Finding accommodation in France

Looking for an apartment

The best website to start off with is www.pap.fr. This site has ads from landlords, so there are no agency fees. In high season for apartment hunting (September) apartments get taken within hours of the ads going up, so as for the flatshare sites, check often and contact fast if you find something you think you like. There is also a newspaper version of pap, De Particuliers à Particuliers, which is released on a Thursday. Some ads will only appear in the printed version so make sure you get your hands on a copy early on Thursday and start ringing straight away.

There are many different agencies you could use to find an apartment; usually you will be charged for the service once you de circourt ass logohave decided to take a place. You can just walk into an agency off the street, or start looking online. For a more customized service in English, visit www.ParisRental.com, one of NetworkIreland’s members; or visit: www.fnaim.fr, www.erafrance.com, www.immofrance.com, www.foncia.com.

There are other websites such as www.kijiji.fr which has ads for anything and everything including flat shares, apartments and rooms to rent. www.seloger.com, www.immostreet.com, www.nexdom.com, www.acheter-louer.fr, www.alouer.fr all have apartment listings but be sure to read the fine print as many of them include agency fees. In Paris, English speakers may find it easier to go to www.fusac.fr, as it has listings in English. Fusac is also published as a free magazine and can be found in many of the Anglophone bars in Paris.

French law is heavily in favour of the tenant (for example, a tenant cannot be evicted during winter months even if they don’t pay the rent), so landlords tend to be quite choosy about their tenants. More often than not, landlords will require their tenants to have a French guarantor. They will also look for what is called a dossier. This is a collection of documents, which is designed to let landlords vet their prospective tenants.

Your dossier needs to convince the landlord that you are in France for legal reasons, that you are who you claim you are, and that you will pay the rent. Thus as a bare minimum you should have:

  • A copy of your identity card/passport and RIB (relevé d'identité bancaire – your bank account details)
  • A document proving why you are in France (attestation de travail from your employer if you are working, letter from your university if you are studying)
  • Copies of your last three pay cheques and a letter from a guarantor saying they will cover your rent if you don’t pay it for some reason.

For more precise information on what the owners and tenants can and cannot do, refer to the following articles below:

1. The Walkthrough
2. What is « Decent Housing » in France?
3. What is a “Colocation” in Paris? A Guide to a Multiple Tenant Contract
4. How the Owner Reclaims His Rented Property for Personal Residence
5. How the Owner Reclaims His Rented Property to Sell

1. The Walkthrough

Known in French as the “état des lieux,” which literally means the current “state of the premises”, the walkthrough is an extremely important procedure that is done at the moment one signs an apartment lease, and once again at the end of the lease. Its purpose is to protect both the renter and the owner/landlord.

It is the comparison between the “état des lieux d’entrée” and the “état des lieux de sortie” (the beginning and final walkthroughs), which will allow the parties to evaluate if there are notable differences in the condition of the apartment, save for everyday wear and tear. If the two “état des lieux” are in agreement, then the renter is guaranteed the return of his/her security deposit. Each of the two parties must have an identical copy (in general, it is the owner who provides the two copies of the “état des lieux”).

The ideal “état des lieux” must describe the state of each and all rooms in the residence including (but not limited to) the condition of the paint, wallpaper, carpeting, wood floors, doors, locks, windows and shutters, electric sockets and switches, electric hot plates, hot water heater, water and gas faucets, flushes, etc.

For a furnished apartment, it is important to also include the furnishings in an inventory.
The following 7 steps will help you prepare for your walkthrough:

  • Insist on completing the “état des lieux” during daylight hours and when the electricity is working.
  • Next to “bon état” (good condition), “état moyen” (average condition), and “mauvais état”(poor condition), list details as precisely as possible, examples:
    • Wood floor in “bon état”, except for a cracked floorboard.
    • Doors and windows in “bon état,” but dirty around the handles
  • Verify that all the installations in the residence are in proper working order, such as the intercom, electric hot plates, oven hood, linen cabinets in the bathrooms, jacuzzi tub, hot water, etc.
  • Ask to examine the outbuildings of the residence from the moment that they are part of the contract (“chambre de bonne,” cellar, garage, etc.).
  • At the end of both the “états des lieux”, take readings from the electricity and gas meters.
  • Note the number of keys received and, later, the number of keys returned.
  • Finally, before signing, write down all that concerns you under the section labeled “observations.”

