All you need to know about renting a French property

Try before you buy with a French property rental (©Getty)

Try before you buy with a French property rental (©Getty) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why not try before you buy – it can give you the chance to fully explore an area of France and make sure it suits you, plus you’ll be on the ground if you’re looking for a French property to buy

Tenants are highly protected by French law

Tenants are highly protected by French law - Credit: Archant

Until quite recently in France, opting to rent rather than buy was fairly commonplace, with many people choosing to rent throughout their entire lives. The availability of lower cost loans combined with relatively affordable property means that more and more people now decide to purchase their home. However, the rental market is still an important part of the property sector. People are always going to need to rent accommodation on both a short and long-term basis whether it be for personal or professional reasons such as working or studying away from home.

While many people moving to France are able to purchase a property before they make the move, others find that it makes more sense to ‘try before you buy’ and renting in a particular region or area is a great way to find out if it is really the place for you. It means that you have time to explore the local property market at leisure and also gives you the opportunity to discover what you really want from a property or location, rather than what you might think you want.

TENANT FIRST

Local estate agents often deal wiith rentals as well as property sales

Local estate agents often deal wiith rentals as well as property sales - Credit: Archant

One thing that hasn’t changed much in France is the relatively high degree of protection that tenants enjoy, all of which is strictly regulated by law. For example, while the landlord may keep a second set of keys, he or she is forbidden to enter the property without the tenant’s agreement. This even applies to ‘emergency’ situations such as water ingress and failure to comply is punishable by a fine of up to €15,000 and a year in prison.

There is also the famous ‘trêve hivernale’, the period from 1 November to 31 March, when it is impossible to evict tenants even on the grounds of repeated non-payment of rent. This period can also be extended at the government’s behest.

Rent increases are state controlled; the ‘nouvel indice de référence des loyers’ (IRL) provides precise figures which landlords must adhere to and, as it is notoriously difficult to evict problem tenants in France, all this combines to create a climate where landlords are incredibly cautious about who they take on. In areas of high demand, they can also afford to be picky when choosing their tenants.

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This means that as a tenant you will quite possibly have to jump through hoops. Before you even start seriously looking for a property, you should get your dossier or application paperwork together. You will need proof of ID (passport, ID card or driving licence), proof of address (such as previous rent receipts, electoral roll, property deeds or utility bills) and then the appropriate paperwork to show that you have sufficient resources to pay the rent.

This could include pay slips, tax return (‘avis d’imposition’), an employment contract or payment statements if you are receiving benefits. Make paper copies ready to hand to prospective landlords and scan them onto your smartphone too. That way you will be able to act almost instantly when you find the right property.

AGENT OR GO DIRECT?

Now to find the property! If you are lucky enough to know exactly where you want to or need to be, it makes sense to visit local estate agents who will usually also deal with rental properties.

Even if they don’t, agents are generally a good source of information about the local area and may well hear of something that would suit you via word of mouth. However, renting through an agency does come at a cost and it is certainly cheaper to go direct.

You can try Le Bon Coin to check prices and see what is available and it is also well worth placing a wanted advert on there. Checking out websites like this and SeLoger will also provide an idea of the price difference between going via an agency as opposed to dealing with the owner directly.

If you prefer going direct, then sites such as entreparticuliers.com are a good way to find a rental and there are also several sites catering specifically for ‘shorter’ long-term rentals from one month to a year. If you are using a website or app to look for a property then do make sure you sign up for alerts which will notify you as soon as a suitable property comes online.

An emerging sector in the rental market are portals such as Wizi where there is no extra cost to the tenant as the landlord pays a management charge. This provides security for both parties without the higher costs of traditional agency fees. Everything is automated and prospective tenants can upload all their paperwork to gain pre-approved tenant status which makes the process more reassuring for both landlord and tenant.

The downside is that there is no room for any allowances being made if your situation deviates from the site’s specific criteria, meaning prospective tenants without, for example, a permanent employment contract or the like, may find it difficult to get approved tenant status.

In this case, word of mouth is always the best way and start by asking at the local town hall or ‘mairie’ if they know of anything to rent in the area. Social media is another great way to find just about anything these days so join some local buy-and-sell groups, as these often contain property listings, and ask in there. There are also specific Facebook groups for property rentals such as ‘Rent Your Maison Long Term in France’ with an anglophone emphasis; simply typing ‘maison à louer’ into the search bar will reveal a selection of local groups with properties available to rent in your specific search area.

BE PREPARED

If you are in a popular area you will need to check listings on a daily basis. Be reactive and as soon as you see something suitable, call the owner. Have any questions prepared and if you are interested, arrange to go and visit the property as soon as possible.

Take your paperwork with you to show you are a serious and organised prospective tenant and ask any questions that you forgot on the phone!

You will need to check on les charges; these often include service charges in apartments and possibly water and heating. With individual properties, ensure you clarify matters such as who pays for items such as boiler servicing and septic tank emptying (invariably the tenant but it is best to check) and who is responsible for exterior and garden maintenance. Generally, the tenant is responsible for the garden but some landlords will prefer to use a garden maintenance service so again, check who is paying for this.

Once everything has been agreed and you are ready to sign the contract, you will also be required to complete an ‘état des lieux’. This is a document signed by both landlord and tenant (although often completed by the agent for the landlord) where the precise state of the property will be documented. The condition of walls, flooring, sockets and switches etc will be specified for each room and the same will be done when the tenant leaves.

This protects both parties against damage caused by the tenant or allegations of damage made by the landlord. If there are existing areas of wear and tear, it is a very good idea to take photographs in case they are needed at a later date. Once this is done and you have paid the deposit and the first month’s rent, all that remains is to move in and enjoy your new rented property!

RENTING CHECKLIST

• Establish your budget at the start

• Decide on the area you wish to rent in

• Make sure you understand rental advert terminology

• Get your paperwork together and make sure you have everything that is required

• Visit agents

• Search online

• Be reactive

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