Renting property in France and your rights as a tenant
Every newcomer should know the certain rules of renting French property – being aware of your tenant rights can protect you when renting a property in Paris or around France.
Moving to France is a grand adventure but the sparkle can fade slightly once you start looking for somewhere to rent in France, particularly in popular French cities and neighbourhoods where demand for rental accommodation is high – and prices can be, too. Whether you're looking to rent in Paris or the French countryside, finding your ideal rental property in France involves a fair amount of legwork – but it is definitely possible to find a suitable apartment or house to rent in France with a little luck and a lot of house-hunting. However, there are certain rules to renting property in France that a newcomer should be aware of before signing the dotted line on their French rental contract.
This guide provides important information about renting in Paris and around France:
- Is it better to rent or buy a French property?
- What's the difference between furnished and unfurnished properties?
- Online real estate websites for house-hunting
- Documents needed to sign a French rental contract
- Understanding your French tenancy agreement: renewal, insurance and hidden charges
- Costs involved in renting in France: real estate fees, annual rent increases and residential tax
- Signing the inventory and rules for giving notice
- Tenant rights in France
- Dealing with neighbours and noises
- Housing benefits and allowances
Around 40 percent of the population rent their home in France; while people in rural French areas typically own their homes, in cities it's common to rent an apartment, even for very long periods. Many people raise children in city centre apartments, often living in the same place for a decade or more. This trend makes it easier to secure and rent a French property for a significant period of time.
However, with a dominant owner-occupied sector and long-term renting trends, it can be tricky finding affordable – and decent – rental accommodation, particularly in France's main cities and popular neighbourhoods where demand is higher than rental supply and prices are being pushed up. A furnished one-bedroom, 40sqm apartment can range up to EUR 3,000 per month in central Paris, although other neighbourhoods in Paris and Paris's suburbs offer cheaper accommodation. However, in 2015, the French government announced housing reforms to ensure everyone can access some form of rental accommodation, such as imposing rental caps for new leases in popular rental areas to control rental inflation.
When comparing rental costs to buying a French property, it's important to consider that France has relatively high property transaction costs at around 16 percent of the property value. This means that if you anticipate moving within three to five years – whether to a larger home, a different city or a different country – you are likely to find that the costs of buying and selling your home outstrip any profit.
If you are contemplating renting an unfurnished or furnished property in France, tenants typically have greater protection when renting an unfurnished (vide) property as their main residence.
A standard contract for unfurnished (vide) properties has a minimum of three years but the tenant can easily give notice within this timeframe, although the landlord cannot except in exceptional circumstances. Furnished properties only have a standard minimum contract term of one year. Landlords in the past sometimes tried to pass off unfurnished properties as furnished ones to benefit from the shorter contract, although the government recently enacted a law on what constitutes a 'furnished' apartment to avoid this.
The government's legal definition of what qualifies as furnished (meublée) dictates that the property must have bedding, stove, oven or microwave oven, fridge and freezer, crockery, kitchen utensils, tables and seats, storage shelves, lighting and housekeeping equipment. Be sure to check when viewing whether the property is marketed as furnished or unfurnished and which essentials will remain in the property.
Because unfurnished properties have a long standard letting period of three years and a notice period of three months, it is typical to find that most short-term lets are furnished. There's also a strong holiday property market in France, which can serve as suitable short-term accommodation.
Long-term holiday lets are also common, where the tenancy is agreed for several months. However, it's not usually possible to extend a tenancy in a holiday let. For this reason, if you're renting while arranging to buy or build a home, a standard tenancy can sometimes be the simplest, although not necessarily cheaper.
Renting in France is often associated with apartment living, so if you want to rent a single family home with a garden, be clear about this at the outset, particularly if you're using an estate agent (un agent immobilier).
Similar to elsewhere, properties are commonly listed in local newspapers, in estate agents' windows, with signs outside the home or online. You can also find more house-hunting resources in our guide to renting in Paris.
If you're looking for a property in a rural area, an estate agent can be invaluable as many properties are not easy to find either in person or online. In urban areas, however, you are likely to be able to find a property on your own, although you will typically have to deal with an estate agent to sign the lease.
Advertisements typically list the living space in square metres. Under 40 square metres is considered a small apartment and around 10 percent of rentals fall into this category. The majority of rentals, 60 percent, are 40–99 square metres while around 30 percent are large apartments with more than 100 square metres. It's worth noting that the living space listed may include the balcony, hallway or other spaces that aren't the main living areas, so don't be too surprised if the property seems smaller when you view it than the listed size would suggest.
