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Paris landlord fined for renting out 5 square-metre apartment

A Paris has landlord has been ordered to pay more than €20,000 letting out an apartment that measured just five square metres - below the legal minimum of 9 sq m for living space.

Paris landlord fined for renting out 5 square-metre apartment
A Paris Haussmanian style building. (Photo by Boyan Topaloff / AFP)

A court heard that tenant François, 66, was led to believe the small space was 11sq m in size – two metres above the legal minimum of 9 sq m for renting an apartment. 

In reality, François – who paid a monthly rent of €400 – would find that no only was the apartment illegally small, it had been advertised as “furnished,” but it offered none of the essentials. 

He lived in the 5m2 space for seven years, and finally – after his landlord brought him to court for failing to pay rent after being hospitalised for a serious accident in 2019 – François was awarded €19,463 in losses and an additional €2,000 for “moral damages.” 

François’ experience is not unique – according to the Abbé-Pierre foundation, 1.3 million people are poorly housed in Île-de-France (the greater Paris region), and the rental of apartments smaller than 9 sq m has been on the rise. 

Although the city has strict limits on apartment size, the minimum living standards that landlords must offer and a rent cap, the chronic shortage of housing in the city mean that many people are willing to accept illegal rentals.

In Paris specifically, there are more than 58,000 illegal rentals according to the latest figures from the Right to Housing (DAL). 

One of these housed Massi, a 42 year old waiter who works at a Parisian brasserie. When Massi moved to France from Algeria, he sought the assistance of an agency to find in apartment. Unaware of French law regarding minimum renting standards, Massi accepted a 4.7m2 studio in Paris 20th arrondisement, for which he would pay a monthly rent of €550. 

After the appearance of mold, two dead rats under the refrigerator, and leaky pipes, Massi contacted the landlord who advised him to “open the windows,” according to Le Parisien. The waiter eventually contacted the city’s sanitation department.

“It was like living in a tomb,” Massi told Le Parisien in August.

According to Jean-Baptiste Eyraud, a spokesman for DAL, situations like those of Massi and François are “an illustration of the housing crisis.”

Eyraud blames the problem on “landlords who take advantage of people in precarious situations to rent substandard housing.”

French law stipulates that a rented accommodation must be at last 9sq m, with minimum height of 2sq m. This means that the “habitable volume must be at least 20 cubic metres.”

Rent controls  

In addition to minimum size constraints, apartments must also conform to price per metre. This is called “l’encadrement des loyers” in French. 

These rent controls apply to cities and communes in France where “the number of housing units offered for rent is significantly lower than the number of people who want to become tenants,” according to the government website Service-Public

As for Paris, a 2021 report showed that at least 40 percent of apartments advertised in the city were technically illegal, because they exceeded the ceilings set in place by municipal ordinances.

On average, apartments in Paris were found to be €121 more than legal limits.

While this is an improvement from 2019, when 44 percent of ads were illegal, in excess on average by €150, only about 30 cases were being processed in 2021, according to Sortira Paris

Landlords risk a series of five fines for advertising and renting apartments that do not respect rent caps – ranging from €300 and €1060.

Furnished vs. unfurnished

Apartments must also be listed as either furnished or unfurnished. 

At the base level, a ‘furnished’ apartment should come equipped with the following items: 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 -6C, 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.

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

Energy ratings and ‘sales evictions’

Another dilemma facing tenants in Paris are “sales evictions” – when landlords prefer to sell their apartments rather than to do work to update or refurbish them. According to ADIL, the public network of lawyers specialised in housing and tasked with defending laws regarding ‘decent lodging,’ “the issue of sales evictions is real”.

This is largely due to a new law that will take effect starting in 2025, when property owners will no longer be able to rent apartments or homes with a G (the bottom) energy rating. The effort is part of the state-wide goal of ‘ecological transition’ – specifically with the objective of decreasing the presence of high-emitting properties.

Nonetheless, advertisements for such properties – those with the bottom two energy ratings of F and G – have multiplied by 2.5 in recent years.

The head of rental website Bien’Ici worries that sales of such properties will create an “imbalance in the rental market,” citing a rise in tenants, particularly retirees, who have received notices that the landlord intends to sell the apartment.

Experts worry this could lead to a rise in evictions.

General expense and competition

Renting in Paris is at least 20 times more expensive than it was 60 years ago, according to reporting by Franceinfo

Over the last several decades, prices and competition for apartments have been rising. For one-bedroom apartments in France, Paris is the most expensive with the average apartment advertised at €1,292 per month. In 2022, someone working a minimum wage job in France earned €1,269 after taxes for a full-time job.

