French accommodation tips

Finding suitable accommodation is one of your first and most important tasks on arrival in France – but it isn’t always plain sailing. Property for rent isn’t hard to find in France, but your success in securing it depends on a number of factors. Some landlords refuse to let their property to tenants of certain nationalities and/or skin colours. It isn’t unheard of for a prospective tenant to arrange a meeting with a landlord by phone but to have the door shut in his face once the landlord sees that the tenant isn’t white.

Some landlords are reluctant to let to any foreigners – stories of foreign tenants who disappear owing many months’ rent are common – so don’t be surprised if a landlord asks you to provide a guarantor (a third party who commits himself to paying your rent if you don’t) or a bank guarantee – whereby, in the case of non-payment by the tenant, the bank takes over payment on the tenant’s behalf. (Some landlords insure against non-payment but the premiums are added to your rent.)

Contracts & Payment

It’s worth signing a rental contract, not only for your peace of mind but also because French rental law is more than generous to tenants. Don’t be tempted to rent a property without a contract because, although it seems an easy option with no strings attached, you’ll have no rights and the landlord no obligations. There are also potential problems with insurance. The landlord might claim that his ‘word’ is as good as a contract (under French law, oral agreements are considered legal), but in a court case it would be your word against the landlord’s.

Furnished properties (other than holiday accommodation) are sometimes available for as little as three months, but the usual minimum period is a year. Furnished property is difficult to find, however, and obviously more expensive than unfurnished property. Some furnished properties have no crockery (vaisselle) or linen (draps).

You’ll be asked to give your date and place of birth, to provide your passport or carte de séjour and to pay one month’s rent plus a deposit equal to two months’ rent in advance. A contract for a furnished property is called a contrat de location de locaux meublés and requires you to insure the furnishings against damage. The minimum rental period for unfurnished property (locaux non-meublés) is three years. A rental contract must be signed by all parties involved, including the agent handling the contract, if there is one. Next to their signature each party must also write the words lu et approuvé (read and approved). For a furnished rental you must give one month’s notice (préavis); for unfurnished rental it’s three months.

Excerpted from  “Culture Wise France ” which can be purchased from Survival Books