Timing Your Search for a Long-Term Rental in France
The toughest time of year to secure a long-term rental property in France is for September 1st. This is “La Rentrée”—the beginning of the school year and back-to-work for all the vacationers. As of Bastille Day, July 14th, (almost) all of France goes on vacation…so there are no agents, no owners, and no one around to do business. This makes finding a rental property very difficult to accomplish!
We find that if you want to move into a rental property for La Rentrée, then we best start looking at properties in May or June, and even then, we must “pray like hell!” It’s better to consider a July or August move-in, or a November/December, as in October, the available properties would have been snapped up in September, leaving virtually nothing for you.
The other time of year when the search is tough is holiday time, for a similar reason, but since the holidays only affect about 10 days, it’s not so serious a hiatus!
Fortunately, we provide a Custom Search for Rental Service so you don’t have to do the search yourself. It’s particularly difficult for you, too, because the landlords are very particular to whom they rent, and having an advocate on your side gives you tons of clout. The fact that you’ve hired us to find the property for you already speaks very loudly.
Most furnished rental apartment leases are one year with a 30-day cancellation. Unfurnished leases are for three years and carry a 90-day cancellation, except in Paris and Nice (and a few other spots in France where there is an acute housing shortage) where it’s 30 days.* This normally provides a brief window of opportunity when the previous tenant has given notice and the landlord wants to find another tenant. For this reason, it makes no sense to start the search much earlier than six weeks in advance…except in the case of battling summer vacation as I said from the beginning when landlords and agencies aren’t available and an overabundance of people looking for accommodations that begin in September.
* A Mobility Lease is an exception to the one-year lease requirement. “Created by the Elan law, the mobility lease is a short-team lease agreement for a furnished property. It gives the landlord more flexibility and eases access to housing, particularly for students or people who move around for work. The landlord cannot demand any security deposit from the tenant. They can, however, demand a guarantee, facilitated by the VISALE rental guarantee mechanism (VISA for housing and employment). In the event of cohabitation, the landlord cannot impose joint liability between the co-tenants or their deposits.” (Source)
Renting a property in France long-term can be more complicated and difficult than even buying one! First, one must find the property (furnished or unfurnished), then the tenant must get approved by the landlord, then plan the move-in. That sounds simple enough, but let me take you through the process so you understand why what should be “du gâteau” (piece of cake) could be one of your biggest challenges in life.
The laws surrounding renting favor the tenant. You might think that’s good for you as the tenant, but ultimately it hurts because the landlords have found ways of protecting themselves, which could easily make a tenant’s life miserable. The landlords have fear of squatters because eviction of deadbeat tenants is near to impossible, takes a long time and lots of legal fees. The landlord could get stuck for the life of the lease with no rent and a lot of damage. For this reason, often a landlord will minimally furnish a property so that it can carry a one-year furnished lease, rather than the three years associated with unfurnished.
This can be a big advantage to someone who wants to move much of their own belongings in so they can feel at home from the outset, but wants the property to be fully functioning with all the necessary appliances, etc. rather than having the foot the bill for these expenses themselves.
More importantly, the landlord will likely require a very high level of security to ensure that you can and will pay the rent. If you don’t have a French work contract that guarantees you can’t lose your job without compensation, then you will have to prove you aren’t a risky tenant. The landlords have the right to ask for proof of income and the general rule is that one must have an income of three times the rent (plus the expenses) to qualify.
You can assume that the landlord will ask for certain guarantees:
1. An escrow account held in a bank with one year’s value of rent, not to be touched, nor interest paid on it, until the end of the lease;
To create an escrow account, the tenant must have a bank account in France. It is also necessary to have a bank account for the operations of the apartment. Thanks to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), fewer and fewer banks in France are willing to open accounts for Americans. Fortunately, we offer a service to facilitate opening a bank account, but you can’t sign the lease until this account exists.
2. A guarantor or insurance policy, to which the tenant subscribes that protects the landlord, should that same tenant not pay the rent! (Crazy, but true.) We recommend Garantme.fr. You’ll pay a little more every month to add this insurance premium, but at least you’re not tying up a lot of your own cash in an account you can’t touch. In today’s world, if you don’t already have this approval, the landlord won’t even begin to consider your dossier.
Expect to pay two months’ rent in advance as a security deposit, unless the lease is a Mobility Lease, then no deposit is required. If you’re renting a secondary residence, rather than a primary, then the amount of deposit is negotiable.
Rental properties can be found direct with owners or via agencies. Agencies tend to represent the better properties, but you can expect a fee imposed by the agency. The real estate agency sets its rates freely. When renting a dwelling (housing lease or mobility lease), certain costs may be shared between the owner and the tenant (visit of the dwelling, creation of the tenant’s file, drafting of the lease, state of entry). Other fees (e.g. the placement of the ad, etc.) are entirely paid by the owner.
For very specific information on the fees, visit this website.
Note: Our fees to find you a property do not apply toward the agency fees. You hire us to perform the search and secure the property. There is no commission share for us with the representative agency, so you are simply paying for our service.
There are lots of complaints from tenants that they had difficulty getting their deposits returned at the end of the lease. Sad, but true. If the property is represented by an agency, then the tenant has a better chance of the deposit being returned. And I’ll say it now and say it again if I have to: the quality of the landlord is more important than the quality of the apartment!
We recommend having a temporary place to land before moving into your rental apartment in order to settle in and get out all the kinks—such as a short-term rental for one to four weeks. You’ll have to get your utility contracts set-up if the landlord is leaving that up to you. In some cases, the landlord is happy to keep the utilities in his name with you to reimburse him, but that’s more likely with Mobility Leases than with the others. Utilities could easily include electricity, gas, and internet/TV/Phone service. (You will need your new French bank account to contract for these services.) We offer a hook-up service to manage this for you, but remember, it takes a few days to get the contracts in place and for the services to be fully functional. In addition, you will be required to contract for renter’s insurance, all this in advance of taking possession. These are all good reasons to allow yourself a week or more in temporary housing before you actually move in.
Rents vary across the country, with Paris as an exception. Since July 1, 2019, rent control was established in the Capital. The truth is that compared to the price of property in Paris, rents are very inexpensive. I’ve written often about why rent control doesn’t work, but the Paris administration wasn’t paying attention! (To this day I wonder why Madame Hidalgo, Paris’ Mayor, didn’t Google it before installing it in Paris!)
Here’s what Investopedia has to say about it.
And if that’s not enough, here’s what the Washington Post has to say.
To learn more about Paris rent control, visit the Notaires site.
For more information about renting in France, visit this site.
And to learn more about our services to find you a rental property in Paris, Nice or elsewhere in France, visit our custom rental search page.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. If you wish to be informed personally when our shares of next Fractional Ownership properties go up for sale, email us today.
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