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What you should know about paying rental deposits in France

If you are looking to be either a landlord or tenant in France, you have likely experienced some confusion surrounding rental (or security) deposits. Here is what you need to know:

What you should know about paying rental deposits in France
Photo by Maria Ziegler on Unsplash

Rental deposits – either dépôt de garantie or caution in French – can be a confusing part of renting in France, both for landlords and tenants alike.

While rental deposits are not required, they are the norm. Like most things dealing with renting in France, rental deposits can be confusing for foreigners trying to make their way through the French rental system.

Here is everything else you need to know;

How much can a landlord charge?

For non-furnished rentals, a landlord can charge up to one month’s rent, excluding charges (such as electricity, gas and internet). The rental deposit cannot be increased during the course of the lease or at the time of the lease’s renewal.

For furnished rentals, landlords are allowed to charge up two months’ rent, excluding charges.

For renters with a bail mobilité – or temporary rentals lasting under ten months – the landlord is not permitted to charge a rental deposit. However, these types of contracts are only available to select groups, such as those completing professional training, students in higher education and apprenticeships, interns, volunteers working with a civic service, and those shown to be on a temporary work placement. 

When is the rental deposit first due?

The tenant must pay the rental deposit at the time of signing the lease – not before.

If the renter pays in cash, then they can ask the landlord for a receipt that certifies the amount paid for the security deposit.

When is the rental deposit due back to the tenant?

When the apartment is returned in good condition, meaning it conforms to what was agreed upon during entry walk through (état des lieux conforme), then the security deposit must be returned within one month from the day that the keys are handed over.

If the apartment is returned in a condition where it does not correspond to the entry/exit inventory and walkthrough (état des lieux non conforme), then the rental deposit must be returned within two months from the date keys are returned. 

What can a landlord deduct from a tenant’s deposit?

The landlord is able to retain either a partial sum or the whole of the rental deposit for unpaid rent or charges, and costs related to damage or repair and upkeep costs.

If the landlord makes any deductions, then they must justify doing so by giving the tenant documented proof. This might include an invoice estimates, letters of complaint regarding unpaid rents without answer, or the signed and dated exit/entry inventory.

What about the état des lieux?

This is the official inventory procedure that takes place when moving into a home or apartment that is rented.

Two copies of the initial document should be drafted – one for the landlord and the other for the tenant. The document should provide a detailed description of the accommodation, and its contents if it is furnished.

Both parties should be advised to keep these documents for the duration of the lease, as they will be used as reference during the exit inventory. 

The document should contain the date, the address, the names of the parties and their contact information, the water, gas and electricity readings, and a detailed description of the apartments floors, walls, ceilings and doors. Each party should sign both documents.

This step is very important as it describes the status of the apartment at the time of rental and can be used to dispute damages incurred during the course of the lease. 

If the état des lieux is not done on entry – either due to refusal by the renter or because both parties forgot – then it will be assumed that the dwelling is in a “good state.” If the renter wishes to contest this, they can commission a bailiff (huissier) to attest to the status of the home. 

However, if it is the landlord who refuses to conduct an état des lieux, then the tenant can send a registered letter demanding that the inventory be conducted. If the landlord still refuses, then the onus will be on him or her to prove that any repairs required are attributable to the tenant.

Steps to ensure you are protected

First and foremost – be sure to conduct a thorough état des lieux, and note any damages, however small, while doing so. If you cannot reach an agreement on the état des lieux with the other party, then you will need to seek the services of a bailiff who will provide an unbiased account of the dwelling’s status. 

Next, when in doubt, send correspondences using registered mail (lettre recommandé). Tenants must notify their landlords of their departure from the apartment or home via registered mail – with at least one month of notice for a furnished rental and within three months for non-furnished rentals. However, non-furnished rentals in metropolitan areas where there is high demand for lodging (zones tendues) have this period reduced to one month of notice. You can see if this applies to you by using the simulator HERE.

If you are the tenant, ask your landlord for ongoing quittances de loyer (receipts that rent was received). They should do this each month without your request. This will provide proof that rent was paid each month, and therefore will protect you if the landlord seeks to retain any of the deposit for unpaid rent.

While it may be tempting to not pay the final month of rent as a way to ensure that the rental deposit is returned, this is not advisable. Legally, the tenant is required to pay rent until the end of the lease. While it is true that the landlord can use the security deposit to recover unpaid rent, but in principle the rental deposit should be returned to the tenant at the end of the lease and therefore does not represent the final month of rent. 

Landlords should be advised that if the tenant fails to pay the final month of rent and it is subtracted from the security deposit, then they are not owed a quittance de loyer from that month. 

