Renting in France

This comprehensive guide walks you through the rules for long-term renting in France. Learn about the various kinds of rentals and how to search for a place. Get familiar with the different renter’s fees and charges, and what to pay attention to before signing a lease.

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Let’s get started.

Is renting more difficult in France than in the United States?

An average American moves eleven times in his life whereas French move a little more than five times in their lifetime. Is it because finding a rental in France is not as easy as finding one in the United States? It took me half a day to find an apartment in Los Angeles when I moved over there a couple of decades ago. That was as simple as strolling around looking for “For Rent” signs and walk in to talk to the building manager.

Like anything else in France, moving takes time and paperwork. Plan ahead for the time it will take you to find a place and move in. Paris is certainly the most challenging place of all because of its high prices and little availability.

Can you find a long-term rental from abroad?

Finding a rental in France from abroad is nearly impossible. Most French agencies will not return your calls and the paperwork load is really heavy. I recommend that you book a furnished place with airbnb for your first weeks in France.

What kind of place can you rent in France?

Most rental properties in France belong to individuals rather than property management companies. Rental places in France do not offer indoors common areas. Do not expect amenities like a laundry room or a gym fitness center or a pool. Do not assume that because an apartment is located on the 5th floor, the building has an elevator (carrying your washing machine up five stairs is no fun, I can tell you). Some newer apartments have AC but this is still pretty unusual.

There are not many furnished places on the market unless you are looking for smaller places like student’s places (studio or T1). Be aware that the number of houses to rent is rather low as well. It might be because French people usually buy their home as soon as they can afford to (almost 60% of French own their place) so they can pass it down to their kids.

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Renting a logement meublé (furnished apartment) in France

kitchen in a for rent apartment

By French law, a meublé (furnished apartment) should be at least 9m2 and allow the renter to sleep, eat and live comfortably. Here’s the pieces of furniture a landlord should provide:

  • bed and bedsheets
  • cooktop, oven or microwave
  • fridge with freezer
  • basic cookware and kitchen tools
  • table and chairs or stools
  • shelves
  • light fixtures
  • cleaning supplies necessary to clean the apartment (vacuum for carpet floors, broom..)

Renting a logement vide (unfurnished apartment) in France

white room with wooden floors in an empty for rent apartment

Contrary to what you might expect coming from the U.S., a logement vide (unfurnished apartment) might really be empty, meaning no fridge, no oven or cooktop. There is (surprisingly) no French law that regulates what an unfurnished apartment should provide. This can make a big difference in your budget, so carefully read the terms describing the kitchen space:

  • cuisine équipée – All the necessary kitchen cabinets and appliances like cooktop, fridge, oven, kitchen hood, dishwasher. This is obviously the ideal solution when you move from the U.S. as I am pretty sure you did not bring your fridge with you.
  • cuisine semi-équipée – Kitchen cabinets and some appliances like an oven and cooktop. It is possible that you have to bring your own fridge and dishwasher. Again, there is no law so make sure you ask the landlord what stays in the apartment versus what goes.
  • cuisine aménagée – Kitchen cabinets but no appliances. The good news is that you can pick your electric appliances and you can take them with you next time you move.

Renting a room in France

small bedroom with a bed, a desk and an open window

If you are on your own and you don’t mind living with others, you can rent a room in a shared apartment in colocation. Colocation or coloc is mostly for students in France. You can sign one lease per renter or one lease for all renters. Check out the rules from the French government before renting in colocation.

Another option is to rent a chambre chez l’habitant (bedroom inside a home) or a chambre de bonne (former maid’s quarters). Chambre chez l’habitant means that you have your own bedroom and you share the common areas (kitchen, bathroom, restrooms) with the owner. Chambre de bonne is a room on the top floor of an old apartment building and you might have to share the restrooms (outside your chambre) with other tenants.

Can you have pets in a rental in France?

In France, a renter has a right to have pets in his rental place, as long as the pets do not become a nuisance. You do not have to inform your landlord and you are responsible for any damage your pet might cause. The only exception is for certain specific dog races (pitbulls, Rottweiler or Tosa) that are considered dangerous. In that case, the landlord can specify a clause in the lease agreement preventing the renter from having a dangerous dog in the rented property.

Online services for long-term renting in France

You cannot walk or drive around looking for “À louer” signs in France but you can search online. These 3 websites are the most popular for renting in France.

logo of le bon coin, online site to search for a renting in France.
SeLoger logo, online site to search for a renting in France.
Logic-immo logo, online site to search for a renting in France.

