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How to Successfully Rent a Long-Term Apartment in France

Many of you have decided it’s time to try out living outside of the U.S. — namely France — the place of which you may have been dreaming for years, but didn’t have the wherewithal or incentive to actually turn that dream into a reality…until now. The political climate in the U.S. has clearly driven thousands of you to the French consulates seeking long-stay visas and to our shores to find long-term rental apartments…mostly in Paris and Nice.

Both cities are experiencing a real shortage of long-term rental apartments. Paris because there is an acute housing shortage — a big reason for the strict rental laws — and Nice because it’s a city of secondary residences where the owners want their own usage of their properties, but wish to rent the other times short-term. In both cases, finding and securing a long-term rental apartment can be a daunting and difficult experience.

On top of it all, the Alur Laws governing housing were passed February 20, 2014, designed to develop the supply of rental housing and reform the management of condominiums. These new laws make the process for both the tenant and the landlord even more challenging.

Adrian Leeds Group - Long-term rental Chez AntoineAdrian Leeds Group – Long-term rental Chez Antoine

Adrian Leeds Group - Long-term rental Chez Antoine

Adrian Leeds Group - Long-term rental Filles du CalvaireAdrian Leeds Group – Long-term rental Filles du Calvaire

Adrian Leeds Group - Long-term rental Filles du Calvaire

Adrian Leeds Group Long-Term rentals in Paris - Le Petit MuscAdrian Leeds Group Long-Term rentals in Paris – Le Petit Musc

Adrian Leeds Group Long-Term rentals in Paris - Le Petit Musc

Adrian Leeds Group Long-Term rentals in Paris - Le Petit Musc

Finding the apartments on a variety of websites may not look so difficult on the surface, but for every one advertised, there may be dozens of potential renters chomping at the bit to get the keys. That means you are competing with a myriad of others who may be better qualified. If you are trying to do this from afar, then it’s even more difficult since you’re not on the ground, face to face with the landlord or the agent. That puts you at a grave disadvantage. That being said, you cannot expect to land in the city and just randomly visit properties. Searching and setting up visits must be done well in advance.

Plus, timing is important. The moment a landlord’s tenant cancels their lease, they want to replace the tenant as quickly as possible. Therefore, the best properties come available within 30 days of your move-in date…as per the legal cancellation notice of 30 days. Some seasons change this general rule. For example, if you are seeking a lease as of September 1st (the peak season), you will want to begin in early June as agencies and landlords won’t be available during the summer vacation months and properties will be long gone.

When you are searching for apartments online, be aware that what you see in photos or what you read in the description rarely tells the whole story about an apartment. They tend to gently omit the negative attributes and only show the best sides of an apartment’s features. It’s best to visit it for yourself or have someone you trust visit it on your behalf to uncover that which may have been hidden — not lies, but untold truths. For example, perhaps the apartment has a macerating toilet, rather than one that uses the proper sewage pipes — something that could pose a lot of future problems of the seriously unpleasant kind.

And your own expectations of the process and apartments may be out of line. Agents aren’t always very responsive, especially to long-distance requests. Why bother with the two birds in the bush, when they have all they need in their hand, so to speak? And, if your inquiry is in English, they may not be so quick to respond if their English isn’t up to par. They don’t work nights and weekends, either, so even your timing from another time zone may complicate the effort.

Americans live in luxurious homes where some amenities are simply “a given” — but not so in France. Some come well equipped and well decorated. Others are sparse and offer only the minimum furnishings and amenities. What you hope for or expect may fall somewhere between those two ideas, but always keep in mind what you can change vs what you can’t change. With so little inventory on the market, you won’t have the luxury of being too choosy. For example, you can’t change the fact that the building has no elevator and that may be very important to you, but you can make a dark apartment seem brighter by adding more lighting and decorating it with light furnishings.

Landlords come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more willing to accommodate you than others on those special requests, such as: Can we change the draperies? Can we add a washer/dryer? Can we put up our own artwork? Etc., etc., etc. We have a saying in the business: “An apartment is only as good as its owner.” This means that the quality of the landlord rules over the quality of the apartment. The best landlord you can find is one of your own nationality — or at least of a similar culture as your own. This is a broad generalization, but consider it a “truism.”

Not only will you be assessing the quality of the landlord, but the landlord will be assessing you as a tenant. Landlords in France are very insecure about to whom they rent their property…for fear of squatting. The laws favor the tenants, therefore the landlord must protect himself. Most French landlords haven’t yet learned how wonderful American tenants are (!), and are very shy about accepting foreign tenants. They will impose a complete “dossier” of documents in order to weed out the competition.

Here’s the list of documents you should prepare:

– A photocopy of your ID’s (carte de séjour, passport, etc.)
– A photocopy of your job contract, if you’re employed
– Your last 3 pay slips, if employed
– Last year’s tax filings (from France or your previous country)
– If they ask you for a guarantor, especially if you’re in your twenties, or a student, you will need the three most recent pay slips of your guarantor
– Proof of address for your guarantor (a utility bill, for example)
– The last three receipts of rent payment from your last landlord, whether or not that rental was in France.
– Bank account information
– Others, as requested

In addition, they will want absolute proof of payment of the rent and will often require as much as a year’s worth of rent to be held in an escrow account. Should you fail to pay your rent, they know it’s there for them, without having to evict you or file suit. You will also need a bank account and homeowner insurance to secure and operate a rental property, all of which can be managed by your commercial bank in France.

The lease is a highly legislated document. You and your landlord cannot write any arbitrary agreement. It must follow the letter of the law — the Alur Law. There are thousands of websites that outline the laws (in both English and French), but you can start with this one.

The good news is that you don’t need to do this alone! We’re here to help you through the process. We provide a complete service to assist you in finding apartments in Paris, Nice or elsewhere in France based on your preferences, budget and needs. Our rental professionals will ask you to complete a questionnaire to determine your specific needs and desires, consult with you, perform an apartment search and selection, provide photos and description of numerous available apartments, plus assist you to negotiate the lease or on your behalf. We can secure the apartment with your proxy, arrange for the bank account and escrow account, as well as set up the utilities to make your transition as easy and worry-free as possible.

See our Long-term Rental page for more information or email us for a detailed account of the service and the associated fees: [email protected].

A bientôt,

Adrian Leeds - Paris, France

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

Respond to Adrian:
[email protected]






P.S. We also offer a number of long-term rental apartments from our own roster of rentals. Visit our Apartments page and look down the side-bar menu on the left. You’ll see them noted there. Book your long-term stay today!


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