RENTING A PROPERTY IN FRANCE
Renting a property is a good way to find out what it’s like to live in an area, and what you want from your French home, before you commit to buying. Kate McNally explains what you need to know about the process
In France, around 40% of the population live in rented accommodation, split almost half and half between private and social housing. As you might expect, there is more rental accommodation in towns and cities than in more rural areas, and in certain places there is strong competition. If you’ve decided to move to France but want to try before you buy, renting a property can be a good way to dip a toe in the water and explore an area to see if it suits your requirements.
FINDING SOMEWHERE TO RENT
Often, but not always, the local mairie or communauté de communes has a list of available rental accommodation in the area. The majority of estate agents also have a rental section, so visit a few in your target area to see what they have on their books in your price range. Many local shops are happy to display offers and searches for rented lodgings in their specific area, and local papers or magazines carry notices in the small ads section. Finally, when you’ve narrowed down your search area, take time to walk around the different roads and alleys. Quite a few property owners in France publicise their housing to rent with a simple ‘ à louer’ sign.
Quite naturally, as everywhere in the world, the property owner wants to be sure that a prospective tenant is solvent and in a position to pay the monthly rent. This is perhaps more of a concern for French landlords, as it can be very difficult to evict a tenant in France ( see right). In order to facilitate this vetting process, but without allowing a landlord to make ridiculous requests, the French authorities state that he or she is entitled to ask for any of the following documents ahead of drawing up a tenancy agreement ( un bail):
• One proof of identity.
• Last three rent payment invoices, or reference from previous landlord, or last taxe foncière (property tax) statement.
• Employment contract, or student card, or self-employment certificate, or professional certificate for independent professionals such as barristers and doctors.
• Last three months’ wage slips, or employment contract, or last two years’ accounts if self-employed, or proof of social welfare grants.
• Copy of latest income tax payment (paid annually in France).
• Proof of student grant, for students.
• Proof of receipt of social benefits, if this is relevant.
Similarly, documents proving financial stability will be required for anyone acting as a guarantor, should the landlord request one. A landlord cannot seek a guarantor, however, if they have taken out rental accommodation risk insurance ( garantie des risques locatifs), except if the tenant is a student or receiving social benefits. The guarantor will be held liable to pay the rent if the tenant defaults or is unable to pay for any reason.
The tenant, meanwhile, can request to see survey reports, for example relating to energy performance and natural risks, before signing on the dotted line.
WHAT WILL YOU PAY?
A deposit – In most cases, you will be expected to pay a deposit ( une caution) at the start of your tenancy, to be held by the landlord throughout the rental period as security to pay for any potential damages or cleaning or repairs required through your neglect. For unfurnished property ( logement non meublé), this deposit is equivalent to one month’s rent; for furnished houses or apartments ( logement meublé) it’s usually two months’ rent. Landlords must return this deposit within a month of the end of the tenancy agreement, or the balance of the deposit money within two months if any repair or cleaning work is required.
House insurance – It’s obligatory for tenants in France to take out a house insurance called assurance risques locatifs, in addition to any insurance the property owner may have. This insurance covers the cost of damages from fire or flooding, for example (although not any damage to neighbouring properties). The cost varies between insurers but is generally around 2% to 2.5% of the annual rent.
For some reason, this insurance is not mandatory for furnished rentals, but it is however advisable as you will have to reimburse the owner for any damages for which you are responsible. Nor does it cover your own belongings, so you may want to opt for an additional, more comprehensive, house insurance called assurance multirisques habitation. Again costs vary