Renting accommodation

Renting accommodation

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Finding accommodation is a crucial step in relocating to France.

How to find rented accommodation

There are various ways of finding new accommodation:

  • Relocation agencies: Firms that specialize in helping skilled employees and their families relocate to France. Their role is to facilitate a family’s move to France. The services they offer range from obtaining the official documents required (visa, work permit, residence permit, etc.) and searching for accommodation, to finding schools for children and employment for spouses, as well as helping with learning the local language.
  • Apartment hunters: Professionals who specialize in searching for apartments and houses. After an in-depth interview to determine the needs of the individual or family, apartment hunters search for an ideal home on their behalf.
  • Real estate agents: When a property owner chooses to use an estate agent, the fees are shared between the owner and the future tenant. To find an estate agent, you can contact the relevant trade associations.
  • Specialist websites: These sites list the accommodation available on the market. Searches can be performed based on certain criteria (location, apartment size, rental price, number of bedrooms, etc.). The most popular websites are:

Gathering information about a property


Property rental advertisements posted by agencies must provide future tenants with the following information:

  • The surface area of the property and its location (city and neighborhood).
  • The monthly rent, together with any supplementary rent and service charges, followed by the words “par mois” (per month) and, if applicable, the words “charges comprises” (services charges included).
  • The amount of supplementary rent payable, if applicable.
  • Service charges, if applicable.
  • The security deposit amount.
  • Whether the accommodation is furnished or unfurnished.
  • The agency fees payable by the tenant.

It is also recommended that future tenants ask how much housing tax the previous occupants paid.

Documents required


A private landlord has the right to ask for information on their future tenant’s financial situation. For information, you may be asked to provide the following documents:

  • Photo ID (identity card, residence permit, passport or driver’s license).
  • Your last three rent receipts, or a proof of address, or a declaration by the individual who is housing you, or your most recent property tax notice, or a title deed for your primary residence.
  • A copy of your employment contract or any other document proving that you are in employment.
  • Your last three pay slips or, if you are self-employed, your last two balance sheets.
  • Your last or penultimate income tax notice.

The landlord can also ask you to name a guarantor who will cover any debts that you may subsequently incur. This guarantor may be a private individual (family member, friend, etc.) or a legal entity (bank or other organization) located in France. The guarantor must also supply information regarding their solvency (financial resources, expenses, etc.).

Lease and legal disclaimer included in the rental agreement


A property rental agreement must be drafted. It must contain information on:

  • The parties to the agreement: Landlord’s contact details, name of the tenant(s), agreement start date, duration and terms of renewal.
  • The accommodation: Surface area, description of the accommodation, type of lease, whether work has been done on the property since it was last rented.
  • The rent payable, including all service charges, the rent payment date.
  • The security deposit, which cannot be greater than one month’s rent excluding service charges for unfurnished accommodation and two month’s rent for furnished accommodation.

 

As a general rule, the lease period for an unfurnished apartment is three years. If the lease reaches its expiry date and neither the landlord nor the tenant give notice to terminate the rental agreement, the lease is automatically renewed for three years.

 

In the case of furnished accommodation, the lease period is one year. The lease is renewed automatically if neither the tenant nor the landlord give notice to terminate the rental agreement.

Inventory


Before moving in to the apartment, the tenant and the landlord (or the agency representing the latter) must carry out an initial inventory. The inventory document provides a detailed description of the accommodation and its contents.  Two copies of the document are drafted, one for the landlord and one for the tenant.


It must specify:

  • The type of inventory: initial or final.
  • The date on which the inventory was performed.
  • The address of the property.
  • The names of the parties (landlord or lessor and tenant or lessee).
  • The addresses of the parties.
  • If applicable, the name and contact details of the company mandated to perform the inventory.
  • The apartment’s water, gas and electricity meter readings.
  • Details and purpose of the keys and all other means of access to private and communal areas of the property.
  • As detailed a description as possible of the condition of the apartment’s floors, walls and ceilings.
  • The signatures of the parties and, if applicable, the person who conducted the inventory.

 


A final inventory will need to be carried out when the apartment is vacated. The final inventory may be performed using the same document created for the initial inventory, in which case there must be two columns: “initial inventory” and “final inventory”, or on a separate document in the same format as the initial inventory.


If there are differences between the initial inventory and the final inventory, the cost of the work required to restore the apartment to its original condition will be deducted from the security deposit. All deductions by the landlord or their representative must be justified (e.g. by producing a quotation for the work required). Changes to the property or its equipment due to normal wear and tear may not give rise to deductions from the security deposit.

How to terminate a rental agreement


A tenant can terminate their rental agreement at any time. They must inform the landlord or their representative by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, or via a bailiff’s notice or a letter delivered in person and signed for by the recipient.

The letter must specify the end date of the tenancy, taking into account the notice period, which is generally three months. In exceptional circumstances, the notice period may be shortened to one month in areas where demand for housing is particularly high or if the tenant can prove that they find themselves in one of the following situations (grounds for termination must be included in the letter ending the rental agreement):

  • They are being transferred by their employer.
  • They have secured employment for the first time.
  • They are suffering from health problems that require a change of accommodation.
  • They have lost their job.
  • The tenant is receiving the RSA allowance for low-income households or adult disability benefits.

 

The lessor may also terminate the rental agreement subject to specific terms and conditions. In such cases, they must inform the tenant six months before the end of the lease period by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt.

Refunding the security deposit


The security deposit paid at the beginning of the tenancy is refunded at the end of the rental period. The landlord or their representative has one month to refund the security deposit if the final inventory is consistent with the initial inventory and if there is no outstanding rent or tax to be paid. This is extended to two months if there are differences between the initial and final inventories. This period begins on the day the tenant returns the keys for the premises (in person or by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt).


What if the landlord fails to refund the security deposit?

In the event that the security deposit is not refunded, the outgoing tenant must send a formal demand to the landlord by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt.

If, despite this action being taken, the landlord refuses to refund the security deposit, the tenant can refer the case to the mediation commission for their département (Commission Départementale de Conciliation).

Should the mediation process prove unsuccessful, the tenant can go before the small-claims court (juge de proximité), if the value of the claim is less than €4,000, or the district court (tribunal d’instance).