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The vital French vocab for renting property

When it comes to finding somewhere to rent in France, the process is easier if you have a basic grasp of some of the vocabulary you might come across at an estate agency. Here is our list of key terms.

Finding somewhere to rent in France can be a challenge if you don't speak the language.
Finding somewhere to rent in France can be a challenge if you don't speak the language. Here are the words you need to know. (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

Around 60 percent of households in France are owned by the people living in them. For the rest of us, that means renting. 

As a foreigner in France the process of finding somewhere to rent can be bewildering – particularly if you don’t speak the language.

READ ALSO A beginner’s guide to renting property in France

We have put together a list of some of the key words you need to know to be able to find somewhere to live: 

L’agent immobilier 

Finding somewhere to rent often involves going through an agent immobilier – or real estate agent. He or she will help facilitate visites (viewings) of various biens immobiliers (properties). 

The name for real estate agency is agence immobilier

READ MORE The vital French terms you need to know when buying a house in France

Le bail 

The French term for rental contract is le bail, sometimes referred to as a contrat de location

Un bail nu is a rental contract for an unfurnished property, while un bail meublé is a rental contract for a furnished property. 

Le bailleur is the owner of the property, who has signed a contract to rent it to someone else. 

Le bien

When talking about real estate, the word bien is simply used to refer to the property itself, whether this is a maison (house), appartement (flat) or immeuble (building). 

READ MORE Why are Paris landlords so difficult and what can you do about it?

La caution

This is the name given to a guarantor – the person or organisation who commits to pay in the place of the renter, if the renter defaults their payments. Another term for la caution is le garant

La colocation 

When it comes to renting, la colocation is a term used to describe a situation in which you split the rent with another resident of the property. If you live en colocation with someone, it means you live in a property with other people. A colocataire is a housemate, frequently shortened to coloc

Les charges

Les charges are added costs charged on top of the property rental price itself.

In France, these often include monthly maintenance costs, rental taxes, cold water and sometimes even heating and wifi. When a rental price is advertised, it will either be listed as hors charges (HC – without charges) or avec charges comprises (CC or TCC – with charges included). You should check with the estate agent what charges you will be obliged to pay to the owner. 

Quelles charges sont inclues? – What charges are included? 

Le délai des préavis

This is the timeframe within which you must inform the property owner before leaving the property and ending their contract. Le délai des préavis is defined in the rental contract that you sign. Generally you must inform the property owner with a tracked and signed-for postal letter. 

READ MORE Renting furnished accommodation in France: What should your landlord provide?

Le dépôt de garantie

Often once you have signed a rental contract, you will be required to hand over a dépôt de garantie – a deposit often worth a couple of months of rent, which will be paid back to you at the end of your contract (unless you have damaged the property). Many landlords won’t accept to rent a property to someone who cannot provide a dépôt de garantie

Le dossier de location

If you like the look of a rental property, you will often have to prepare a dossier de location – which is a collection of documents that the landlord will inspect before offering you the chance to sign a rental contract. 

You will typically need to provide une photocopie de votre carte d’identité (a photocopy of your ID card); vos trois derniers bulletins de salaire (your last three payslips); un justificatif de domicile (proof of your current address); votre dernier avis d’imposition (your last tax return); un garant (a guarantor); votre carte de séjour (your French residence card – if needed); votre RIB (your French bank account details); and les quittances de loyer de votre dernière location (receipts of payment from the last rental property you stayed in). 

L’état des lieux 

This term refers to the inventory or inspection of a property that you will carry out with the owner or estate agent before moving in. You will also do faire un état des lieux when your rental contract comes to an end. Providing nothing is damaged, you will be able to recover your dépôt de garantie

L’investissement locatif

When you buy a property with the goal of renting it out (buy-to-let), this is known as an investissement locatif

La location

This is a term used to describe a rental property or the act of renting itself. 

READ MORE How France is making renting property (a bit) easier

Le loyer 

The amount of month you pay to rent a property is called le loyer.

Les mètres carrés 
When you browse through property ads, you’ll notice that surface areas in France are measured in mètres carrés (square metres). You may also see properties described as being T1, T2, T3 or more. The number roughly refers to the amount of rooms the property has, including bedrooms and sitting-rooms, but excluding the kitchen and bathrooms.
Une Pièce
This refers to a room, if you see a property advertised with 1 pièce it means it has one room, not one bedroom – ie it’s a studio.

La paperasse

This simply means paperwork. During the period in which you monter un dossier, there will be a lot of paperasse to go through. 

Le revenu foncier

The income you earn from rental properties is known as le revenu foncier

La sous-location 

The term for subletting is sous-location – this is legal in France depending on the kind of property you are renting. Often you will need to inform the property owner in advance. You can check what the rules are depending on your situation here

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The 13 French words that English-speakers just can’t stop using

One of the consequences of learning a foreign language is that some words end up integrating themselves into your everyday English, and after a while you end up speaking a weird mixture of French and English. Here are some of the most common French additions.

The 13 French words that English-speakers just can't stop using

Sometimes we pop these words into everyday chat out of laziness, if there is not a sufficient English equivalent for what we are trying to communicate or just because the French word sounds better.

The Local reached out to readers to ask for their suggestions, and here are some of those French words that people just can’t stop using, even if they are speaking English.


The verb is kiffer, and it is French slang for ‘to like’ or ‘to enjoy,’ but you can also say that you did something ‘just for the fun of it’ or ‘just for the kiffe.’ In French, the sentence is ‘pour le kiffe.’ This is a good one to introduce into your English vocabulary, especially if you’re describing an activity that is not very serious and you want to add another flair of fun to it.


