Housing in France : a Key Step to Success in your Expatriation Project
The search for housing is not the simplest step in an international mobility project. Once in a host country, it is imperative to quickly find a place to get used to the new way of life. However, housing, whether furnished or unfurnished, does not remain vacant for long. Responsiveness is therefore important. Many documents and warranties are often required and rentals only begin once the lease is signed. Nevertheless, there are tips for obtaining housing smoothly and especially on avoiding certain pitfalls.
The different types of housing
The so-called “private” rental includes all housing rented by owners in the real estate market. These homes are offered on advert or estate agent sites.
There are two types of housing in the private rental: the “unfurnished” dwellings (non meublés) and the “furnished” dwellings (meublés) that include most of the furniture (tables, chairs, sofa, bed …).
The rules of renting in France
Article 1 of the Act of 17 January 2002 asserts the principle of non-discrimination: a dwelling cannot be refused on grounds related to the applicant’s nationality, ethnic, religious, cultural or sexual affiliation. All applicants therefore have every opportunity to be granted housing provided they meet certain conditions.
The prospective tenant is often asked to provide documents and guarantees (statement from the employer indicating the nature of the employment contract, proof of income amounting to three times the monthly rent, bank statements and tax notice, identity document and possibly a guarantor in case of non-payment). Once these formalities are settled, a rental agreement called a “lease” (“bail” in French) is signed between the two parties. This lease defines the relationship between a tenant and an owner. It sets out a number of rights and duties that the owner and the tenant both agree to respect. The tenant must act “in a responsible manner” (bon père de famille or literally a good father) and take good care of the rented property, both in terms of routine maintenance and cleanliness.
A “security deposit” (dépôt de garantie) is then requested when the lease is signed, corresponding to at least one month’s rent. This is a cash deposit returned within 2 months after leaving the dwelling if the housing is in the state in which it was rented. Furthermore, in addition to this deposit, when moving the tenant must pay the rent for the first month in progress.
The payment of the rent
Payment of the rent is usually done at the beginning of each month. A rent receipt, (quittance de loyer), can be requested from the owner each month to prove payment of the rent. The receipt separates out the rent and the monthly charges. It is also important to inquire about the distribution of monthly rental charges and to check whether heating and electricity are included or not.
In France, the price of rents are set freely and depend on the market: housing in a “chic” district of the capital will be much more expensive than in a village in the province, as it will if the housing is located near shops, public transport, schools, parks, etc.
The inventory of fixtures
Once the lease is signed in duplicate, it is necessary to establish an inventory (état des lieux) which will serve as a reference to note any damage when leaving the dwelling. This document is usually written by the owner or the estate agent. It serves as a comparison between the inventory of fixtures on entry and departure and defines if the deposit can be returned at the end of the lease. Any damage or anomaly must be reported within 48 hours of entering the premises.
All housing must be insured, the most common form is home multi-risk insurance, which protects in case of fire, explosion, water damage and natural disasters. It is the most often required when signing the lease.
Ending the lease
The notice of departure for furnished accommodation is one month. A registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt must be sent to the owner stating the date of departure from the dwelling. An appointment is then agreed with the owner. The apartment must be tidied and cleaned, the cupboards emptied and the keys returned to the owner. The security deposit will be returned within two months from the date of departure if there has been no damage to the housing.
The difficulty of finding accommodation in the Paris region
Although there is an abundance of housing for rent in Paris and the surrounding area, it can be very difficult and time consuming to find an apartment because vacancy rates are very low. With more than 2 million inhabitants within its boundaries, Paris is France’s most populated city. Every year, thousands of people move in an out of Paris.
While there are many apartments on offer, the demand is excessively high. This means apartments are snapped up quickly and you need to be reactive, ready to visit at short notice and able to decide to rent quickly.
In general, city centres in France are often much more expensive than neighbouring towns, which nevertheless offer accessibility by public transport, which can make them an interesting alternative.