10 things to do before moving out of your apartment in France
Here are some practical tips for moving out of your apartment in France, from terminating your lease and getting your deposit back to forwarding your post.
If you are renting in Paris or around France, as a tenant you are typically well-protected by French tenant rights, provided you abide by the conditions outlined in France's rental laws. This can mean, for example, that while you have the freedom to terminate a French rental contract at any time, if you don't adhere to the stipulated notice period you might be forced to pay out a number of months of rent – even if you have left the property already. Here we outline the top 10 procedures for leaving rental accommodation in France.
1. Give notice
Your French lease will typically be renewed automatically, so if you want to leave you must give formal, written notice in advance. The notice period required for furnished properties is one month. For unfurnished properties, it is either one month or three months; this depends on the zone you live, for example, in high-demand areas such as Paris it is one month, or if an exemption applies. In certain circumstances the period can be reduced to one month, for example, if the tenant has to change accommodation because of a serious physical condition or has suffered a job loss. In cases of serious property issues, a tenant may be able to leave without giving any notice. More detail is provided in our guide to renting in France.
When you give notice of your intention to leave the property you should send a registered letter (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) to the landlord and obtain an acknowledgement of receipt, from which the official notice period starts.
2. Pay the remaining rent
Legally you can be obliged to pay out the full notice period, even if you move out earlier – so remember to plan ahead of your leaving date. As a mandatory requirement, you will need to settle all outstanding rents and lease expenses before you leave. However, if the landlord accepts a tenant before your notice period is complete, you can be exempt from paying the full amount.
If your notice period finishes partway through a month, you only pay for the period you live in the property not the full month.
3. Fix any damage
Check the condition of the property against the inventory, and repair any damage or replace any loss to avoid deductions from your security deposit. Allowance is made for normal wear and tear, existing faults or forces beyond the tenant’s control (force majeure).
If you do not have an inventory you may lose out if there is a dispute over the condition of the property. The law is often on the side of the landlord, so if no inventory exists then the tenant is presumed to have received the property in good condition and the landlord is likely to receive the benefit of the doubt in the event of a dispute. However, if you have evidence of the property’s poor condition, such as in photographs, this will be taken into consideration.
4. Exit inventory
Arrange for the landlord to come around so that an exit inventory can be completed. It obviously helps to clean the apartment so it looks its best and lessens the likelihood of deductions to your security deposit. You and your landlord can opt to check the inventory personally, or hire an external party such as a bailiff (huissier de justice) or real estate agent, of which you can be legally ask to pay part of the costs.
5. Stop the utilities
Notify the suppliers of all utilities (water, gas, electricity) of your departure date and they will inform you of any requirements they have for terminating the contracts; their phone numbers will be on your bills. Failure to give notice means you are liable to pay the bills until the next tenant's arrival. Some utilities can be transferred, for example, internet.
If the bills remained in your landlord's name, make sure any standing orders or automatic bank transfers are cancelled only after your last required payment.
Upon departure, you should write down the numbers of any meters and notify your suppliers; they will take these into account when arranging your final bill. However, the utility company may send a technician to do this as part of their termination procedure. It can take up to four weeks to receive confirmation of your cancellation, so you will also need to give your new address details if you move before then.
If you need to arrange utilities in your new accommodation, you should do this 15 days in advance; if there are utilities already set up, then make sure you check the meters when you enter and report the numbers to your providers.
You can read more in this guide to cancelling your utilities (in French).
6. Inform authorities of your change of address
The French government recommends to start notifying the necessary institutions two months before your move, for example, your health insurance fund (CPAM) and any other insurances (car, home etc.), the tax authority, utility providers and any benefit providers, such as family allowance or unemployment. There is a government online service where you change your address with several organisations in one go. It is also possible to notify the tax authorities of a changed address when you submit your next tax return.
If you have a registered pet, you also need to inform the authorities of your address change, which can be done online using your pet's ID number.
It is not mandatory to change the address of your identity card or driver's licence, unless you want to, but you will be required to change the registration of any vehicles you own within one month after your move.
7. Arranging your move
If you use a professional company from the government's list of registered removal companies you will be covered by the Consumer Code, including protection against damage and theft if reported to the company within 10 days of your relocation. You should also check with your employer or HR department if you are entitled to a day of leave for relocation: this is legally available to public officials and to employees if stated in their union agreement.
If you are expecting any post to arrive you can arrange with the post office for it to be redirected to your new address. You can do this by either visiting your local post office, or accessing their online services. Fees apply to redirect your mail, depending on the timeframe you choose.
9. Tax authorities
The tenant is 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. When you notify the Revenue of your new address they will ensure you are taken off the tax register for your current apartment. If you incorrectly receive a property tax notice, do not pay it but contact your Centre de Prélèvement Service instead.
10. Returning the keys
Make sure that all appliances have been switched off and plugged out, including gas, fridge and freezer. You will need to hand back the keys as well, either directly to the landlord or to the bailiff, and cannot keep them in exchange for your deposit; the landlord is not obliged to pay back your deposit (less any deductions) up to a maximum of two months after you hand back the keys.
Keep your usual bank account open so your security deposit can be returned to you but make sure you inform your bank of your address change.
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