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Practical Tips for Renting in France

Furnished or unfurnished, Paris or the countryside — there are many decisions you need to make when looking to rent an apartment in France. Moreover, the apartment search can be quite challenging. We tell you how to approach this process and what you need to look out for!

How to Impress with Your Application

Once you got in touch with a landlord or found a place which is still available, try to get an appointment as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the chances that the apartment of your dreams might already have gone to someone else. However, being the first in line to view an apartment is not a guarantee that you will actually get it.

As France has very strict tenant protection laws making it very hard to evict someone, landlords are rather choosy and take their time deciding on a tenant, to make sure they don’t run into problems later on. This is also why you should be prepared to answer various questions about your income, your visa status, and the duration of your stay.

Put together a dossier to hand over to any prospective landlord. While every landlord might look for slightly different information, your dossier should include roughly the following:

  • proof of identity
  • a home or liability insurance certificate
  • proof of residence
  • a copy of your employment contract (or other proof of employment)
  • proof of financial resources
  • your bank details

Since many landlords are looking for a long-term tenant, expats with a temporary work contract or who haven’t finished their probationary period yet might face an uphill battle. A 2014 study by consumer protection magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs also showed that expats with foreign accents often struggle to find an apartment in France. Many landlords and real estate agencies cite financial concerns as a reason for denying foreign-sounding applicants or asking for a higher deposit.

What to Look Out For

When you rent an apartment in France, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. As mentioned above, it is wise to rent an unfurnished apartment because these offer tenants a certain legal protection. Although the minimum rental period is longer for unfurnished accommodation (three years, as opposed to one year for furnished property), it is often possible to negotiate a shorter lease in advance. In either case, your contract will be renewed automatically unless you give appropriate notice.

Another important point to keep in mind is that you have to take out home or liability insurance which covers water and fire damage, explosions, and theft of contents. The landlord can request proof of such an insurance for each year you are renting the apartment. If you fail to provide such proof, they have the right to either terminate the lease or take out the insurance at your expense. While this rule only applies to unfurnished property, it makes sense to get insurance for furnished property as well.

Moreover, as a tenant you are required to pay the taxe d’habitation (property tax) for the building you inhabited at the beginning of the year. This is also the reason why you need to report every move to the Centre des Impôts (French Revenue Service). The amount you have to pay in taxes varies strongly depending on where you live, so it makes sense to discuss this with your landlord or contact the French Revenue Service directly.

Terminating Your Lease

If you want to terminate your lease, it is advisable to do so in writing, sticking to the period of minimum notice. This is three months for unfurnished and one month for furnished apartments. Your letter of termination should be written in French and include your address, the date when your lease started, the notice period, and the request to agree on a date for the return of the keys. In case you are unsure how to phrase this letter, you can find many sample letters on the internet for just this purpose.

The Rental Market in France vs. Paris

The rent, as well as the demand for housing, varies widely depending on where you move to. You might easily find an affordable apartment in a small town, while even a small place in Paris can exceed your budget. During the past decade, prices have increased by about 40%, especially in bigger cities where the demand is high. It is not unheard of to have furnished apartments in top Paris neighborhoods go for as much as 3,000–7,000 EUR per month.

To take control of the soaring rents, Paris has introduced rent cap regulations in 2015. This has been met with harsh criticism from landlords and estate agents but was welcomed by many tenants. Your rent can now only be increased once per year and never more than 20%. Unfortunately, this law has not been rolled out in the rest of the country yet.


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