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Renting in France: your rights and responsibilities as a tenant

| | Read : 6 min

The French rental system is a complex system. You need to understand the legal system of renting in France before you get to the country. Paris attitude can assist you in getting an apartment for your long term stay in France, be it house for single person, double or a family.

French rental system

French rental system : renting or buying ?

For long term purposes, while traveling to France, you may choose between buying or renting a property. In case you decide to buy a property, you should bear in mind that the transaction cost is very high (around 16%) and might upset your profit on the day of sale if you decide to move before 5 years.

Paris attitude, a French estate agency created since 2001, can however assist you in smoothening those challenges.

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What's the difference between furnished and unfurnished properties?

When renting a property, it is very important that you confirm whether it is furnished or not.

The difference between furnished and unfurnished properties lies on :

  • The definition: according to the government of France's legal definition, a furnished property is one that has bedding, stove, kitchen utensils and equipment’s (stove, oven, microwaves, etc.) fridge, freezer, storage shelves, tables and seats, lighting, etc.
  • the term: the term of the contract for an unfurnished house is on minimum basis three years as compared with the furnished house which is a year. And since the minimum notice period is three months (3), the tenant can easily give notice to the landlord within this period in case he would like to move out. However, thanks to our services, it is easier for you to rent a furnished house even for a longer period.

Short term and long term

  • Short term tenancies are for furnished properties. This because the legal term permits short term lets. They are usually rents for a period below a month or for a few days.
  • Long term tenancies (between a period of 6 months and a year) are possible in case you are renting an unfurnished property or you decide to rent a furnished one and continuously renew the contract with your landlord.

Documents needed to sign a French rental contract

The documents needed are:

  • An identity document: id card, passport, driver's licence, visa information, etc.
  • A proof of professional activity: work contract, employer's reference in case you work; and in case you are studying, a student card; a business statement in case you own and run, or expect to run a company in the country.
  • A proof of financial support: your last three months’ pay slips, whether the source of funding is your salary, pension or any other benefit; previous tax returns; proof of having a student scholarship.
  • References of previous renting in case you rented in France before, otherwise it is not needed: if you rented once in France, you will need to show the last three rental receipts where possible (You can have less than three, show them and explain it. You may also not have any).

The landlord also needs to show you a report on energy rating and a risk or safety report of the property.

The Government has made available a list (www.legifrance.gouv.fr) of what is admitted in terms of documents to request by a landlord and by a tenant to his landlord.

Understanding your French tenancy agreement

The agreement between the landlord and the tenant.

The tenancy agreement is the contract between the landlord and the tenant that the first party has agreed to let his property to the second for a sum of money and for a given period. It can be witnessed by a third party (notary) or not, since it is not the property sales contract.

It should be signed on the day or before the start of the term of the tenancy.

Renewal of the rental contract

In case no party gives notice to the other, the contract is renewed automatically. If there is a notice, this may be either to terminate the contract or include other parts in it.

Compulsory apartment Insurance

The landlord can impose through his contract to the tenant to subscribe to a home insurance policy in order to mitigate risks of water damages, theft of contents, fire outbreaks, explosion. And this proof of insurance must be showed at the first rent and subsequently every year after renewal of the policy, so far as the tenant is still involved in the contract.

The landlord may also propose to prefinance the subscription to the insurance policy and get repaid by the tenant later on in case he is not financially ready to do it, since it is the tenant's responsibility.

If the tenant decides not to take an insurance policy, this may lead to a breach of contract and the landlord can decide to cancel the lease.

Some hidden charges in the rental contract

You need to ask your landlord or its agent to include clearly the taxes that need to be paid by each party in the contract for clarity purposes. For instance, Property tax, city taxes, utility taxes, maintenance of communal areas taxes, etc.

Tenant rights in France

The tenants' rights are the landlord obligations.

The tenants' rights are the landlord obligations and the tenants obligations are the landlord rights.

The Landlord and the Tenant rights

  • The tenants rights are what they may expect from their landlord and which are his responsibilities:
  1. Right to have his privacy (the landlord have to seek his consent before having access to the property);
  2. The decency of the accommodation;
  3. The minimum standard of security;
  4. Other parts of the tenancy agreement.
  • The landlord rights:
  1. Right to access the accommodation to carry out repairs, with consent of the tenant;
  2. Right to access the property to collect rent, with consent of the tenant;
  3. Right to have the tenant carry routine repairs;
  4. Right to have the tenant carry structural work after having sought for his (landlord's) consent;
  5. Other parts of the tenancy agreement.

