Renting a property in France before you buy is a wise decision. However, rental procedures and rules in France will probably differ from those in your home country. It’s best to make yourself aware of the finer details before signing a French rental contract.
Searching for a rental in France
The best way to find good rental accommodation in France is to view properties yourself, rather than relying on landlords’ and property agents’ descriptions and photos. As in the UK, these can often paint properties in a more positive light than they might deserve.
In France, more people rent a property than own one. In general, tenants are better protected in France than in the UK and this makes renting an easier option for many people.
It also means that in popular locations, demand for rental accommodation is high. This is reflected both in rental prices and the quality of stock. Good properties get snapped up really quickly; and if you don’t view a property personally, you might end up with less desirable accommodation.
This makes house-hunting an important part of the renting process in France.
Furnished or unfurnished?
As a tenant, you will be offered a longer contract if you rent an unfurnished accommodation.
When renting unfurnished accommodation, your contract will usually be for a minimum of 3 years, while it’s just a year for furnished properties.
The French government actually provide legislation on what can be considered furnished accommodation. A property is furnished if it has bedding, stove, kitchen utensils and equipment (stove, oven, microwaves, etc.), fridge, freezer, storage shelves, tables and seats, lighting, etc.
If you decide to rent a furnished apartment, make sure to check and ensure that everything is there and in proper working condition. It is the responsibility of the landlord to replace broken devices or pieces of furniture that are no longer in good working condition.
If your goal is to rent for a couple of years or longer, then it’s worth renting unfurnished so you have a minimum 3-year-long secure tenancy.
If, however, you need to rent while you are looking for a suitable property to buy, it’s best to opt for furnished accommodation. Then you are not bound by your contract and can continually renew it with your landlord for as long as you need.
Bear in mind that, although you are not bound by a long term contract, neither is your landlord. This means they are free not to renew the contract if they so wish.
Working with a property agent
Properties available for rent are usually listed in local newspapers and in estate agents’ windows and online. They also have signs outside stating à louer. It’s quite possible to look for a property to rent on your own.
However, a property agent (un agent immobilier) can be a great help, especially If you’re looking for a house in a rural area. Estate agents will usually have a list of available properties and can help you shortlist the ones worthy of your attention.
For detailed information about due diligence when working with property agents in France, please read our Complete Guide To Buying A Property In France.
If you are going to ask an agent to help you find a property to rent, remember that agents usually charge a fee equal to one month’s rent.
Rental contracts in France
Your rental contract should state both yours and your landlord’s rights and obligations, and should be signed before you move in.
You will most likely be requested to take out home insurance which covers fire, water damage, explosions, or robbery. If you don’t, or fail to renew your home insurance during your tenancy, your landlord can cancel the contract.
Make sure your contract clearly states who pays utility bills, city taxes, and maintenance. It’s common practice to have tenants responsible for minor repairs or routine maintenance such as gardens, basic interior damages, and sometimes even plumbing.
Before you sign anything, make sure you know the condition of the property you are going to rent. Check your contract for the clause stating in what condition the property must be returned. It should state you must return it as you found it.
Your tenancy contract cannot dictate whether your are allowed to have pets in the property, so check your contract for this clause and ask for it to be removed if you have a pet.
How to secure a guarantor for your rental contract
It’s a common thing in France for a landlord to ask their future tenants to secure a guarantor (garant).
A guarantor is a French resident who promises to pay the rent in case you cannot.
It can be really difficult to find somebody who can guarantee your rent payments if you don’t have friends there.
If this is the case, first try to talk to your French bank representatives, as some banks might act as your guarantor if you have an account with them.
If your bank cannot help, let your agent know about your predicament. They should be able to find you a landlord who doesn't ask for a guarantor.
Rental deposits in France
When you sign a contract you will be asked to pay a deposit.
For an unfurnished apartment, the deposit is usually a month’s rent. For furnished accommodations, the deposit cannot be more than two months' rent.
Rental deposits and their use are regulated in France.
A landlord by law cannot withhold your deposit due to ‘fair wear and tear.’ You as a tenant cannot use your deposit as your last month’s rent payment. You should pay your rent up to the end of the tenancy.
If your landlord attempts to withhold any amount of your deposit, they should justify it properly with receipts or other documentation showing why the money is being withheld.
When your contract is finished, your landlord must return your deposit within the next two months, less any arrears or damages.
There’s not much you can really do to make sure your deposit will be safely returned at the end of your tenancy.
The best way is to build a good relationship with your landlord.
You can also have the property inspected by an independent third party at the start and end of the tenancy. Such inspections can be done by a ‘huissier’ or an estate agent. The charge is usually shared between you and your landlord.
Documents needed when applying to rent
Just like in the UK, in France it’s an estate agent who deals with your application. To apply, you need to submit the following:
- Your identity document – passport, driver’s licence, other ID;
- A document confirming your status – a work contract, employer’s reference, student card, business statement or your S1 form confirming you are a retiree;
- Documents confirming you have financial support – the last three pay slips, pension or other benefit, previous tax return;
- Details of a guarantor and their pay slip;
- References of previous rental.
Rental contract termination
Your rental contract cannot be terminated by the landlord before the agreed expiry date. If at the end of the contract your landlord doesn't want to renew it, they must issue a notice of termination citing reasons why the contract cannot be renewed.
Your contract will automatically renew unless you or your landlord gives proper notice.
Your landlord’s notice of termination must be correctly drafted and sent out at the right time according to the law in France, otherwise the contract will be renewed.
The minimum notice period (le congé) depends on whether it is furnished or unfurnished. If you rent a furnished property, your landlord must give you a notice at least 3 months before your contract expires. For unfurnished properties the minimum notice period is 6 months.
There are only 3 reasons that can allow your landlord not to renew the contract with you: if there was a breach of tenancy conditions, if the landlord is going to live in the property themselves, or if the property is put up for sale.
If the property is put up for sale, you as a sitting tenant have a right of first refusal.
You might find useful:
- Living in France – a complete guide to living in France: the pros and cons, the best places to live in France, formalities, and paperwork, etc.
- Healthcare In France For Expats – how to access public healthcare in France, register your S1 form with French healthcare authorities, French health insurance system, top-up and private health cover in France, etc.;
- The Best Places to Live in France – a detailed overview of France’s most popular locations for expats.