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.”
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.
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.
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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.
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.”