Thirteen conditions to respect

It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities, before you sign any lease contract. The thirteen (13) conditions that any great rental contract shall respect are:

  1. The right to a decent lodging: closed, covered, and in good repair.
  2. The right to use your lodging as you see fit: a landlord may not, for example prevent you from (or charge you extra rent for) hosting a friend.
  3. The landlord cannot prohibit you from having pets of any kind.
  4. The right to pay only the agreed-upon rent and utilities. The landlord is required to pay for repairs and agency fees related to the rental (this does not include the finder's fee, usually one month's rent).
  5. The right to have the security deposit reimbursed no more than two months after returning the keys. The landlord may deduct outstanding utilities bills, fees for necessary repairs, and taxe d'habitation (renter's tax) from the deposit. The landlord may not include the taxes foncières (property owner's tax) in the fees.
  6. The right to receive a rent receipt, a 'quittance de loyer,' for all rents paid, which cannot be billed to you.
  7. The landlord cannot require you to allow him to hold a visit (for renting or selling the lodging) on holidays, or for more than two hours on workdays.
  8. The landlord may not require you to pay the rent by automatic withdrawal on your account, and the renter may not authorize it.
  9. The landlord may not require the renter to make advanced payments for repairs before the cost is assessed by both parties.
  10. The landlord cannot cancel the lease for reasons other than non-payment of rent, a security deposit, or the non-adherence to a renter's insurance plan.
  11. The landlord cannot automatically assume the renter is responsible for any degradation of the lodging, or automatically assess fees to renters collectively for the degradation of something in a common area.
  12. The landlord cannot require you to pay for the inventory, unless it is carried out by a bailiff.
  13. The lease may not contain a clause absolving the landlord from responsibility and preventing the renter from bringing him to court if necessary.

What happens when you leave the apartment?

Leaving the apartment, is the consequence of the termination of the lease contract whether it is done by the tenant or the landlord.

Depending on who wants to end the contract, there are specific procedures for termination that must be respected by them (landlord and tenant).

Procedures for a landlord termination of lease contract.

When the landlord gives a notice of termination, the notice must be correctly drafted and sent out at the right time according to the law in France, otherwise the contract would be renewed.

A landlord cannot end a tenancy contract before the expiry of the term. This can only occur in case there is a breach of the tenancy conditions, sale of the property or landlord occupation.

Depending on the nature of the letting (furnished or unfurnished), there is a minimum notice period called "le congé" that is given by the landlord. The notice must state the reasons why the landlord wishes to recover possession.

  • For unfurnished lettings the period length is six (06) months;
  • For furnished Lettings the period length is three (03) months.

The notice must be given at least six or three months before the expiry date of the tenancy, depending on the nature of the letting. In case it is not respected, the contract is automatically renewed.

When the tenant is an old person (at least 65 years old), the landlord is obliged to find a suitable alternative accommodation. This rule applies for both unfurnished and furnished lettings. The age of the tenant is the age at the end of the contract, the does not apply when the landlord is at least 65 years old, or has the same resources test as that of the tenant.

The advice and assistance of a huissier or managing estate agent or bailiff in the termination process is highly recommended.

Procedures for a tenant termination of lease contract.

The tenant can put an end to the lease contract whenever and for any reason.

Depending on the nature of the letting, the minimum notice period is:

  • Three (03) months for unfurnished lettings;
  • One (01) months for furnished lettings.

During the period of the notice, the tenant continues to pay the rent.

For an unfurnished letting, the three months' notice period can be reduced to one month in the following cases:

  • Serious illness of tenant of at least 60 years of age justifying change of accommodation;
  • If the tenant (involuntarily) loses his job, obtains his first job, finds a new job following unemployment, or if his employment is transferred elsewhere (mutation professionnelle);
  • When the tenant is in receipt of social security supplementary benefits (Revenu de Solidarité Active - RSA).

The notice period cannot be reduced if the tenant either resigns, retires from employment, or merely changes his job. If the tenant does not respect the notice period the landlord is entitled to make a legal claim for the unpaid period.

The notice is irreversible, once the tenant has given it, they he cannot change his mind later. A vacating tenant is obliged to grant a landlord reasonable access to the property for visiting by prospective new tenants or purchasers.

When the procedures of termination are done, the next steps that follow are inventory and the return of the deposit to the tenant.

The inventory

The inventory is a record of the condition of the property when the lease contract starts. In French law, a rented property is assumed to be in good condition at the beginning of the contract, unless there is any evidence to the contrary.

The inventory is frequently prepared by a bailiff but it can be prepared and signed by the landlord and the tenant. At the end of the lease contract, after the tenant has left the apartment, another inventory is required to make comparison with the one that was signed at the start of the lease contract. In case there is any damages the landlord can deduct the costs of those damages from the security deposit.

The deposit

The security deposit is a maximum of one month of the initial rent to cover damages, unpaid bills etc. The security deposit must be returned to the tenant after the deduction of any necessary costs within a period of two months after the termination of the lease.

Conclusion

In order to rent in France, you must be well informed on the legal aspect of renting. You can also take advice if needed or request for the help of an estate agency like Paris attitude. 

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