Legalities to be aware of:

  • The “état des lieux” must be “contradictoire,” meaning established between the owner/landlord and the renter (or a representative). When done in this manner, the “état des lieux” is free of charge. It can also be established by a “huissier de justice” (a bailiff) who will represent both parties, and each party will split the bailiff’s fees.
  • If there is no “état des lieux” done at the beginning, it is assumed the apartment was in good condition at the moment when the renter moved in.
  • If moving in during the summer months, the renter is in the right to demand a complementary “état des lieux” of the heating elements during the first month of the heating period (in Paris, this period generally begins some time during the month of October).
  • The law considers that an “état des lieux” is null and void if it was used for a previous rental.
  • As long as the renter has not returned the keys to the apartment, s/he will still be considered an active renter and continues to be responsible for paying the rent (the keys must be given to the landlord in person, leaving them in the mailbox does not count in the eyes of the law).
  • Finally, an “état des lieux d’entrée” or “sortie” which has not been signed by both parties (owner/landlord and renter or their representatives) is null and void. Whatever the condition of the apartment, the landlord has no right to retain the security deposit or any part thereof without a valid reason.

Lastly, it is important to take into account normal wear and tear which implies a slow degradation over time. A damaged element can only be billed at the purchased value, to which the appropriate rate of depreciation is then applied. For example, if the renter burns a hole in the carpet with a cigarette, and the carpet is five years old, then the reduction will be calculated based on the age of the carpet minus the time allowance determined for carpets. In this case, 5 years (age of the carpet) – 2 years (allowance) = 3 years. With the annual carpet depreciation rate of 18%, the reduction is calculated for the three non-exempt years (18% x 3 years = 54%). Therefore, the renter must reimburse the owner/landlord for 46% of the carpet’s cost.

On the other hand, if the damage happens during the allowance or exemption period, then the renter is responsible for the full cost of replacing the carpet. This applies to all the elements in the apartment.

Lastly, when an element has outlived its lifespan, a “quote-part résiduelle” of the total expense remains the tenant’s responsibility. So, to replace a cracked 20-year-old sink (damaged, but still in working order), the tenant pays 20% of the replacement cost.

The following is depreciation grid for the elements of an apartment:

2. What is « Decent Housing » in France?

In France, a residence is considered “decent” (whether in a furnished or an unfurnished rental) when it presents no health or security risk to the tenant(s).

In order to be called decent, a lodging must satisfy the following characteristics:

  • Main room measuring at least 9m2 (97 sq. ft.), with a minimum ceiling height of 2.20m, resulting in a volume of at least 20m3 (approx. 706 cubic feet).
  • Living room and bedrooms that have a natural light source and access to fresh air.
  • Kitchen equipped with: 1) a power source/supply (either gas or electric) with electrical outlets adapted for a stove or hot plate without risk of overheating or fire; 2) a sink with running water (both hot and cold); and 3) proper ventilation with an air vent to avoid risk of poisoning from gaseous fumes, for example.
  • Bathroom (adequately sheltered for privacy) equipped with either a shower or bathtub with running water (both hot and cold) and a drain.
  • WC or toilet within the residence and separate from the kitchen. (In the case of a single room—a “chambre de bonne”, for example—, the toilet can be outside of the room as long as it’s located within the same building and on the same floor (or the floor just below).
  • Electric lighting in all rooms and hallways
  • Electricity and gas networks, where heating elements and hot water production conform to security standards and are in proper working order
  • Drinkable water with sufficient flow
  • A system to evacuate household water, and water valves equipped with traps to suppress odors
  • Devices for ventilation to refresh the air
  • Building materials, pipes, and recoverings free of health risks (absence of asbestos and lead)
  • Secure guard railings for windows and balconies

If the conditions for a decent residence are not respected, the tenant can demand from the owner the required work to bring it up to code. Failing amicable agreement, the tenant can take the matter (and the owner) to small claims court. The judge will determine the nature of the work to be carried out and the time limit to do so.

