Renting in France: Things to check before you sign

Contract

In light of the current weakness of the euro against some other currencies, particularly the strong British pound, expats in France might be tempted to buy property here. However, if you prefer to concentrate on finding your feet in France first, before making such an investment, renting property could be the better choice for you. In the following, you’ll find key-facts about renting property in France.

First of all, you should be aware that while furnished apartments and houses do exist, renting unfurnished property is by far the more common option in France. So the following focuses on renting unfurnished property for a long-term, principal residence. Long-term means here a minimum period of three years with an automatic renewal if not otherwise stated in the contract or terminated by either tenant or owner. When renting in France, you will have to be prepared for the following costs:
  • Rent (loyer) and service charges such as community fees: typically, property owners look for tenants with an income of at least three times the amount of rent. Landlords can and usually do ask for proof that this is the case (ie: recent pay slips, income tax declaration etc).
  • Security Deposit (dépôt de garantie): for unfurnished property, this amounts to one month’s rent. Deposits for furnished apartments can be higher.
  • Agency Fees (frais d’agence): typically also amount to one month’s rent, where applicable, and might be shared with the landlord.
  • Residence tax (taxe d’habitation): to be paid if you are living in a rented property on January 1st.
  • House Insurance (assurance risques locatifs or assurance multi-risques d’habitation): covering at minimum damage caused by floods, fire, natural disasters etc. and personal liability.
  • Utility charges for electricity, water, etc.

Partly in order for tenants to be able to gauge how high these various costs are going to be, particularly in regard to energy and insurance, landlords are obliged to provide the following reports:
  • An energy performance report (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique, or DPE).
  • A report on the natural and technological risks (risques naturels ou technologiques) if the property is in a “risk zone”; the report must be less than 6 months.
  • A lead exposure report (constat de risque d’exposition au plomb, or CREP) for properties built before January 1st, 1949.

If everything seems favourable and you and your future landlord want to go ahead, then the next step is to set up a written contract or tenancy agreement (bail or contrat de location), including at minimum information on:
  • Identities of tenant and landlord
  • Information on property, including type, size and any additional elements (ie: garage)
  • Amount of rent, deposit and service charges
  • Date of commencement
  • Contract duration and conditions for termination
  • Obligations of tenant and landlord

In addition to the contract, it is common practice to put down in writing an initial inventory or condition report (état des lieux) at the commencement of the lease. Often, but not necessarily, carried out by a bailiff (huissier), and signed by both parties, this report is important to settle the questions of possible damages caused by the tenant and the refund of the deposit at the end of a lease.

Article courtesy of InterNations (www.internations.org). Founded in 2007, they are the largest expatriate network worldwide, connecting over 1 million members in more than 390 local communities around the globe.

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