Le bon coin, Se loger and Logic-immo offer properties for sale and for rent. In the immobilier section, make sure you select locations (rentals) to get access to ads from real estate agencies and private owners. You can select to rent meublé (furnished) or non meublé (unfurnished). Once you find an ad you like, call and make an appointment to faire une visite (take a tour of the place).

You can also use Rent a place in France if you’d rather communicate in English. Rent a place in France offers long-term property rentals. Bookings are made directly with the owner and they do not charge commission.

Agence immobilière (Real estate agency)

picture of a real estate agency in France

If you do not want to handle browsing through ads online, you can go directly to an agence immobilière. Tell them exactly what you want so they can select properties that meet your criteria. Using an agency is more costly because you have to pay frais d’agence. You also have to give agence immobilière proofs that you make enough money to afford the monthly rent. The paperwork load will certainly be heavier.

One big advantage of using an agency though is that any problem that arises during your rental will be taken care of professionally and promptly. You can also be certain that everything is done according to law and enjoy some well deserved peace of mind.

How to decrypt a French rental ad?

Check out this ad I found on Le bon coin. There is a lot of vocabulary to master to be able to understand an ad, so feel free to use my renting glossary for help.

rental ad from leboncoin, used as an example of rental ad you run into when looking for renting in France.

Square footage

The square footage (surface) of a rental is always shown in square meters (m2) because France uses the metric system.

If you’re not familiar with the metric system, read French measurements to learn how to convert from metric units into U.S. metrics. You can also directly use the Square meters to square feet converter.

Type of apartment

An apartment can be described as T1 T2 T3 T4 or T5 where T stands for “type” (kind) and the following # indicates the number of rooms, not counting the kitchen, bathroom and restroom.

Some renting ads still use an old naming convention with an F for function instead of a T, while others simply list the number of pièces (rooms), again not counting kitchen, bathroom and restroom. Let’s take a look at the different types of apartments in France.

  • A studio is a one-room apartment with a kitchen area (often called kitchenette) located inside the main room. By law, minimal square footage is 9m2
  • A duplex is a two-story apartment with a staircase inside the apartment
  • A T1 or une pièce is a one-room apartment with separate kitchen and bathroom
  • A T2 or deux pièces is an apartment with one bedroom, one living-room, one kitchen and one bathroom
  • A T2 Bis is the same as a T2 but one of the room (living-room or bedroom) is big enough to be separated in two areas
  • A T3 or trois pièces is an apartment with one living-room and two bedrooms
  • A T3 Bis is the same as a T3 but one of the room (living-room or one of the bedrooms) is big enough to be separated in two areas
  • A T4 or quatre pièces can either have one living-room and three bedrooms or one living-room, one dining-room and two bedrooms
  • A T5 or cinq pièces can either have  one living-room and four bedrooms or one living-room, one dining-room and three bedrooms

Professionnel (professional) or particulier (individual)

Professionnel on the ad indicates that an agence immobilière (real estate agency) is handling the process of renting the place (for the owner). Particulier specifies that the owner is renting his place directly de particulier à particulier (without using an agency).

Charges incluses

Charges incluses means that charges locatives are included in the listed monthly rent (not water bills or energy bills). It can sometimes include heating charges when tenants share a common heating system.

Most common abbreviations in French rental ads

You will come across these abbreviations when scanning French rental ads.

appt – un appartement
apartment
asc – ascenseur
elevator
chb – chambre
bedroom
un canapé BZ
sofa bed
chauff – chauffage
heating
disp – disponible
available
expo – exposition (N S E O)
rental orientation (North South East West)

French acronyms for renting in France

Learn these acronyms to understand what people are talking about when looking for a place.

CC – charges comprises
charges included
DPE – diagnostic de performance énergétique
energy performance diagnosis. A DPE is mandatory for all rentals. It’s part of a French rental lease agreement. DPE scores go from A to G with G being the worst score.
EDL – état des lieux
inventory and condition report
FAI – frais d’agence inclus
real estate agency fees included
GLI – Garantie des loyers impayés
owner’s insurance on rented properties
GES – gas à effet de serre
greenhouse gas emissions. GES class is part of the energy performance diagnosis (DPE)
RDC – rez-de-chaussée
first floor
SDB – salle de bain
bathroom
TBE – très bon état
very good state
TTC – toutes charges comprises
all charges included
visites sur RDV – visites sur rendez-vous
showings on scheduled appointments only

Renting charges and fees

Being familiar with the different amounts you will have to pay upfront will help you plan ahead financially. On top of your rent, you might have to pay:

Use Send my Bag door-to-door service to relocate to France.

