France is one of the most popular destinations for British expatriates, both for retirees looking to settle into a new way of life or those seeking career challenges on the continent.
When relocating, it can be a good idea to rent a property, as this offers a chance to explore the country and the local area and ensure that the move is the right decision. Buying a property can be more complex and more permanent, so many expatriates will rent when first moving.
There are plenty of great apartments to rent in France, from city spaces with easy access to business centres, to more out-of-the-way country retreats for a quieter life. Apartments are one of the most common types of accommodation to rent, although some cottages and houses may also be available. Apartments vary massively in size and price, so there is something to suit every need and budget.
The first step is looking for the right property, which can be harder to do before relocating. Many landlords will prefer to deal with people in the country or who they have met face to face. This may mean planning a trip to visit a few options in advance of the big move. It is also a good idea to see any property in person anyway, as pictures and details can shine a favourable light.
It is possible to do plenty of research from the UK though, particularly in terms of finding the right location to help narrow down the search. Using any contacts in the area is useful, as word of mouth can result in some good leads. Otherwise, French property websites will advertise available rentals and dealing with estate agents, rather than landlords direct can cut down on some of the admin (although this will attract a higher fee).
Prices will vary dependent on location, so having a clear budget in mind will help to refine the search. As a general rule of thumb the closer to the city centre you are looking, the more that apartments will cost, particularly in major cities like Paris and Lyon. Searching a little further out does offer more choice, as well as more features for the price such as air conditioning.
It is likely that evidence of affordability will be required to rent an apartment, so be prepared with pay slips and job contracts. Salary will usually need to be around three times the value of the monthly rent. When it comes to renting in France, there are certain additional costs that need to be allowed for, and they are not always obvious. Normal costs include things like the deposit and home insurance, which is often an obligation of renting.
However, there are many other fees to think about and some are shared between both the tenant and the landlord. Before the rental starts, a survey is normally carried out. This cost is usually split. It is certainly worth having a survey done, as long rentals in France mean that expats could easily be living in the same property for a few years at a time, and it’s important that it’s in good condition.
If a non-standard contract is drawn up, see more on this below, it will incur associated costs too and these are also usually shared between both parties. However, there is only an obligation to share in the case of unfurnished properties; when renting a furnished property, be prepared to negotiate the fees.
Any professionals associated with the rental will need paying. For example, if the property was found through an estate agent, there will be a fee payable – who pays it can be negotiated, but you may need to contribute some or all of it.
There could be charges associated with the property and it needs to be clearly outlined in the tenancy agreement who is paying what. This can include things like city taxes, utilities and maintenance charges. Utilities often have connection charges, so check this when looking at electricity, gas, water, telephone and internet services.
Finally, tenants are expected to undertake any minor repairs themselves and this could have associated costs. This includes some things like minor plumbing jobs or electrical issues, garden work, cleaning the chimney and so on. More major repairs are covered by the landlord.
It is up to the landlord and the tenant to come up with an agreement that is acceptable to both parties.
The tenancy agreement (called a ‘contract de bail’, or just ‘bail’) covers all the rights, obligations and agreements between the two parties. It’s possible to get basic pre-printed tenancy agreements from local bookshops. However, if there are more complex terms that need to be included, it is worth using a professional, such as an estate agent, to help draw up a contract. A ‘notaire’ can also be used to draw up an agreement, though tenancy agreements do not have to be witnessed by a notaire in the same way that a sales contract does. A tenancy agreement must be provided and signed on or before the tenancy start date. This agreement should include things like the duration of the tenancy agreement, rent value and the deposit amount, as well as a report on the condition of the property. It may also include the possibility of any future rent increases built into the terms.
Tenant rights are very important in France and there are certain clauses that cannot be included in a tenancy agreement. This includes any requirement to pay via standing order ozr through salary deduction, having to take an insurance from a particular provider (though home insurance can be a requirement in general), and a tenant cannot be held responsible for all damage to the property or fixtures/fittings regardless of the cause.
There is a difference in regulations regarding tenancy agreements dependent on whether a property is furnished or not, and expats need to be aware of these. For example, an unfurnished property has a minimum tenancy length of three years, the right of first refusal on a sale, a maximum of one month’s deposit and a three-month notice period. Tenant’s rights in a furnished property are less strict, and there is no formal definition of what ‘furnished’ is, so be sure to check terms careful before signing an agreement.
Also bear in mind that the tenancy agreement is renewed automatically, unless either party gives the right length of notice.
Now that you know more about renting an apartment in France, take a look at our guide to what kind of properties you can rent in some of the favourite expat cities in France.