Online property portals (French only)
- A Vendre A Louer.fr
- Lokaviz (students)
Furnished apartments and short-term lets:
- www.parisattitude.com (English, French, Portuguese and a 24/7 multilingual hotline)
- www.booking.com (40+ languages)
- www.hotels.com (40+ languages)
Classified advertising sites
Sites that are useful for finding house shares and renting direct from landlords, which can be cheaper, include:
Applications are usually handled by an estate agent rather than the owner (propriétaire) or landlord (bailleur). As a prospective tenant (locataire), you will usually have to complete an application form.
You can expect to have to provide documents to prove any of the following categories, with some examples listed:
- Your identity – passport, driver's licence, other ID or visa information.
- Professional activity – a work contract, employer's reference, student card or business statement.
- Financial support – the last three pay slips, pension or other benefit, previous tax return or student scholarship.
- References of previous renting – the last three rental receipts, a declaration or references.
You can read the government's full list (in French) of what a landlord can legally ask you to provide; it is illegal for the landlord to request a bank statement. In return, the landlord is obliged to provide the tenant with certain documents, which can include an energy rating, a lead report and a risk/safety report of the property.
New arrivals may not have all this information. If your employer is a large multinational company accustomed to hiring expats, they may be able to assist by writing letters of introduction or references. In the 2015 decree, however, it states that certain documents – for example, previous rental references or tax returns – can be sourced from your previous country of residence.
For those who may have trouble proving stability, such as those in new employment or on temporary contracts, the free service 'Visale' can act as a rental guarantor for the first three years. Students can find similar services via Lokaviz.
At the signing of the contract, the deposit should be paid. The best process is to set the deposit aside in a shared, escrow account, which requires both the landlord's and your signature to withdraw any money – this increases the security of receiving your deposit if all is in order with the property. Otherwise, if you pay cash (not recommended) ensure you get a receipt stating the amount transferred is under security deposit (dépôt de garantie).
Your rental contract – whether for an unfurnished or furnished property – will be renewed automatically unless the landlord or tenant gives appropriate notice.
Unlike property sales contracts, a tenancy agreement (contrat de bail) does not have to be witnessed by a notary (notaire). The tenancy agreement should be signed on or before the tenancy start date, which must be specified in the contract.
By law, a landlord can request a tenant to take out home insurance to cover the risks of mainly water damage, fire, explosion and in some cases, theft of contents. If required, the tenant must provide proof of such insurance when first renting the apartment, and every year thereafter at the request of the landlord. The lack of insurance can be grounds for the landlord to cancel the lease (if a lease clause is provided) or buy insurance for the tenant and demand repayment of the fee. Otherwise, a tenant is free to choose the insurance company of their choice.
Your rental contract should also indicate which charges are to be paid by the landlord and which by the tenant. Charges to discuss typically include city taxes, utilities and, particularly for apartments, charges for the maintenance of communal areas. Since 2015, rental contracts have been regulated to ensure consistency across France and minimise conflict between landlord and tenants.
It is important to note in France that tenants have responsibilities to carry out minor repairs and routine maintenance; these can include garden maintenance, fixing basic interior damage, attending to minor plumbing, gas and electrical issues, cleaning chimneys and more. Major repairs, however, are the responsibility of the owner.
It is also legal to sublet in France, provided you have official written approval from your landlord and the sublease does not exceed the amount paid by the main tenant.
Since September 2014, the fees of professionals involved in renting property are the sole responsibility of the lessor. However, there are certain fees that can legally be split between both parties (or negotiated) if a professional is used, such as a real estate agent. However, the tenant can never be charged more than the lessor, and fees are capped for the tenant – for fees involved with house visits or drawing up the rental agreement or lease, the maximum amount that can be charged ranges from EUR 8–12 per sqm of living space depending on the region (Paris is capped at EUR 12 per sqm for example); for the inventory, there is a fixed cap of EUR 3 per sqm of living space for all areas. If the landlord and tenant do the paperwork themselves, no fees are payable.
Rents vary widely across France and prices have soared some 42 percent over the past 10 years up to 2015. Rental prices can start from around EUR 300–500 per month for a small apartment in less popular areas. A two-bedroom apartment in a larger city, such as Bordeaux, can average around EUR 600–1,000. Prices in Paris can be considerably higher; it's not uncommon to see large, furnished apartments in the top neighbourhoods asking prices between EUR 3,000–7,000 or more per month, although there are many cheaper areas.
For new leases, however, since August 2015 France has agreed to implement rent controls in areas where housing demand is higher than supply; rent increases for new leases are now capped to no more than 20 percent of the previous rental agreement while reductions are limited to 30 percent or less. The law, however, has only taken effect in Paris but will experience a full rollout in the rest of France in 2017. This means that tenants who sign a new lease that was raised more than the set rental increases can request a reassessment to decrease their rent.