For tenants, be sure to cancel all accounts registered under your name when moving out of your home or apartment, to ensure that you will not be charged for the new occupant’s usage. 

Legal options in the case of unresolved disputes

If the landlord and tenant have unresolvable disagreements, there are a few options. You can seek mediation via a judicial conciliator (Conciliateur de justice), and they may also refer you to a bailiff. 

You can also consult both ANIL and ADIL. The former is the French National Agency for Housing Information, and the latter is the Departmental Housing Information Agency, which is available on a département by département basis.

ADIL’s mission is to provide free information to households on all matters related to housing. This is a great first step is you are seeking legal advise for a situation involving your tenant (or landlord). 

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Bail mobilité: How France’s short-term rental contracts work

If you're after a short-term rental in France you might be offered a 'bail mobilité' (mobility lease) - here's how these work and whether they're a good deal.

Bail mobilité: How France's short-term rental contracts work

The bail mobilité is a relatively recent invention in France. It was created by the Elan law in 2018 and is a rental contract intended for people who have a temporary need for housing due to their professional activity – whether that be a work transfer, temporary posting, or status as a student. 

In order to qualify, the tenant must show proof that at the beginning of the lease they are in one of the following approved situations: enrolled in professional training or higher education, completing an apprenticeship or internship, on a temporary posting or having received a work transfer, or working as a volunteer as “part of a civic service.”

You can find more specific information about these situations on the French government website HERE

This essentially means that if you are visiting France for an extended period of time for tourism purposes, you likely would not be able to rent using a bail mobilité. This might be a source of confusion for those who see these lease arrangements advertised on websites such as Airbnb (more on this below). 

There are some rules that lodgings listed as “mobility leases” must follow. They must always be furnished rentals – meaning they are required to provide the tenant with specific items such as bedding, dishes, and other things. You can learn more HERE.

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

Next, the lease itself must be between one to ten months. It cannot exceed ten months. Additionally, mobility leases cannot be renewed. If the tenant and landlord want to renew the rental, it will have to be within the context of a standard furnished rental contract.

With a mobility lease, the owner is not allowed to ask the renter for a security deposit (dépôt de garantie). However, they do have the right to request a guarantor (un garant, or sometimes referred to as a caution). 

In terms of the actual lease itself, it must include certain documents, similar to a standard furnished rental contract. The lease must include an inventory of fixtures (état des lieux), the technical diagnostic file (this includes the energy rating, for example), and if the property is located in a condominium or apartment building, then the regulations concerning common areas. 

The tenant retains the right to move out at any time during the lease – as long as they give one month’s notice to the owner (or the real estate company if the accommodation is managed by an agency). Typically, this is done via registered letter (lettre recommandée) with acknowledgement of receipt.

On the other hand, the landlord cannot terminate the lease before the end date (unless the tenant does not respect their obligations, such as paying rent). 

When it comes to determining the rental price of a dwelling listed under a bail mobilité, the landlord can set the rent by their own standards, as long as the lodging is not located in a zone tendue (housing shortage area) and therefore is not bound by local rent caps. However, rent cannot be revised during the lease and it should be listed within the rental contract.

Finally, if the property is being rented to more than one person (a colocation), the lease cannot require the roomates to have a “solidarity clause.” This is a part of the lease that would outline the requirement of the co-tenant(s) to pay the rents even if another co-tenant gives notice and moves out. Typically, this would also outline when that expectation for the other tenant(s) to cover remaining rents would end. 

Common questions about mobility leases

First, the bail mobilité is often confused with the “secondary-residence lease.” The two differ primarily due to the fact that a mobility lease can constitute a primary residence, depending on the duration of the lease.

The next common question regarding mobility leases is whether it is possible to rent one via an online rental platform, such as Airbnb. The short answer is – yes. However, as mentioned before, the bail mobilité is only available to specific groups of people.

Renting with a mobility lease absolves the requirement to pay the ‘tourist tax’ (taxe de séjour) in certain cities – as it is a residential lease and not a tourist accommodation. The tourist tax is automatically added to Airbnb charges, but in certain French cities such as Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nantes, Lille Nice, Strasbourg, and Marseille, booking with a mobility lease automatically exempts the renter form paying the tourist tax. 

READ MORE: What are the rules on renting out French property on Airbnb?

In other parts of France, people signing mobility leases via Airbnb may be charged a tourist tax, but this can be refunded by request at the local town hall. 

Additionally, renting a property under a mobility lease exempts the owner from having to do a “change of use” declaration with the town hall, as the property will technically continue being used as residential accommodation, rather than touristic. This authorisation is mandatory for furnished tourist accommodation in many French cities.