Finding a Rental Property in France

Renting in France
Excerpted from “Buying a Home in France 2006”
Image Your success or failure in finding a suitable rental property depends on many factors, not least the type of rental you’re seeking (a one-bedroom apartment is easier to find than a four-bedroom detached house), how much you want to pay and the area. France has a strong rental market in most areas, although rural properties are rarely available for long-term rental.
When looking for rented accommodation, try to avoid the months of September and October, when French people return from their summer holidays and (in university towns and cities) students are looking for accommodation. Ways of finding a property to rent include the following:

-Visit accommodation and letting agents. Most cities and large towns have estate agents (agences immobilières) who also act as letting agents. Look under Agences de Location et de Propriétés in the yellow pages. It’s often better to deal with an agent than directly with owners, particularly with regard to contracts and legal matters. Builders and developers may also rent properties to potential buyers.

1. Contact travel agents, French Government Tourist Offices (who are agents for Gîtes de France) and local tourist offices, who may deal with short-term rentals.

2. Look in local newspapers and magazines, particularly expatriate publications, and foreign property publications

3. Check newsletters published by churches, clubs and expatriate organisations, and their notice boards.

4. Look for advertisements in shop windows and on notice boards in shopping centres, supermarkets, universities and colleges, and company offices.

Search the internet: useful sites include http://www.lacentrale.frhttp://www.lesiteimmobilier.comhttp://www.pap.fr and
5. Ask at the local town hall or mairie, where there may be details of properties to rent long term.

Rental Costs
Rental costs vary considerably according to the size and quality of a property, its age and the facilities provided. Prices are calculated according to the number of rooms (pièces), excluding the kitchen, bathroom(s), toilet(s) and other ‘utility’ rooms, and the floor area (in square metres). A one-room apartment has a combined living and sleeping room (it may have a separate kitchen and bathroom) and is called a studio. A two-room (deux-pièces) apartment usually has one bedroom, a living room, kitchen and bathroom. A three-room (trois-pièces) apartment has two bedrooms, a four-room (quatre-pièces) apartment may have three bedrooms or two bedrooms and separate dining and living rooms, and so on.The average size of a two-room apartment is around 50m2 (500ft2).

Rental prices are also based on the prevailing market value of a property (indice), and the most significant factor affecting rental prices is location: the region of France, the city and the neighbourhood. Like everywhere, rental prices in France are dictated by supply and demand and are higher in Cannes, Grenoble, Lyon and Nice than in Bordeaux, Marseille, Strasbourg and Toulouse, for example. Rental accommodation in Paris is in high demand and short supply, and the prices are among the highest in Europe and often double those in other French cities. In Paris, you should expect to pay at least €25 per m2; a tiny studio apartment of around 20m2 (215ft2) in a reasonable area costs around €500 per month, while a two or three-bedroom apartment (125m2/1,345ft2) in a fashionable arrondissement can cost up to ten times as much.

The lowest prices are found in small towns and rural areas, though there is not so much choice. As a general rule, the further a property is from a large city or town (or town centre), public transport or other facilities, the cheaper it is. In the provinces you can rent a two-bedroom apartment or cottage for €300 or less per month. Houses can be rented in most rural areas and on the outskirts of some towns; for a three-bedroom house, you can expect to pay at least €500 per month – double that in parts of the Ile-de-France and the south-east, including the Alps.

Rental prices are often open to negotiation and you may be able to secure a 5 to 10 per cent reduction if there isn’t a queue of customers behind you.
Rental prices for short-term lets, e.g. less than a year, are higher than for longer lets, particularly in popular holiday areas. For short-term lets the cost is calculated on a weekly basis (Saturday to Saturday) and depends on the standard, location, number of beds and the facilities provided. The rent for a gîte sleeping six is typically from €250 to €350 per week in June and September, and €350 to €500 in July and August. The rent is higher for a gîte with a pool. However, when renting long-term outside the high season, you can rent a two-bedroom property for around €500 per month in most regions.

A tax known as ‘right to a lease’ (droit au bail) at 2.5 per cent is added to rental charges. In addition to rent, you may incur some or all of the following costs:
1. Agency fee (frais d’agence), which is usually equivalent to two months’ rent, but may be shared between you and your landlord. Some agencies charge an additional ‘inspection fee’ and/or registration fee.

2.  Deposit (caution) to cover any damage you might cause to the property or its furnishing or fittings, which is usually equivalent to two months’ rent, although it’s refundable if you don’t damage anything.

3. Heating, electricity and water which aren’t normally included in the rent.

4.  Maintenance/service charges (charges communes).

5. Residential tax (taxe d’habitation), which you must pay if your rental period includes 1st January.

Rental Contracts
A rental contract, whether for an unfurnished or a furnished property, must be signed by all parties involved, including the agent handling the contract, if applicable. Next to their signature each party must also write the words lu et approuvé (read and approved). A contract for a furnished property is called a contrat de location de locaux meublés, while a seasonal contract is an engagement de location meublée saisonnière.
French rental laws (and protection for tenants) don’t extend to holiday lettings or sub-lettings, however. For holiday letting, the parties are free to agree such terms as they see fit concerning the period, rent, deposit and the number of occupants permitted, and there’s no legal obligation on the landlord to provide a written agreement. However, you should never rent a property without a written contract, which should be drawn up or checked by a notary for long-term rentals. This is important if you wish to get a deposit returned. You should also ensure that there’s a detailed inventory (état des lieux); otherwise you could be charged at the end of your tenancy for ‘damage’ you haven’t caused.

Excerpted from “Buying a Home in France 2006” It can be purchased from Survival Books.