over time, the mortgage was increased to €405,000 to finance extras for the house, green investments etc. A lot of bad advice from so-called advisors and also naivety on my part. During the economic crisis towards the end of 2008, the base lending rate was decreased, but to my surprise, both banks increased their lending rates by at least 20%! Both banks even had to be bailed out by the national government!

I married a Thai woman in January 2002 and we now have two beautiful daughters aged four and eight.

Unbeknown to us, the horrors would start sometime around six years ago, starting with the death of the old lady in the top half of the house, followed by myself breaking a bone in my left hand, slipping in the snow on the step in front of our house (this stopped my DIY attempts in the house). The year following (April 2007) I broke my right ankle badly, thus stopping my DIY activity again. Our plans for the house were to eventually convert the two separate apartments into one spacious family house (over 4 floors and an attic too), finances and local planning authority allowing.

The city housing/building people called one day asking whether they could inspect the house. I said they could, but given their incompetence using even their own electronic spirit level, I wish I never had. When they came back and asked if they could investigate the house foundations by excavating in our bedroom (which is slightly below ground level), I was naïve and stupid enough to allow them to, thinking I was serving the community at large. The initial report from the city was amateurish and full of mistakes, followed by a second one which stated the foundations must be replaced, also those of the two neighbouring houses. It would seem that one of the wooden piles in the foundations had moved – my theory being that due to the uneven state of the street surface in front of the house, anything heavy coming along at speed, caused the house to “bounce”, somewhat similar to the effects of an earthquake (which I did experience in Costa Rica late 2004 – my first thoughts when woken at 03:00 by a 6-6.5 richter earthquake, was that I was back home!). The local council have now ordered me to pay the equivalent of €80,000 as a penalty for not having had the “repairs” carried out – this, while opposite our house, is a school annexe (containing several gymnasiums), the building appears to be in a terrible state, and an eyesore, thus demonstrating the inconsistency or even corruption of the local council. They have even told a neighbour who has just spent a fortune refurbishing his property that he can only charge a minimal rent for one of his apartments even though they have stuck a high taxation value on his property (and mine too), so that they can charge a high “council tax”. We have since learned that is now city policy (or fashion, until they come forward with another trend) that all wooden piles should eventually be replaced by steel ones, even though there is nothing wrong with the existing piles.

One Sunday lunchtime in July 2007, working on my computer with our youngest daughter (then 6 months) sat on my knee, I heard some banging and a disturbance outside. I went to the front door to investigate, and found a number of people holding our door shut by pulling on the grills, a couple of hundred people in the street and several people breaking down the door to the top half of our house. I called the police who arrived around 15 minutes later, but too late to prevent the people breaking into our property. The police went into the top half of the house and decided the squatters could stay, even though people had lived there for several weeks after the old lady died. The squatters, mainly Polish, stayed for just over 4 months, terrorizing us on an almost daily basis. Due to political control of the police by the city’s mayor, the police couldn’t/wouldn’t do much to help us, even though the vast majority wanted to – a small minority did seem to sympathize with the squatters though. We eventually got the squatters to leave ourselves with much help from friends, neighbours and some local politicians! Seemingly it is legal here, in this country, to hold people hostage, break into a persons’ property, hold people hostage, steal their possessions and terrorize them? The law regarding squatting has now been changed here but some representatives of the left-wing local authorities throughout the country are refusing to implement it! As a result of what happened to us, the law of the land was changed making squatting illegal, though some of the bigger cities won’t enforce this new law!

Once rid of the squatters, a homeless man, a friend of a neighbour moved in, and was over the moon, having a place he could call home instead of being shifted from pillar to post sometimes on a daily basis just to lay down in some comfort for the night, paying the equivalent of €200 per month to us to cover costs.

In July 2008, a Scotsman who had been working on a “renovation” in the neighbourhood during our squatter woes, and who we naively became acquainted with, was about to become homeless so we offered to accommodate him and his brother the top half of our house together with the current occupant. As we had no money ourselves to renovate the top floors, we suggested that, since the persons in question are builders, in return for the accommodation, we just asked that they repair the top apartment to a liveable state – the squatters had left a mess, together with years of neglect due to the prior occupant’s refusal to allow entry to carry out repairs. The Scotsman promptly threw the homeless man out of the house and then began with his unrequited and unauthorized “renovations” – he went through the place like a bull in a china shop. He had the kitchen ceiling and beams (the floor to a storage area above, that I had envisaged as a future bathroom) removed – illegal as the house is a “listed building” and special permission is needed to carry out structural changes. The roof was repaired, the electrics replaced, a bath, shower and toilet fitted (in a bedroom), and a new kitchen fitted – all without any consultation with us – all the “repairs” were rejected by the local council building department – they have ordered him to “undo” what he has “done”, but so far hasn’t complied. He even fitted a satellite dish on the roof at the front of the house – also without permission. All of this was done without any permission on my behalf, not even with any consultation. I was denied even access to the apartment. This was considerably more than my idea of repairing the place to be up to liveable standards. Basically, he did everything to suite his own tastes and requirements, never even consulting us. He even fitted a satellite dish on the roof at the front of the house, without even asking permission (also bearing in mind that the house is of historical interest). He often moved family members, girlfriend and a number of visitors in and out as it suited him, often charging them rent! He never gave us a penny as, of course, the costs of the “repairs” would be covered by the accommodation provided. He even had the nerve to complain to the “rent commission” about an unfair increase in rent, when we requested that he paid a fair share of the costs – mortgage, water, sewage, local government taxes etc! The hypocrite (the Scotsman) even owns and rents out a house in his own country, probably charging a ludicrous rent! He pays little or no tax anywhere in the world, pays no health insurance, and drives a foreign registered car around, which is against the rules in this country, where he is registered as a resident – the authorities don’t appear to be interested in any of this!