Here are a few examples of “undecent” conditions in an apartment or dwelling : damaged water (or gas) pipes, bared electric wires, split electrical outlets, no ground-wire outlets for kitchen stove, signs of mold, lack of ventilation in the bathroom, poor or deficient heating, contaminated drinking water, a roof which is not watertight, poor or deficient insulation, loose guard railing, etc. © Paris Rental

3. What is a “Colocation” in Paris? A Guide to a Multiple Tenant Contract

Finding roommates is popular for people of all ages in Paris. Yet, tenants who enter this legally-binding arrangement should fully understand the potentially severe consequences of the obligations that are incurred. The following information is critical for anyone considering a colocation agreement in France.

Clause de Solidarité

The legal structure in place makes renting to roommates an enticing arrangement for property owners. This is due to the solidarity clause which essentially transforms you and your roommates into a single entity in terms of legal responsibility for the full duration of the lease. The landlord is allowed to request the full amount of funds owed – not just the portion owed by the individual – from any tenant at any time. This leaves it to tenants to collect from their roommates, and means that if one roommate ceases payment the others remain responsible for his / her portion. This clause has critical implications from engaging a guarantor to extricating yourself from the flat-sharing contract.

What to Expect Before You Sign

Your landlord can demand the following from each incoming tenant.

  • Proof of economic solvency: Your landlord can ask for justification of income in the form of paystubs and/or your most recent tax return. However, he / she cannot demand authorization to withdraw funds directly from your bank account.
  • Caution: If you are a student or a young professional, your landlord has the right to ask you to provide a guarantor for your tenancy. Guarantors remain engaged for the duration of the contract, even if one roommate they vouched for has vacated the residence.
  • Deposit: Your landlord has the right to demand a deposit equal to no more than one month’s rent, to be returned within two months of the contract’s termination if the property is left in good repair. Importantly, landlords are not obligated to return portions of the deposit as tenants come and go, so tenants are left to sort this out amongst themselves.
  • Walkthrough: Your landlord should do a thorough walkthrough of the property with all tenants present before the lease is signed. For an unbiased opinion, a bailiff may be hired to perform the walkthrough, and the cost will be split between the landlord and the tenant(s).
  • Insurance: Each tenant is required to obtain renter’s insurance before entering the lease.

Writing a Roommate Contract

With a solidarity clause binding you and your roommates in responsibility, it is critical to sign a written agreement that outlines how rent, taxes, charges and communal expenses will be divided, to establish rules for common spaces and hosting guests, and to discuss how to replace tenants.

How to Extricate Yourself From a Multiple Tenant Lease

A solidarity clause makes it difficult to remove yourself from the obligations of a multiple tenant lease, but it is possible. First, you are required to give your landlord a minimum of three months notice before you leave. Second, it is your responsibility to find a replacement tenant should you choose to vacate the residence before the contract is terminated. Any potential replacement must be approved by both your remaining housemates and the property owner. That being said, a landlord is in no way obligated to accept a new tenant and can refuse on any condition, in which case you remain legally bound to the terms of your contract until it expires.

Subletting your room without telling your landlord might seem appealing, but consequences for doing so should be heavily weighed. Subletting is almost always explicitly banned in rental agreements, and engaging in it puts you and all of your roommates at serious risk for eviction. Further, you have absolutely no legal recourse if the person who sublets your room stops paying or refuses to vacate the residence. © Paris Rental

4. How the Owner Reclaims his Rented Property for Personal Residence

In order to give the tenant proper notice to reclaim his property, the owner must respect the following conditions:

  • Wait until the end of the lease (every rental agreement defines the beginning and the duration of the lease, so therefore the end as well);
  • Give the tenant notice at least six months in advance of the end of the lease;
  • Indicate the reason* for the notice, i.e. repossession of the property to live in as his personal dwelling;
  • Indicate the name and address of the beneficiary of the repossession;
  • Send the notice by registered letter with acknowledgement or through a bailiff.