If you live in France, you need a lot of these. Most administrative processes require some form of ‘attestation‘ (pronounced ah-test-ah-see-own). While you could say ‘document’ or ‘form’ in English instead, you probably have gotten so used to needing attestations, that you just use the French word instead.


If you have a pet, you can kiss the boring “cat food” or “dog food” goodbye. The French word, croquettes (pronounced croh-ketts) is simply much more fun. You might think that this secret language to discuss your pet’s food might get past them, but you would be surprised how quickly your formerly anglophone pet learns what ‘croquettes‘ means too.


One of The Local’s readers suggested this, and it is a great addition to the list. If you want to sound authentically French, you can just add a ‘quoi’ (pronounced kwah) at the end of a phrase. It is kind of like saying ‘You know?’ in English. You’ll find yourself starting to use it in English too, as a filler for the end of your sentence or just out of habit once you become too addicted to using it in French. “That’s it, quoi.”


Ah, the joys of French public transport. If you live in France or have visited for more than a few days, then you have seen this word light up on the boards inside of Metro or train stations. Perturbé (pronounced pair-tehr-bay) translates to ‘disrupted’ which does not seem to fit quite as well as the original French word. In the traffic-sense, it is referring to trains running slowly or being out of order, signalling that you are in for some waiting time on the platform. You might start telling your friends you are running late because “the train was perturbé.” Oh well.

READ MORE: The 9 ‘English’ phrases that will only make sense if you live in France


This one is self-explanatory. “I love that” in English feels a bit hollow in comparison to a well-enunciated j’adore (pronounced jah-door) in French. If someone compliments your outfit with a “j’adore” it feels a bit more special. 


Because what is the English equivalent of RIB? A bank statement? That does not quite fit, because the RIB (pronounced reeb – an acronym of Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) is a special French bank summary document that contains your IBAN number and is necessary for all exchanges of money in France.

As there is not a great English translation, you’ll find yourself saying things like “Oops I forgot my RIB at home” or “Do you want me to send you my RIB?” (Another anglophone on vacation might be a bit confused why you would be sending your friend something that belongs on the barbecue.)

La rentrée

This is basically the French new year, when everyone returns to work from their holidays, the government launches a new programme of legislation and many people start signing up for fitness classes again and lists off their goals for the next year.

But in English, there really is not a good translation – you could say ‘back-to-school’ or ‘the start of the school year’ but that does not quite fit, particularly if you are not someone in school or with school-aged children. Only la rentrée (pronounced lah rahn-tray) seems to capture the resolutions-making spirit of la rentrée.

Bon courage

If your friend has a cumbersome task ahead – such as a trip to the préfecture – you might have started saying ‘well, bon courage.

It becomes a staple in one’s French and English lexicon, particularly once you begin to realise that it is not quite the same as the English ‘good luck’. Bon courage (pronounced bohn core-ahj) has a bit of a sarcastic twinge to it – as if you know your friend is embarking on a difficult journey and they’ll need that extra bit of courage they can muster up.


It’s sort of a vintage sale, almost antiques, though not quite. It is not really a yard sale either. If you enjoy spending your Saturdays doing some second-hand shopping, you’ve probably given up on finding the English translation for brocante (pronounced bro-cahnt) and instead you just say “I bought this amazing tea set at a brocante this morning.”


This is technically a civil servant or public sector worker, but the French term is much more encompassing than that. You likely see the French government referring to this group of workers in the news often, but when you actually look up who is a fonctionnaire (pronounced funk-shee-ohn-air) you might be hesitant to apply the English “civil servant” because it is much wider than an English speaker might have in mind, including police officers and teachers as well as office workers.

The English ‘civil servant’ also doesn’t quite convey the awesome power of the French fonctionnaire who has the capability to either process your paperwork or utter the most dreaded sentence in the French language “votre dossier est incomplet“.


Which brings us, naturally, to dossier. This translates as a file and can also be used in the sense of a portfolio in English, to denote the responsibilities of a certain role, usually in government.

But the most common usage is the dossier which must be completed in order to do administrative tasks such as securing your vital residency or healthcare cards. This is a collection of documents usually including proof of address, ID and financial status but it varies depending on the task you are doing and only when these documents are all assembled to the satisfaction of the person you are dealing with will your request be processed. 

Télétravail (or other télé- words)

This word really took hold during the pandemic, when everyone had to begin working from home.

With so many people and government officials talking about télétravail (pronounced tehleh-trah-vie), it became one of those words that you hear so often that you almost forget it has a translation. “Are you doing télétravail this week?” or “I get two télétravail days a week” are phrases that would be common amongst two anglophones living in France. 

The pre-fix “télé” has also extended out, after life became more online during Covid-19 lockdowns. You can have a ‘telehealth‘ or ‘télémedicine‘ appointment or a téléconference (zoom call) this afternoon.

And finally – the best for last – the essential French swear words that just feel stronger and more damning than their English equivalents:

Bordel, Merde, and Putain – the trifecta.

Sometimes it is instinctual to swear in English, but other times, when the house is a mess, and you cannot find anything you are looking for, all you want to say is that “It is a ‘bordel!” in there! 

You step in dog mess on the streets, ‘damn’ could be the word that comes out of your mouth, or a loud and frustrated merde (pronounced maird) might feel more appropriate.

And then there is the classic ‘putain‘ (pronounced poo-tahn) – the more time you spend with French people, the more this rubs off on you. From minor conveniences to serious infractions, putain begins to roll off your tongue faster than the English word starting with an F.

Conversely though, the French seem to really enjoy saying ‘fuck’, so you’re quite likely to hear that too, sometimes in situations that might seem surprising.