READ ALSO: How much money do I need to live in Paris?

On top of high prices, those looking to rent in the Paris market must contend with intense competition. Applicants must come with a complete dossier (you can learn more about how to build one HERE). 

The site manager for rental website particulier à particulier (PAP), Laetitia Caron, told Le Parisien in September that “The rental market has become extremely tense due to high demand, up 7 percent compared to 2019.”

In just 48 hours, the site registered over 350 dossiers submitted for a studio apartment in the city.  

What solutions?

Paris’ city public officials have promised to address these issues. Ian Brossat, the head of housing for the city, said he hoped to take legal action against “slumlords” renting apartments that are not sufficient in size or decency. 

Additionally, the French government set up the hotline number, 0806 706 806, where any person – tenant, owner, or otherwise – can call to report “unfit housing.”

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PARIS

Paris pétanque club under threat from luxury hotel plans

A community pétanque club in the chic Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre is battling for survival after a luxury hotel filed plans for the walled garden that hosts its exclusive games.

Paris pétanque club under threat from luxury hotel plans

For 50 years, the walled garden on the ultra-chic Rue Lepic has resonated with the metal clacks of pétanque, the French national bowling pastime, defying the gentrification that drew envious eyes.

Montmartre in the north of Paris is one of the few elevated areas in the relatively flat French capital and “the butte”, as it is known, had for many years a rural feel that captivated artists.

Even now, with the area absorbed into the urban sprawl of central Paris, most residents still call it a village.

The garden is maintained by the non-profit organisation Club Lepic-Abbesses Pétanque (CLAP) and its 257 members, who say nothing less than the neighbourhood’s soul is at stake as City Hall considers rival commercial projects for the site.

“You have job-seekers, pensioner and CEOs, a chef, a teacher. A 16-year-old can play with someone who’s 80. Here you find all types, and it’s this incredible social fabric that makes us what we are,” said Maxime Liogier, the club’s communications manager.

The players took over the 765 square metres of playing grounds, a rare remnant of the vegetation that once covered the butte, after the city bought the land from a daughter of a resident painter in 1972.

No formal contracts were signed but the city gave its tacit approval, connecting water and electricity for the clubhouse and letting the club reserve entry to members only.

The status quo prevailed until a few months ago, when the luxury boutique hotel next door filed a plan to turn the site into a for-profit affair. What better setting for lush wedding receptions or cocktail parties?

READ ALSO 10 things you probably didn’t know about pétanque

Under a 2017 law, the city had to publish the proposal for use of public land and invite competing offers that are due by November 28th.

The move caught the CLAP off guard, especially since it had been trying to regularise its situation with local officials.

“Two months isn’t a lot of time for us to come up with a project!” Liogier said.

An online petition to save the club has garnered around 4,300 signatures, though members seem to accept that their days of exclusive access are numbered.

“We want to keep the site in its current state, while opening it up as much as possible to the neighbourhood,” Liogier said.

To that end, the club held an open house on Saturday, with members suggesting that schools would soon be invited so children could learn an activity more often associated with pensioners enjoying a game between glasses of beer or pastis.

“When a unique place like this is in danger, it breaks your heart,” French tennis great and neighbour Yannick Noah told AFP.

“It’s good to have commercial projects but maybe there’s something more important — this bond between people.”

But not everyone will be sad to see the club go. Alain Coquard, the influential president of the “Republic of Montmartre” preservation society, calls the CLAP an unaccountable clique that claims dominion over a “magical site” that should be open to everyone.

The stakes are high for the butte as it seeks to join UNESCO’s ranks of protected World Heritage Sites.

“Can we leave a city’s heritage, which belongs to all Parisian taxpayers, abandoned like this? Just give it to people who have turned it into the most exclusive club in Paris?” he said.

According to Coquard — who says he was refused entry the one time he was invited to play — private event operators are also preparing lucrative proposals for the city, which could be temping as the municipal debt load soars.

But his Republic is backing the bid by the Hotel Particulier next door, whose director Oscar Comtet declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

“We sided with him to ensure this corner of Montmartre is opened up,” Coquard said, conjuring up a range of open-door events, maybe even an ice-skating rink, on the petanque grounds in winter.

But the CLAP is digging in. Older members recall a years-long battle in the 1980s to prevent the construction of a multi-storey carpark on the site.

Prominent neighbours including Jean-Pierre Cassel, father of star actor Vincent Cassel, chained themselves to the trees to scupper the project, and in 1991 the site was designated a protected landscape.

“If we have to, we’ll do the same,” Liogier said, though he remains confident that 50 years of taking care of the garden have not been in vain.

“We trust that the planning commission will pick the best project, which is us.”

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