In August 2008, I changed jobs, and went to work for an international company, working as a consultant for both clients and on internal projects. With hindsight, a bad move, the worldwide economic crisis started and I was made redundant within a year of starting, and ended up being unemployed for almost 8 months. More than a hundred people were finished, a major culprit to the company’s woes was the fact that a major international bank based here just tore up its contract, thus finishing a considerable number of consultants! Of course the company’s (and bank’s) top men continued to draw their mega salaries and bonuses!

In April 2010, we decided to offer the inhabitant of the top half of our house a rental contract, which he refused, presenting us with an extortionate bill of €27,000 for his “renovation”. We decided to withdraw the offer, and since June 1st 2010 he was a squatter! I have tried to file complaints against the Scotsman’s squatting, criminal damage to the house (removal of a floor etc) and even death threats, to the local police. One thing in particular that I think is horrendous, is that the police refused to accept any of my complaints even though I felt and feel threatened. This, to them was not serious or whatever?
Political control/corruption?
Significant in all of this, is, where I, as the owner of the building, am being confronted with an €80,000 penalty for not following up on their demands, this same local authority’s building and housing department have refused to endorse their claim that the work done in the top apartment by the Scotsman, be returned to its original state! So far, they have done nothing to ensure that their instructions are carried out!
At the end of September 2010, the day before the new squatting law (1st October) came into effect, the Scotsman left, apparently in panic according to a few of the neighbours. After 2 weeks, he hadn’t returned, so we assumed he had “done a runner” and had left for good, and thus changed the locks on the front door. The apartment was in a terrible state, filth and grease all over the place and the attic full of junk. We proceeded to bag up the Scotsman’s junk, in preparation for us to move our things from the ground floor so that the foundation work could be carried out.
Imagine our surprise when the local Police called us 25th October 2010, threatening to arrest me and/or break down the door to the top half of our house so that the Scots squatter could resume his illegal residence! A woman neighbour was also of some assistance to the squatter too – bored holes in the shared wall without permission.
When the squatter eventually ran away (seemingly other victims after his blood) in November 2010, he caused considerable damage in the house, including vandalism – throwing paint over almost every floor! I tried to file a complaint with the local police, but this was of course refused! One reason given was that some of it was a civil matter!
It seems there is one set or rules and laws for the law-abiding citizen and another set for the criminal!

This same country runs a monthly “lottery” to supplement its taxation income (it should really be called a raffle or tombola). Punters can buy a ticket (or 1/5 of a ticket, to win 1/5 of a prize) where the minimum prize doesn’t even cover the cost of the ticket. The “jackpot” isn’t won every month, as the authority running the “lottery” enters unsold tickets into the draw – the fraud here is illustrated when every few months, the “jackpot” is guaranteed to fall! But, it gets worse, because, if the winning ticket is a 1/5 ticket, only 1/5 of the prize is paid, the authorities pocketing the remaining 4/5 – they don’t currently sell 5 1/5 tickets with the same numbers! They are now so proud that the “problem” has been fixed – seemingly fraud is ok.
A Greek company administers this lottery along with another national lottery. I had the misfortune to work for this company – I was promised a permanent contract, but instead got a 6 month contract followed by another one, and then was thrown out because the budget was used up! In my time there, a Greek employee never left the company involuntarily, while other nationalities did – an indication of discrimination and nepotism? Perhaps an indicator of the current woes in Greece? Also, every month, once all the takings from each lottery are in the company's bank account, they transfer some 60 million plus overseas until the prizes and takings need to be paid out!
And the latest trick from the national government so that they can control the lotteries, and taxation from – residents of the country aren't allowed to play lotteries outside the country. I thought that in the free world, monopolies were outlawed, and free trade ruled!

Consider a bailiff issuing a final demand for a payment, followed by a court summons which turned out to be fake! Eventually there was a court sitting where the bailiff was reprimanded, but not penalized! Justice?




And finally, the location – a banana republic somewhere in South America, Africa, or the old Eastern Block?




No! Surprise, surprise, the country is the Netherlands, the city Amsterdam (maybe it should be renamed to Amstelgrad or Stalindam?) and the then mayor Job Cohen (who now wants to be the country’s PM), the banks are ING and HDV (part of ABN-AMRO), the company British Telecom and the Scots cowboy/rogue builder and “squatter” (a complaint against squatting was filed and eventually accepted by the police) Joseph McKeen (his “companies” include Headingly Restorations, Complete Restorations and EnergySave NL – maybe there are more), the neighbour is Anne Bosscher (seems she can do what she wants with her building while the rest of us have to ask permission), the lottery is the Staatsloterij, the police – Politie Lijnbaansgracht, Amsterdam, the bailiff GGN!

It seems that it's a case of who you know, which club you're in, and maybe even your nationality/ethnicity here!

Shame on them all!

Thanks to some neighbours, the VVD, one member of the local PvdA, and the Amsterdam “krakers spreekuur”, who helped considerably during our living-hell with the squatters. A majority of the police also tried to help even considering that their “hand were tied” - politics seems to play its part here as well as some of the higher ranking officers playing “judge, jury and executioner”!

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