*If the property is the tenant’s primary residence, then the owner must give the reason for his notice. However, if it is not the tenant’s primary residence, the owner does not need to give any reason for the notice.

End of lease and notice

The owner of an unfurnished rental property is required to give his notice to the tenant six months before the end of the lease. In the case of a furnished rental, the notice required is three months before the end of the lease.

For example, a lease signed 1 January 2010 – for three years, renewable by express or implied agreement between the parties – will expire 31 December 2013 and NOT 1 January 2014. The notice must therefore reach the tenant no later than 30 June 2013.

Registered letter with acknowledgement (LRAR):

The six-month notice period goes into effect from the day the tenant receives the letter. If the tenant is absent and doesn’t claim it at the post office, or if he refuses it, the notice will not go into effect! It is therefore recommended to send the registered letter with at least seven or eight months’ notice in order to have time to respond should the tenant refuse the letter.

The right of repossession as a personal residence:

The owner/lessor must be an individual person in order to have the right of repossession, to inhabit the property himself or so that one of his relatives may do so.

Beneficiaries of repossession

The individuals who may benefit from the repossession are the owner himself, his spouse, his partner with whom he has contracted a PACS, his common law spouse for at least one year as of the date of the notice, his ascendants (parents, grandparents), his descendants (children, grandchildren), and also those of his spouse, common-law spouse, or PACS partner.
Caution: the right of repossession does NOT apply for a niece or a nephew, a brother or sister.

Failing to follow the above conditions (timing of the notice, delivery, recipient, mention of the beneficiary, etc.) the notice will be null and void, resulting in the renewal of the lease.

After tenant departure

The beneficiary of the repossession must occupy the property as a principle residence, and not simply as a pied-à-terre. If this is not the case, or the former tenant realizes (several months later) that the owner returned the property to a furnished or unfurnished rental, then the former tenant has the right to claim damages and interest from the owner. © ParisRental

5. How the Owner Reclaims His Rented Property to Sell

When the owner intends to sell his property unoccupied but currently has a tenant, he must respect the following conditions in order to give the current tenant proper notice:

  • give at least six months’ advance notice to the tenant prior to the end of the lease;
  • indicate the reason for the notice, i.e. the sale of the property;
  • mention the first five sections of the “article 15-II of the1989 law”, and
  • send the notice by registered letter with acknowledgement or through a bailiff.

Caution: A notice of sale which does not respect all of these conditions is null and void, and the rental contract is renewed for its initial duration.

The right of pre-emption of the tenant
The current tenant has first priority in purchasing the property if it becomes for sale.

Because of his/her right of preemption, the notice given by the owner is considered like a sales offer. This offer is valid the first two months of the six-month notice period only. If the tenant refuses it or does not respond within the first two months, the offer no longer stands. The tenant must then vacate the premises in accordance with the terms of the lease, as stipulated in the notice.

If the tenant accepts the offer, the bill of sale must be signed within two months from the date of acceptance, or four months if the tenant mentions in his letter that he will be applying for a loan. At the end of the two or four-month period, if the sale has not been fulfilled, the tenant’s acceptance is no longer valid and he must vacate the property according to the terms of the lease.

Later on, if the owner decides to lower his asking price or make some of the conditions in the offer of sale more attractive, he must address another proposition to the tenant with the new sale conditions even if the tenant has already vacated the premises. If the owner fails to do so, the sale to an outsider with the new conditions may be annulled at the request of the former tenant.

This second offer, valid for one month, must be sent to the tenant by registered letter with acknowledgement or by bailiff, to the tenant’s current address or, in the event the tenant did not leave a forwarding address with the owner, to the address of the property for sale. This letter must contain the new conditions in addition to the same requirements from the first notice. The tenant has the same time frames to finalize the sale (two months without a loan or four months with a loan).

There are some exceptions to the right of the tenant’s pre-emption. They are as follows:

  • If the owner sells the property to a relative up to the third degree (a child, a grandchild, a parent, or a grandparent; a brother or sister; an uncle, an aunt, a niece, or a nephew) The purchasing relative must then inhabit the property for at least two years.
  • If the city exercises its right of pre-emption;

What are the legal formalities for a sales offer to the tenant?

