How To Rent An Apartment (Long-Term) in France

  So, you’ve decided to rent an apartment in France. You feel less like a tourist and are excited to see Paris through new eyes, the windows of your very own Parisian residence. Beware: buying a small dog and learning to properly tie a scarf does not make you a Parisian–more like, a tolerated American visitor. It’s important that you take a moment, drown out the Edith Piaf melody and concentrate on the rules that will help you obtain your apartment rental fairly and successfully…and avoid getting screwed over simply because you are an American and, as the French say, “American’s don’t speak other languages.” Learn to speak this one. First, familiarize yourself with the agences immobilières in the area you wish to rent in; these are your basic real-estate agencies. There’s a fee demanded of both the renter and the owner of the property. This fee is usually about half a month’s rent for each party. Make sure to check the fees with the agency when you first meet in order to avoid later hassles–no deal, no charge. Visit the agencies in person. A simple telephone call is not enough. It’s important to get a feel for the type of company you may be dealing with and to meet your agent face to face. Century 21, or its competitors ORPI, are examples of nationwide chain organizations with reputable reputations. Don’t sit on your butt while other people are supposed to be doing their job. Always remember: just because someone is supposed to do something does not necessarily mean that they will do it. Don’t wait to hear back from your agency on a property; call them, stay on top of them. It’s important to stay in touch otherwise you may lose that sweet dream of parquet floors and natural sunlight. Grab a newspaper and check out the properties yourself. The national paper, Le Figaro runs daily property ads known as annonces immobilières. Here you’ll find several pages dedicated to real estate in Paris each day. You’ll find free papers in shops and tabacs. These are definitely worth a look, though success is more likely with a larger paper. Your best bet is with an agence immobilière, Le Figaro, or a magazine called De Particulier à Particulier–from “individual to individual.” This magazine is filled with ads for private property. Its main attraction? It bypasses the estate agency fees. In De Particulier à Particulier you’ll find ads for properties throughout France and a significant section dedicated to Paris. Also, take a look at Centrale des Particuliers, another magazine that contains ads of this sort. Take special care when renting directly from the landlord as opposed to going through an agency; you won’t have guarantees or legal protection. In picking out your apartment, it’s wise to learn the vocabulary. In France, apartments and houses are described by the total number of rooms (or pièces), minus the kitchen and bathroom. Most rental apartments are between two and four rooms. These listings would read: deux-pièces and quatre-pièces. Make sure to inquire about the apartment’s exact square meters (mètres carrés), as the number of rooms listed can often be misleading. Congratulations, you are now a locataire! You are about to become a tenant of France–and it’s time to sign on the dotted line. A few things you should know: there are complicated rules and regulations regarding eviction, though most of them are in your–the tenant’s–favor. Your landlord cannot evict you during the winter months and there is a very complicated eviction procedure that includes your right to appeal. Don’t be surprised when you’re knee-deep in paperwork, as the landlords in France take extra care in order to make sure the rent is paid. There’s generally a three-year contact drawn. The tenant’s stay will not be terminated unless the tenant chooses to leave in which case he or she would be expected to give a notice of usually two or three months. This agreement basically protects the tenant from changes in ownership or the owner’s own desire to re-occupy the property within the contract time. The agreement is called a bail, which is renewable at the end of the contract. The three-year contract is known as un bail de trois ans. If the owner offers you a bail of less than three years, beware of their intentions–they may be questionable. You don’t want to end up on the streets! What to Pack-Bring pay slips from at least the previous three months–a monthly income of at least three times the month’s rent is required; it can be as much as four.-Proof of employment-For the self-employed: provide the previous year’s tax payments-A letter from one or two people who will guarantee the sum of the rent if you fail to pay it. These persons will also have to show a pay-slip demonstrating a monthly income that’s three times the monthly rent.–Proof of identity, a residence permit (perhaps a passport)-Proof of your current address in the form of a telephone or electricity bill. It’s highly unlikely that this will work if you’ve just moved to France—you probably won’t have bill of this sort. In this case you may be saved if you can provide a bank guarantee.-Proof of a home insurance policy-A check to the owner, which will likely be for two or three times the rent–basically a security deposit, known as un chèque de caution. You’ll receive the exact amount of this sum at the end of your stay, providing there is no damage done to the property–so make sure to document any imperfections that are present on your arrival. Fill out an état des lieu, a document that both the tenant and the owner sign. It is an evaluation of the property in its condition upon the new tenant’s arrival. Bring your camera! More bills…There is a certain cost for upkeep when renting an apartment in France. These include tenant services such as a concierge or house cleaner. You’ll be charged a monthly fee known as charges communes. Sometimes these charges will be included in the rent and will be advertised as charges comprises. Otherwise they are charges non comprises. If the charges aren’t included in your rent, make sure you pay attention so that you are not over-billed. If the charges are included and the monthly fee comes out to less than that intended, you’ll be refunded the excess sum. You will be…
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