Apartment Hunting in My Own Backyard
Volume XXII, Issue 3
I’m in the market for a rental apartment. If you’ve followed any of the saga about the structural problems in my apartment building, then you know that I must find a suitable apartment to move into for about one year as soon as I can in order to enable the reconstruction of the ceiling beams to begin.
This means that I have become a client of my own company, as my staff has been hired to find and secure an apartment for me. They’ve been warned that I might be their worst client (!!) even though I know oh-too-well what it takes to find and secure a property in Paris, even with “my credentials.”
“My credentials” are what the landlords will be looking at more closely than anything: Do I have income three times the rent? Do I have a way of guaranteeing payment of the rent? Will I make the best tenant out of all the other tenants’ dossiers they will be reviewing?
“Tell them I own a real estate agency,” I told my Search Consultant, Bernard, thinking that might carry some clout.
“That might work against you,” Bernard said. “It might make them nervous!”
Just like our clients, I created a dossier of financial and other documents including a “lettre de motivation”—a letter that states who I am and why I want the apartment, and that does as good a sales job on why I’d make the best tenant as possible. It was a fascinating exercise to be in the shoes of one of our own clients and it helps me understand even better what they go through from a first hand experience.
During the mediation process that I went through with the Syndic and my attorney in December, they agreed to pay for the city’s official rent control rents. You can find these figures by visiting this website. Then, you must determine the characteristics of the property in order to determine what the city will allow an apartment’s rent to be. At the top of the scale, the city allows 35€ per square meter per month, or 2,450€ for an apartment the same size as mine—70 square meters. I couldn’t legitimately ask for more, either.
My parameters are no more than what is based on my own apartment: two bedrooms, one bathroom (with a tub if possible), in the immediate neighborhood (Haut Marais), no higher than third floor without a lift and with a washer (and a dryer if possible). The main objective was to stay as close to home as possible, and that has been the toughest part of all.
When we started looking at properties based on my parameters, there was nothing available at such an amount! Most properties that fit my criteria were over 3,000€ and up to 4,000€ a month. My choice is to either give up something or acquiesce to the extra expense.
The reason the properties can charge higher than the rent control rates has to do with the type of lease associated with the apartment. One cannot write one’s own lease in France—in typical French Napoleonic Code fashion, the lease must follow the rules.
There are five main categories of leases:
1) the Primary Residence Lease
2) the Mobility Lease
3) the Civil Code Lease
4) Secondary Residence Lease
5) Holiday Lease
The Primary Residence Lease is intended for those making the furnished apartment their main address. It requires a minimum stay of eight months a year, however, there are two variations: 1) standard (one year) and 2) student (about nine months). The contracts renew automatically, with termination options for both the tenant and the landlord.
The Mobility Lease (Bail Mobilité) is designed for temporary residents such as foreign exchange students and business travelers. It offers flexibility with lease durations ranging from one to ten months. Good for the tenant, there is no initial deposit required, and there is a one-month notice for lease termination. (This is not good for the landlord!)
The Civil Code Lease is less regulated than the primary residence lease and is commonly used for “atypical” properties or when premises are used for non-residential purposes. This applies to second homes and corporate housing. The duration of the term and the rent amount are freely negotiated, subject to general Civil Code rules.
The Secondary Residence Lease is suitable for those ineligible for the mobility lease. It’s more flexible than the Primary Residence Lease but stricter than the mobility lease. The minimum duration is of three months, but it’s extendable and it requires a security deposit (between half a month up to two months’ rent) and one-month cancellation notice after the initial three months.
The Holiday Lease is geared towards short-term rentals for tourists or business visitors. The limit is 120 days, and it’s non-renewable. A contract is set date-to-date, with a possibility of an extension up to 90 days beyond the original ending date. But the property must be a primary residence to comply with French law.
Wednesday I visited the first apartment of a list 11 Bernard had found for me and declared this one close to perfect—located within a few blocks of where I live now, with two good sized bedrooms exceptionally well equipped with built-in closets + a walk-in closet (!!), all modern and newly renovated with new appliances, beautiful parquet floors throughout, lots of wall space for my artwork, and spacious enough to equip it for a desk and work space. The major downside is price, as it’s well over the budget, but I don’t see that I have a choice.
My dossier has been submitted and now it’s a matter of crossing my fingers that I get accepted by the owner. And the kind of lease that will be written will likely be a Civil Code Lease and possibly in the name of my company. In addition, I offered to pay six months rent in advance, which I hope “sweetens the deal.”
Wish me luck! (I’m going to need it.)
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian with Bernard Burch
P.S. If you’re in the market for an apartment or home to rent anywhere in France, be sure to learn more about our search services.