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Renting property in France: Know your rights as a tenant

The Local France
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Renting property in France: Know your rights as a tenant
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Find out what you can and can’t demand from your landlord if you’re renting in France and in turn what he/she can and can't get away with.


First of all size matters....

It is illegal in France for landlords to rent out apartments that have less than nine square metres of habitable space. The ceiling must be at least 2m20 from the floor and the apartment must contain a window in the main living area, as well as an area to cook, something to heat the apartment as well as a separate shower/bath and toilet.

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You have the right to a livable home 

Your landlord is required by French law to hand over the property in a good state and with all appliances and housing equipment in working order. 

However, tenants and landlords can agree to a rental deal even if the home isn’t exactly tip-top, as long as they include a clause on the contract which states that the lessee (tenant) will take care of the repairs. 

This has to specify the nature of the work, how it’s imputable or applicable to the rent, how long the clause is applicable for and possible compensation terms if the tenant were to vacate the property early. 

A possible scenario would be a prospective tenant who after viewing a property would prefer to make their repairs of choice and use it as a bargaining chip to lower the rent.

You have the right to expect repairs paid for by the landlord

Throughout your lease period your landlord must maintain his property/your home in habitable condition, meaning he or she has to foot the bill if repairs are needed.

These include urgent repairs (for example, a water boiler bursting in winter), improvements to the building’s common areas or façade, normal maintenance of the property (anything from the blinds not working to plug sockets burning out) and even better insulation or improvements to the property’s energy efficiency. 

For major repairs the landlord should give the tenant notice by letter delivered in person or by registered post and wait for the tenant to confirm before going ahead with the work.

Once approved, the tenant has to allow access to the property every day of the week except for Saturdays, Sundays and holidays unless otherwise agreed. 

READ ALSO: Rent prices in France - What can you get for your money in each city?

The tenant also has the right to ask for a drop in rent if the repairs lasts longer than 21 days.

If the landlord is refusing to pay, tenants can launch an appeal through France’s Departmental Conciliation Commission (CDC). The same regional authority can be used for other rental disputes and appeals. 

Some situations of force majeure or the dilapidation of the property are also the responsibility of the landlord. 

Minor repairs and routine maintenance are however the responsibility of the tenant, so anything which doesn’t require an expert to fix and may have resulted from negligence or lack of upkeep is on the renter’s bill. 

In other words, if you break something in the property that was otherwise in good condition you will have to pay for it.

According to Anil, there’s actually a long list of repairs and maintenance that tenants are responsible for, with everything from draining septic tanks to removing moss and weeds from the property. 

It’s important to take dated photos of every nook and cranny of your new rental home as soon as you move in to be able to strengthen your case if you don’t believe any disrepair or damage was caused by you, based on how long you’ve been living in the property.

You have the right to spruce up your place 

As long as it doesn’t involve any major building works that affect the overall structure of the home, tenants in France have the right to make improvements to their living space, such as giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, or laying down or pulling out a carpet. 

Careful what colour you paint your walls. Anything crazy, like turquoise and you'll have to get permission so keep the colours neutral.

If you put paintings or photos up using a drill, you'll just need to fill the holes in when you hand the apartment back.

If a tenant in France wanted to for example knock down a wall to make their kitchen open plan, they would first have to get permission from the landlord. 

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You have the right to proof of payment

Any tenant in France can and should request proof of payment from their landlord. It’s a legal requirement that landlords do so with every monthly instalment. 

The receipt should include a breakdown of amounts paid by the tenant or tenants, separating any of the landlord’s paid recoverable expenses (anything the owner pays for first but has to be paid back by the tenant i.e. levies) from regular rental expenses.

Shared or individual PoPs can be agreed upon, as can sending them via email rather than post.

You have the right to privacy

According to France’s National Accommodation Agency Anil, the “property owner must refrain from doing anything which may bother the tenant, except for situations where it’s allowed by law, such as urgent or necessary repairs."

Except for such emergencies, your landlord can’t come into your home without your prior permission. 

The same applies if he or she wants to show the flat to the property’s next prospective tenant, they have to give you notice and you have to agree. 

You have the right to some leeway if your landlord sues for unpaid rent

As with pretty much everywhere else in the world, tenants in France must pay their rent and expenses on the date of the month agreed upon in the lease, or any other time period that’s been signed off on.

But what about if you are behind on the rent or any other payment owed to the landlord? Well, you are liable to legal action if the landlord so decides.

There is one silver lining to this rather ominous litigating cloud. 

