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Renting property in France: Should I go for furnished or unfurnished?

Not everyone who moves to France can afford, or necessarily wants to, buy a property straightaway - many thousands of people prefer to rent, at least at first.

Renting property in France: Should I go for furnished or unfurnished?
(Photo: Mychele Daniau / AFP)

In France, as elsewhere, it’s possible to rent a property that is either furnished or unfurnished – but after that it starts to get complicated.

The most important consideration for anyone looking to rent a property is whether they have furniture of their own. Those who do own their own sofa, bed, and tables are more likely to want to rent an unfurnished property.

But there are also key differences in tenancy agreements that people need to be aware of before they sign on the agreement. There are requirements for both the landlord and the tenant in each case.

What makes a property ‘furnished’?

First things first. For a property to be considered “furnished” it must come equipped with the following items as a minimum:

  • A bed and bedding, including a duvet or blanket;
  • Curtains or other means to block out outside light in the room used as a bedroom;
  • Cooking hob;
  • An oven or microwave oven;
  • A refrigerator with a compartment for storing food at -6°, or a freezer; 
  • Dishes for eating and cooking utensils;
  • A table and at least one seat;
  • Storage shelves;
  • Light fittings;
  • Equipment to maintain the accommodation.

Other items may also be included in the agreement. These items remain the property and liability of the landlord, meaning that if, for example, the hob breaks down, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix or replace it at their expense.

This minimal furniture requirement must be maintained for a property to be considered furnished. Otherwise it drops into the “unfurnished” category.

Unfurnished properties have no such requirements. However, kitchens with a number of appliances as standard are commonplace, though it is not unheard of to find apartments with entirely empty kitchens (i.e. no fridge, oven, or microwave).

As long as the accommodation does not contain all the furniture on the compulsory list, your rental is considered empty.

Lease types – unfurnished property

This is France. Straightforward this is not. Let’s start with unfurnished properties.

The security deposit on an unfurnished property is one month’s rent, repayable at the end of the tenancy.

All unfurnished properties are rented on a standard three-year lease, which then automatically rolls on annually once the initial lease term ends. 

A tenant must give three months notice if they decide to move out. This can be cut to one month in exceptional circumstances, or in areas where pressure for property is high.

The landlord must give the tenant a notice period of six months if they intend to sell the house.

Lease types – furnished property

There are three different types of leases for furnished properties depending on the tenant – known as ‘classic’, ‘student’, and ‘mobility’.

Leases are signed, generally, for a minimum period of one year – or nine months in the case of student rentals.

The security deposit is two months rent, excluding any charges, and the minimum landlord notice period is three months. A tenant is obliged to give one month’s notice.

Certain contracted workers on temporary contracts may also rent a furnished property on what’s known as a bail mobilité (mobility lease) for periods of between one and 10 months at a time. 

No deposit is required for these short-term leases, and the landlord is not required to give a notice period once the lease ends – though the tenant has to give one month’s notice if they plan to move out before the lease ends.

What about cost?

Everything depends on location, location, location, naturally. But an unfurnished property will be cheaper to rent than a similar sized furnished property in the same area.

So which one’s best?

Again, that depends on what you’re looking for. If you own your own furniture and you expect to remain in the same place for a long term, unfurnished is the way to go. 

If you’re new to an area, and don’t have many things to call your own, or are on a short-term contract working away from home, a shorter term furnished property lease may well be the way to go. If you go this route, be sure to look carefully at the furniture to be sure that it is in decent enough condition and free from bedbugs or other pests.

In the big cities, like Paris, the apartment search can be intense. If you were looking to rent unfurnished, but the only options seem to be furnished, you could look into whether the apartment comes with a cave (basement storage area). In this case, you might be able to store your landlord’s furniture in there. 

Keep in mind that if you rent a furnished apartment, your landlord’s items will be judged based on the original état des lieux (inventory) at the end of your lease, and any damage could impact getting your full security deposit back.

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New French State aid to help older people make home improvements

A new accessibility scheme recently announced by the French government gives grants for home improvements such as installing a stair lift or widening a doorframe to allow wheelchair access - here is how you could benefit.

New French State aid to help older people make home improvements

According to a recent survey in France, the vast majority of retired people expressed a desire to stay in their homes long-term, rather than entering a care facility.

While there are several schemes by the French government to provide assistance for renovating homes in order to make them more accessible for elderly people, the newly announced “MaPrimeAdapt” seeks to streamline the process.

When was it announced?

MaPrimeAdapt was part of President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election campaign, with plans for it first announced by the president last November.

Most recently, the government aid was earmarked to receive funding in the upcoming 2023 budget, which also hopes to increase the number of nursing home employees, as well as boost public funding for care centres.

The budget is set to allocate €35 million to the National Housing Agency (ANAH) in 2023. In response, the ministry of housing said to Capital France that one of their top priorities is “a single aid for the adaptation of housing to ageing” that would replace several existing government subsidies.

What is the goal of Ma Prime Adapt?

Similar to Ma Prime Renov, this programme hopes to provide additional funding for home refurbishment.

But while Ma Prime Renov focuses on environmentally friendly home adaptations, Ma Prime Adapt aims to make it simpler for older people or those with disabilities to refurbish their homes in order to maintain their autonomy and avoid falls.  

The French government also aims to reduce the number of fatal or disabling falls of people aged 65 by at least 20 percent by 2024, and by 2032, the goal is for at least 680,000 homes to be adapted, particularly those of low-income older people.

Who can benefit?

According to reporting by Le Monde, this aid is not solely reserved for people who already have decreased mobility. 

Instead, it is intended for older people generally. When applying, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that they are an independent retiree and need (this could be based on income, age, health, etc) to adapt their housing in order to make it more accessible.

The amount of assistance offered will be means-tested based on financial status.

What types of work would qualify?

Some examples of work that might qualify for assistance might be:

  • adapting the bathroom (for example, adding grab bars or enlarging the door)
  • replacing the bathtub with a shower
  • installing a bathtub with a door
  • installing a stair lift
  • adding access ramps to the home

The benefit is not limited to those options – any project that aims to increase home accessibility for a senior could qualify, as long as it is not simply aesthetic-focused.

Can it be combined with Ma Prime Renov?

They have different criteria, but Ma Prime Renov and Ma Prime Adapt can be combined in order to provide maximum support to elderly people wishing to adapt and stay in their homes.

How can I apply?

In order to apply, you will be required to meet the conditions stated above, in addition to being able to demonstrate that the housing in question is at least 15 years old and that the amount of work being done would cost at least €1,500.

Keep in mind that the renovation will need to be carried out by a recognised building company or contractor – specifically one with the label “RGE.”

You will be able  toapply for the Ma Prime Adapt aid via France’s National Housing Agency (ANAH). A dedicated website will be created to facilitate the process, with a launch date TBC. 

On the site, you will submit an application form that includes the estimates of the work planned. According to Le Monde, €5,600 will be the maximum amount of aid to be offered, and the cost of work will be capped at €8,000. However, this information has not yet been published by the National Housing Agency. 

What have the other available schemes been?

Currently, retirees in France can apply for the “Habiter facile” scheme from the ANAH (Agence Nationale de l’Habitat), which also helps to finance work that promotes the ability of elderly people to remain in their homes.

“Bien vieillir chez soi” is a similar aid scheme which is offered by the CNAV (social security).

The elderly and disabled can also benefit from tax credits on accessibility or home adaptation work. 

These will likely be replaced by Ma Prime Adapt, which will combine all benefits into one package.