Required mentions in the sales notice:

  • the owner must indicate his will to sell the property.
  • the sale price
  • the object for sale, i.e. the property and any annexes: cellar, “chambre de bonne,” garage, etc. If the property is rented with a “chambre de bonne,” which is not indicated in the sales notice, it is then considered null and void
  • The reproduction of the first five sections of article 15-11 of the law of 1989, detailing the mechanism of the right of pre-emption*

The following are later to be provided to the tenant:

  • The surface area of the property being sold
  • The property’s diagnoses – asbestos, lead, termites, natural risks, electrical state, etc.
  • A descriptive division (by lots)
  • The by-laws of the co-operative

There is one particular case where the notice of sale must be accompanied by an offer to re-house the tenant: it is when the tenant is more than 70 years old and his financial resources are less than 1.5x the annual gross minimum wage. The two conditions (age and financial resources) are cumulative. Caution: If there are multiple tenants residing in the sale property and one of the tenants meets both conditions, then this protection applies collectively to all tenants.

The proposed property must be located within five kilometers of the property for sale and correspond to the needs of the tenant.

There is an exception to this exception: if the owner is more than 60 years of age or his financial resources are also less than 1.5x the annual gross minimum wage, he is not obligated to re-house his tenant and can give him proper notice. © Paris Rental

* Loi du 6/7/1989 - Article 15-11, alinéa 1 a 6 : Lorsqu'il est fonde sur la décision de vendre le logement, le congé doit, a peine de nullité, indiquer le prix et les conditions de la vente projetée. Le congé vaut offre de vente au profit du locataire : l'offre est valable pendant les deux premiers mois du délai de préavis. Les dispositions de l'article 46 de la loi n° 65-5 57 du 10 juillet 1965 fixant le statut de la copropriété des immeubles bâtis ne sont pas applicables au congé fonde sur la décision de vendre le logement.
A l'expiration du délai de préavis, le locataire qui n'a pas accepte l'offre de vente est déchu de plein droit de tout titre d'occupation sur le local.
Le locataire qui accepte l'offre dispose, a compter de la date d'envoi de sa réponse au bailleur, d'un délai de deux mois pour la réalisation de l'acte de vente. Si, dans sa réponse, il notifie son Intention de recourir a un prêt, l'acceptation par le locataire de l'offre de vente est subordonnée a l'obtention du prêt et le délai de réalisation de la vente est porte a quatre mois. Si, a l'expiration de ce délai, la vente n'a pas été réalisée, l'acceptation de l'offre de vente est nulle de plein droit et le locataire est déchu de plein droit de tout titre d'occupation.
Dans le cas où le propriétaire décide de vendre a des conditions ou a un prix plus avantageux pour l'acquéreur, le notaire doit, lorsque le bailleur n'y a pas préalablement procède, notifier au locataire ces conditions et prix a peine de nullité de la vente. Cette notification est effectuée a l'adresse indiquée a cet effet par le locataire au bailleur ; si le locataire n'a pas fait connaître cette adresse au bailleur, la notification est effectuée a l'adresse des locaux dont la location avait été consentie. Elle vaut offre de vente au profit du locataire. Cette offre est valable pendant une durée d'un mois a compter de sa réception. L'offre qui n'a pas été acceptée dans le délai d'un mois est caduque.
Le locataire qui accepte l'offre ainsi notifiée dispose, a compter de la date d'envoi de sa réponse au bailleur ou au notaire, d'un délai de deux mois pour la réalisation de l'acte de vente. Si, dans sa réponse, il notifie son intention de recourir a un prêt, l'acceptation par le locataire de l'offre de vente est subordonnée a l'obtention du prêt et le délai de réalisation de la vente est porte a quatre mois. Si, a l'expiration de ce délai, la vente n'a pas été réalisée, l'acceptation de l'offre de vente est nulle de plein droit.
Les termes des cinq alinéas précédents sont reproduits a peine de nullité dans chaque notification