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French property: What is a 'zone tendue' in France?

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French property: What is a 'zone tendue' in France?
Keys are displayed on property advertisements in western France. (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

Thousands of French communes are officially designated as 'zones tendues' - here is what that means if you live there, or are thinking of buying property.


For over a decade, France has classified certain towns and cities as 'zones tendues' Literally translated as 'tense zone' in this context it means an area with a housing shortage. 

To be officially designated by the government as a zone tendue, local authorities must be able to show that the area has a housing shortage, or that locals are priced out of the market.

These areas are subject to additional rules and regulations when it comes to taxation, short-term rentals and rent controls.

Previously, to qualify as a zone tendue, an area needed to have more than 50,000 inhabitants, but recently the French government the categories of areas that can apply for zone tendue status, allowing communes of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants to also apply for the designation.

As of January 1st, 3,690 communes had received the zone tendue distinction.

This was increased again on October 3rd when 154 more communes were listed as zones tendues - among them are towns including Arras, Cholet, Le Mans, Troyes, Evreux, Besançon and Colmar, but also many smaller towns and villages, especially along the coast.

Property taxes

If you own property, being in a zone tendue could affect the property taxes you pay.

Areas with zone tendue status have the power to impose a surcharge on the taxe d'habitation on second-homes of up to 60 percent.

READ ALSO Where in France are second-home owners liable for a surcharge?

They also have the power to impose the 'empty homes tax' - although this is only applicable to properties that are both empty and unfurnished, it wouldn't apply to second-homes even if the owner has not visited that year.

READ ALSO Who has to pay France's 'empty homes tax'?

The choice of whether to impose one or both taxes is up to the local authority. The rate is also decided by the local authority, up to the maximum of 60 percent.



When it comes to letting out your home for short-term rentals of time, if your commune is classified as a zone tendue that means that local authorities can impose a registration and authorisation procedure – including people renting our their properties on a short-term basis on Airbnb. You can find more information here.

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

What about tenants in zones tendues

When it comes to unfurnished housing, tenants and landlords should be aware that the notice period in zones tendues is reduced to one month (rather than the classic three-month minimum in other areas).  


There are also rent controls in place in certain densely-populated zones, such as Paris, Lille, Lyon, Bordeaux and Montpellier, but they vary based on the locality and the size of the home or apartment. You can find the list of cities that apply rent controls here.

For example, the rent controls applied in Paris are shown on this interactive map

Not to be confused with 

The word 'tendue' literally means tense, and you might also hear certain areas, especially banlieues (suburbs) and cités (council estates or projects) described as tendue during periods of social unrest such as the recent rioting.

In this context it has nothing to do with housing, and simply means a tense area with a high rate of deprivation or social problems, where trouble might flare. You might also hear these areas described as sensible (sensitive).


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