Everything you need to know about renting somewhere to live in France.

Furnished or unfurnished?

Tenants renting unfurnished properties have more rights – the minimum term of the lease is 3 years if you are renting from an individual or a family SCI, 6 years if renting from a company, although private landlords may break the lease after 1 year for certain very specific reasons.  The minimum term of the lease for a furnished property is 1 year (9 months for students).

Finding the property

Properties to rent are advertised in a very similar way to most other countries: you can find them through estate agents, through sites such as leboncoin.fr, seloger.com, logic-immo.com, in the local newspapers’ small ads, on noticeboards etc. etc….

One difference in France is that firms with more than 10 employees have to pay contributions to an approved construction organisation (organisme agréé de construction).  This means that they have access to rental properties at preferential rents.  There is of course lots of demand but if you are patient you may be lucky enough to find a place to rent by applying to your employer or employee representative council.

There are also list sellers, but you would be wise to steer clear of them as they have a bit of a dodgy reputation.

Things to check before signing the lease

It goes without saying that you need to be sure that the property is in the right area and has the right surroundings for you.  You also need to make sure that

  • everything is working and that the building is not about to have major repairs which could cause noise and annoyance.
  • everything the landlord has promised is included in the lease (private use of a courtyard etc)
  • how much monthly service charges are for flats
  • whether utilities are included and if not how much they are likely to be
  • whether you are allowed to work from home if you run a business
  • who is going to pay the agent’s fees, if there is one
  • the upfront charges – the deposit should not be more than one month’s rent excluding charges
  • there is a report on the “état des lieux” (state of the rental property) which lists the state of the flat and its equipment room by room which has been signed by both landlord and tenant.  This will be used when you leave to establish any damage that needs making good, which will be deducted from the deposit.
  • the lease mentions the habitable surface area of the flat.
  • If the landlord has agreed to do any work before you move in, you should get that in writing rather than just verbally.

Three times the rent?

There is no legal requirement, but in practice most agents and landlords ask for net income of at least 3 times the rental amount.  Some ask for more, some will accept less.

If you can’t find a property that you can afford, you may be able to rent anyway if you can get someone to be your guarantor.

Documents you will need

At the very least you will need proof of identity, address and income, but some landlords and agents ask for more.  You should bear in mind that it is illegal for agents or landlords to ask you to pay them for putting together your “dossier” (file).  Have your paperwork ready and mention anything that makes you stand out as a candidate.

The “Loi Alur” stipulates a list of documents that a landlord can ask for from a potential tenant.  They are not allowed to ask for anything else, but the list is exhaustive in any case.   You can give copies but they are allowed to demand to see the originals.

They are:

  • Proof of Identity
    • Identity card/passport/driving licence
    • Proof of right to live in France if from abroad
  • Income
    • Last or last but one tax notification (avis d’imposition), or equivalent from abroad
    • 3 last pay slips
    • Proof of payments for work placements
    • 2 last sets of accounts or proof of resources from self-employed professionals
    • Proof of payment of pensions, benefits etc from the organisation that pays them
    • Simulation of housing benefit rights issued by the competent organisation
    • Notification of scholarship or grant for students who qualify
    • Proof of income from property, stocks or shares
  • Profession
    • Employment contract or letter from employer with conditions listed
    • Company registration document or extract from the company register of less than 3 months for a commercial company
    • Extract D1 from the “registre de métiers” for a tradesman
    • A copy of the registration document from INSEE for a self-employed worker
    • A copy of your “carte professionnelle” for a profession libérale
    • Any recent document showing that you are in business for other professionals.
    • A current student card or certificat de scolarité (certificate showing you are in education)
  • Proof of address – only the following documents
    • Utilities bill
    • 3 last rental receipts or a letter from the previous landlord or his agent stating that the tenant is up to date with his/her rent
    • Proof of choice of domicile from an approved organisation dealing with the “code de l’action sociale et des familles” (Social Action/Welfare and Family Code)
    • Letter from the property owner stating that the candidate lives with him/her.
    • Last notification of taxe foncière or failing that the deeds of your principal residence.

There is a separate list of documents that can be asked for from guarantors that is a bit more restrictive.

Forbidden documents

The landlord is not allowed to ask you for any of the following:

  • A separate photo
  • Your carte vitale (medical insurance card)
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of good conduct of your bank account
  • Proof that you have no current credit agreements
  • Direct debit authorisation
  • Divorce judgement, except for the paragraph that starts with the statement “Par ces motifs”
  • Letter from the previous landlord or his agent stating that the tenant is up to date with his/her rent, if the tenant has furnished the last 3 receipts
  • Letter from employer where the tenant has shown pay slips
  • Marriage contract
  • Certificate of “concubinage” (being officially registered as cohabiting)
  • A cheque to reserve the property
  • Personal medical records
  • Criminal record check
  • Transfer of any objects, money or anything else that is equal in value to more than one month’s rent as a deposit
  • More than 2 sets of annual accounts for independent workers
  • Credit record from the national register (fichier national des incidents de remboursement des crédits aux particuliers)

Your rights and obligations as a tenant

Once you’re ensconced you have certain rights and obligations.  These will be covered on a separate page in the very near future.

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