According to lawyer Benjamin A. Kergueno, based in Nice, “your rights relate to having proper notice of the proceedings against you, a chance to make good on the unpaid rent or to repair your breach of the lease, and rights to appeal.”

In other words, get your act together before it’s too late and find a way of paying the landlord if you want to continue living in the property or if you want your legal troubles to go away. 

If he’s charging you for an extra rental expense that you think you are responsible for paying, find out more here.

You have the right to stay in your French rental home after the end of your contract, if no notice is given

If your landlord hasn’t given you six months’ notice that they wish to move into the property or sell it, or get the property back for any other serious or legitimate reason such as non-rental payment, the tenant’s contract is automatically renewed after expiry, without the need for a redraft.

The above mentioned reasons are the only ones a landlord can use if they want you to vacate the property, so for example a lessor wanting to convert your home into a short-term holiday rental business couldn’t give that as a justification for not renewing your lease. 

Generally, leases for furnished properties in France run for one year (although they can be extended) and for unfurnished properties three years if the owner is an individual and six years if it’s a real estate company, developer or other professional body. There are also some nine-month lease contracts available for students in France.

The initial time period of the lease agreement will determine the length of the renewal. 

Right to buy the apartment

If a landlord is indeed going to sell their property, the tenant has the right to refuse to buy it for the sale price that the landlord accepts from another buyer. 

The tenant has two months to accept and proceed with the sale, or four months if the purchase is being funded with a mortgage. 

If the tenant decides not to proceed and the landlord then accepts another offer at a lower price, the tenant must once again be given first right of refusal.

You have the right to certain protections vis-à-vis rent hikes with a lease renewal

It’s important to remember that if the initial lease has a rent review clause, your French landlord could very well increase your rent.

Nonetheless, this rent hike can’t exceed the amount set by France’s benchmark rent index (LRI) as published in France’s national statistics body INSEE every year.

To find out if your landlord is trying it on, use the following formula to calculate what the rent hike should be:
(Current rent [including fixed charges] x new IRL effective on the date of increase) / IRL on the date the lease was signed or the previous increase date = indexed rent

In Paris, rent caps were lifted at the start of 2018 , leading prices to balloon during the following six months in the capital.

Paris authorities vowed to combat the market’s deregulation and there’s a new Housing Act called the Elan law being debated in the French Parliament this September 2018, which aims to address the failures of the 2014 Alur law. 

The measure - meant to be more effective at protecting tenants from landlords demanding more money – is likely to change other aspects of renting in France if it is approved. 

Under the Alur law the landlord has to give notice in writing one year before putting up the rent. If done any later than that, the rent can’t be raised.

You have the right to leave with relatively short notice

In furnished flats, the general notice period is one month for tenants and it can be reduced in certain cases such as illness, unexpected job loss or work relocation. However for unfurnished flats the notice period is three months.

Tenants in France can give the required notice at any time during their lease, which must be sent by registered post or through a bailiff.

And if your landlord dies...

If your landlord dies the person inheriting he flat cannot immediately boot you out because your contract remains valid. The new landlord can ask you to leave if hey wish to sell the apartment but the notice period would have to be six months.

And if your landlord wants to sell 

If the landlord wants to sell the property then he must give the tenant three months notice for a furnished apartment and six months notice for an unfurnished one.

You have several important rights regarding your deposit 

Landlords will normally do a thorough inventory when you move in. If not you should ask for one to avoid them pinning any damages on you.

For starters, landlords in France can’t charge more than a month’s rent as a deposit, although under the 2014 Alur law some renters can charge two months’ deposit for rented flats.

You also have the right to receive your deposit within 60 days after the contract has expired and you’ve moved out, in full if there’s no damage.

The deposit can never be increased with a lease renewal.

If you don’t receive your entire deposit back, you have the right to ask for an itemized breakdown of damages.

Much the same as with repairs while you’re living in the property, it’s important to have taken photos and even videos of anything that’s malfunctioning or damaged as soon as you move in.

Anil has a list of items to look out for when carrying out your initial inspection.

That will increase your chances of being able to argue your case if you think you’ve been unfairly charged and haven’t received all your deposit money back. 

You can't be kicked out in winter

If you end up in a situation where your landlord is trying to evict you then you can at least be assured he cannot boot you out in the winter.

The winter truce, called La trêve hivernale runs for five months from November 1st and marks a period when French landlords are not legally allowed to evict their tenants for any reason. 

The truce is meant as a humanitarian measure to ensure people don't become homeless and end up sleeping on the cold winter streets.

Disclaimer: This information is valid as of September 6th 2018 but some tenant rights may change if France passes the prospective Elan Housing Act that's currently being debated in the French Parliament. 




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