An investigation by consumer organization UFC-Que choisir has found a long list of problems with the behaviour of letting agents, leading them to call for tougher sanctions against abuses.

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Home letting agents acting ‘illegally’

An investigation by consumer organization UFC-Que choisir has found a long list of problems with the behaviour of letting agents, leading them to call for tougher sanctions against abuses.

The organization tested 1,056 agencies in March, pretending to be helping a young member of their family to find a two-room apartment measuring 40 square metres. 

The main problem involved excessive and illegal demands for documents from prospective tenants.

Apartment hunters in France are commonly faced with a long list of documents, certificates and signed statements. UFC-Que choisir says many of these should not be asked for at all.

According to the report, 62 percent of the agencies insisted on documents that need not be provided.

In almost half the cases, a request was made for a statement from an employer confirming salary. Next came a reference from a former landlord (10 percent), a photograph of the prospective tenant (10 percent) and a direct debit authorisation (8 percent). 

Other documents that should not be requested by law include a marriage contract or a medical report.

At one in five of the agencies, investigators found that fees were not clearly displayed in the window, something which has been required for twenty years. 

The organization also criticized “unjustifiable disparities in fees” for drafting rental agreements, which they believe should be a standardized service with a cap on fees. The average charge is €190 but can be as much as €300. 

Landlords in France are expected to provide technical documentation describing the property in detail and including details of monthly charges for amenities, such as concierge services, lift and central heating. In half the cases surveyed, information on the property was limited to the bare minimum (price, area, address).

“Rental agencies are acting illegally but with total immunity,” said Alain Bazot, president of UFC-Que choisir.

Representatives of letting agents hit back, saying their behaviour was necessary to look after the interests of landlords.

“Excessive requests for guarantees on the part of agents isn’t just them being overzealous, it’s for the safety of the landlords,” René Pallincourt of the national federation for rental agents (Fnaim) told AFP.

“We must be careful not to heap opprobrium on a whole profession,” housing minister Benoist Apparu told AFP. He said the government was looking at measures to protect consumers and support agents offering a good quality of service, but did not give further details.

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City of leaks: The things you must get used to living in a Paris apartment

There are some things that everyone who lives in a Paris flat will experience at some time or another... like having to squeeze into a lift that's only big enough for a baby hobbit.

City of leaks: The things you must get used to living in a Paris apartment
Photo: AFP
As everyone who lives in one knows, there are many, many great things about living in an apartment in Paris.
You'll have great bars nearby and restaurants and stunning architecture…and most importantly – there is always a world-class boulangerie within rolling distance from your bed.
But unfortunately apartments in Paris come with their little but infuriating downsides.
1. 'The City of Leaks'
Everyone knows that Paris apartments are synonymous with leaks and to be honest they're often so frequent you'll need to have your plumber on speed dial. 
Leaks can go two ways… Either your flat is leaked on from above or your flat leaks on your neighbour's below. Both are bad, lead to a lot of paperwork and often fraught relations with neighbours.
And the unique thing about leaks in Paris flats is that they always occur when you are out or on holiday.
Paris apartments might be pretty but they're also tightly packed in. Photo: Justin LaBerge/Flickr 
2. Polite notices about parties…followed by really crazy parties
French people are so polite, is what you'll think to yourself the first time you see a notice in the lobby, letting you know that your neighbours are planning a party this weekend and that you are invited. 
But fast forward to Saturday and you'll quickly realise how naive you were, as music pounds through the walls and loud shouts of, “Ouuuiiiiiiiii!” can be heard through the walls until the early hours of the morning.
Photo: Eli Duke/ Flickr
3. The lifts (or lack thereof)
This is one that people notice as soon as they start visiting potential apartments. At first you might have thought it was an anomaly but soon you realise it's the norm…most lifts in Paris apartment blocks (at least the older ones) are are really (really!) tiny or non-existent. 
This means you have to take your shopping up one bag at a time and it of course it makes moving a nightmare.
Photo: Steve Foster/Flickr
4. Sweltering heat during summer
While you might have always dreamed of having a sauna inside your apartment, it's unlikely you ever wanted it to become one.
In Paris, it's unlikely you'll have the choice. 
Either you have to accept that sleep will remain but a distant dream (pun intended) during the months of July and August (and sometimes even June), flee the city along with the French or take to one of the Paris parks open 24-hours a day during the summertime
5. Packages going missing
Maybe it's the French postal service or it could be the fact that there are so many people living in a typical Paris apartment building, many of whom aren't listed on the post boxes. 
Either way, your packages will go missing. 
The next few points all fall under the heading of NOISE…
6. Kids running in the upstairs apartment
At first you might think it's thunder, or that Paris is experiencing an earthquake. But you'll quickly realise it's just the kids upstairs running around which translates into the sound of a professional rugby team doing drills in yours. 
6b. Couples making love in flat next door – Walls in Paris apartments are not too thick, beds are often very creaky and French couples can be noisy love makers. We just have to learn to live with it.
6c. The non-stop washing machine downstairs
There's often no escape so the best thing to do is stick your own washing on.
6d. The people who fill the bottle bins at night or early in the morning… should be banned from buying bottles for six months.
7. The Renovations
Drilling at 8am…. even on weekends! Get your revenge and have a party one night.
It might be time for earplugs if you want a good night's sleep in Paris. Photo: Christopher Holden/Flickr
8. Domestics
Something we've definitely experienced here at The Local. 
While Parisians can be noisy love makers they can also fall out of love very noisily too. And they do it fairly often. You'll think someone is about to be throttled and be on the verge of calling the police. But next time you see them they'll be embracing in the stairwell.
At least you can use their arguments as French listening practice. 
Photo: Pexels/Wikicommons 
9. Random buzzing
Why does your buzzer ring even when you're not expecting anyone?
The phantom buzzes are often just someone who has forgot their keys and is hoping to get buzzed in, a home deliverer or a burglar.
10. Neighbours so close they can see into your kitchen drawers
You can never be naked in a Paris flat with the windows open.
It's known as vis-à-vis in French but refers to the fact that often the layout of flats and the windows mean neighbours in a separate building or those who live across the courtyard can see everything that goes on in your flat.
This means you either keep the curtains or shutters closed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year or you let your neighbours into your lives.