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

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

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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 expected to pay taxes on your rental
property–la taxe d’habitation which is a yearly local tax. That sum is
dependent on the area you live in and the size of the property you rent.

If
you’ve made it this far, you’re destined for residency in France. Now
get to know your neighborhood. Discover the best café crème on the
block and locate the corner bakery where the baguettes are pas très
cuite. And learn the language!


Kirsten
joins Bonjour Paris from Los Angeles, California where she recently
graduated from the University in Southern California with a  BFA
in Acting. Last year she co-wrote the book and lyrics to a new pop
musical which expects to open in Los Angeles next spring. Two
years ago, while studying at a conservatory in London, Kirsten fell in
love with Paris and decided that she was destined to return for some
time. She’s thrilled to experience this dream come true.

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