For existing leases, rental increases can only occur a maximum of once per year, and are typically in line with inflation or to bring the rent in line with the local market, otherwise what is specified in the lease. The increase should not be greater than the change in the benchmark rents (IRL) published quarterly by INSEE.
The tenant is also responsible for paying the property tax (taxe d’habitation) on any property they occupy on 1 January each year. Therefore you must advise the French Revenue Service (Centre des Impôts) of your change of address after you move, and you will be sent a notice every year around October.
Moving in and out: the inventory and giving notice
Use this checklist of 10 things you need to do before moving out of your apartment in France to ensure everything is settled correctly.
Signing the inventory
In addition to the tenancy agreement, you should be provided with a thorough inventory (état des lieux) that describes the nature and condition of any items belonging to the landlord left in the property. This includes furniture, as well as the state of fixtures, fittings and décor. It's critically important to ensure the inventory is complete and correct, as it will be the basis for any negotiations when you leave and try to reclaim your deposit, or if you have to undertake repairs during your tenancy.
Typically, unless the tenant has caused damage to the property, major repairs are to be carried out and paid for by the landlord in France. This means that you should not be charged for normal wear and tear when you leave the property, nor damage that results from a lack of maintenance on the part of the landlord. In practice, this means negotiating with an estate agent over each detail that could potentially cause you to lose your deposit. When moving out, it's advisable to bring someone who can argue in fluent French to assist you in these negotiations.
Your deposit must be returned to you within two months of you leaving the property if there are disputes, or one month if there are no issues. If you don't receive your deposit after this time, you can submit a complaint to the Commission Department of Conciliation (CDC).
For a furnished property, a one-month notice period is required. For an unfurnished property, a one-month or three-month notice period is required depending on the zone you live and the circumstances (for example, in Paris it is only one-month, while less-demanded areas are three months).
This means that if you're renting an unfurnished property and give notice in January, you may be subject to pay the rent and bills until April even if you move out in February. However, you may be able to have this period reduced to one month if you are in difficult circumstances, for example, if you lost your job. Ideally, if you anticipate having to move suddenly, make sure you get an escape clause written into the contract. Alternately, if the landlord finds another renter, you may be also be exempt.
Read the requirements for a tenant leaving an unfurnished property or a furnished property, including drafts of the letters you can submit to your landlord. Typically, whether furnished or unfurnished, tenants can give notice at any time, and the notice period starts from the day the landlord receives your official letter. Emails and verbal notices are not valid.
Instead, notice must be given in writing either by registered letter (recommender), delivered by a bailiff (hussier), or delivered by hand with acknowledgement of receipt and annotated. You can find registered letters at any post office for a few euros.
On the other side, landlords must give six months' notice before the end of the rental period of an unfurnished property, or three months' notice for a furnished property. This means that on a one-year contract, if you haven't received notice to exit after six months, the contract will be automatically renewed – unless you give notice, of course. The details of this should be listed in the rental agreement, but an extension of 12 months is common. The landlord must have a good reason to cancel a rental contract, such as wanting to occupy the property or sell it, or when a tenant doesn't pay rent.
The French legal system is strongly pro-tenant. Once the keys have been handed over, the landlord does not have the right to enter the property without the tenant's consent, and may be charged with trespass or harassment for doing so. The landlord does not have the right to check up on the tenant, for example, annual property inspections, unless this has been agreed in the rental contract. They do have the right to enter the property to undertake essential works and routine maintenance (although not improvements to the property), and the tenant must allow this.
If you have a disagreement with your landlord, the first port of call is the aptly named 'Your Rights' website at service-public.fr (French only), or the Commission Department of Conciliation (CDC), which helps resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. You can also check ANIL (French only), the national organisation for information on housing, which can provide free legal advice.
It's important to note that furnished and unfurnished properties are treated differently, so be sure to read the appropriate section for your situation. In addition, if you have legal insurance as part of your home insurance package, contact your insurer for advice.
If you have problems with consistent and loud noises from neighbours, abnormal noises from other sources such as bars or construction (for example, loud patrons outdoors or building at night), or peculiar odours, you can report the problem. However, false accusations have serious consequences so make sure the issue is classified as a problem by the French government.
There is a number of housing benefits offered for different situations. Read more on the three types of housing benefits in France. You can also read about getting assistance for funding your rental deposit or acting as a guarantor for unpaid rent and expenses.
- A guide to renting in Paris
- Where to live in Paris
- A guide to Paris's suburbs
- Where to live in France
- 10 things you need to do before moving out of your apartment in France
- Top 5 problems faced by renters in France
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