Dépôt de garantie (Security deposit)

When renting in France, you have to pay a dépôt de garantie if you pay the rent monthly. Dépôt de garantie is paid once at the same time you sign your lease. Legally, dépôt de garantie cannot exceed your monthly rent for an unfurnished apartment (2-month rent for a furnished one). The exact amount of the dépôt de garantie has to figure on your lease. You will get this money back when you move out of the property.

When you pay your rent in advance for more than 2 months at a time, you cannot be asked to pay a dépôt de garantie.

Charges locatives (Rental charges for common areas)

Charges locatives or charges de copropriété are tenant’s fees that pertain to common areas like community heating or elevator charges. Most of the time, cold water is included in charges locatives. There are 2 ways to pay charges locatives:

  • provision avec régularisation annuelle: the owner charges you every month a fixed amount and then readjusts at the end of the year.
  • the owner charges you once a year with the exact amount you owe, based on what you actually used.

In some rentals, you do not have to pay charges locatives if there is no common area and no elevator. It is not unusual that tenants agree to take turn cleaning common areas as well.

Sometimes, charges locatives or charges de copropriété are listed explicitly on the ad like in the following one.

example of charges locatives in a rental ad

Frais d’agence (Real estate agency fees)

Frais d’agence are fees you pay directly to the agence immobilière. They cannot exceed a certain amount based on the square footage and the property location. Make sure you do not overpay by using the government’s simulator of maximum real estate agency fees. Frais d’agence can include fees for état des lieux, rental application and writing the lease. Frais d’agence are sometimes listed on the ad like in the following ad.

example of frais d'agence in a French rental ad, used as an example of rental ad you run into when looking for renting in France.

Charges privatives (Private charges)

Charges privatives are charges that have no link whatsoever with the landlord. They cover electricity, hot water, heating, internet. These fees are not included in the rent and they are your responsibility.

Caution (Guarantor) needed when renting in France

When an ad mentions garant exigé or caution exigée, it means that you need a guarantor. A guarantor has to put in writing that he will pay your rent in the event that you do not pay for whatever reason. If an agency rents the property, your guarantor has to show proofs of employment with a CDI (unlimited long-term employment contract).

Use a guarantor company

Finding a rental in France is complicated when you do not have a CDI or Contrat à Durée Indéterminée (unlimited long-term employment contract) in France. Most agencies and landlords do not take into account non French resources.

This is why many expats in France have to resort to using a guarantor. Guarantor companies are not free but these services are often life savers for expats looking for a rental. Garantme is a guarantor company that I recommend.

The guarantor company gets paid at the time you sign the lease and you need to renew every year.

Free guarantor

Visale is a public guarantor service from Action Logement that guarantees your rent when it is up to 1500€/month in Île de France and up to 1300€/month elsewhere.

To qualify for Visale, you have to be:

  • a student between 18 and 30 (no financial conditions)
  • an employee older than 30 under certain resource conditions.

Check if you qualify with Visale eligibility online test. Apply for Visale online before signing your lease.

Renting process

Documents needed to rent a place in France

Since finding a rental in France is challenging, your first step is to gather all the necessary supporting documents. To rent a house or an an apartment in France, you need to prepare a dossier with the following documents.

  • valid picture ID (justificatif d’identité) – passport, driver’s license or residence permit. A landlord is allowed to ask for a French translation.
  • proof of accommodation (justificatif de domicile)
  • proof of employment status (justificatif de situation professionnelle)
  • proof of financial resources (justificatif de ressources)

Landlords have a legal right to ask to take a look at the original document rather than a copy.

État des lieux

Once you found your apartment, you have to do état des lieux (inventory and condition report) and sign a lease. État des lieux is the process of writing down the state of the property when you start renting.

The landlord will use état des lieux when you move out to compare it with the state of the property at the time. Pay attention to details and mention any defect on the état des lieux. This will help you get your dépôt de garantie back when you move out.

Contrat de location or bail (Lease agreement)

Photo of a French rental lease

The minimum duration of the lease for an unfurnished apartment is 3 years and 1 year for a furnished one. A 3-year lease means that the landlord cannot ask you to move out before the end of the 3 years.

At the end of the lease, the landlord has to give you notice 6 months in advance (3 months for a furnished apartment) if he doesn’t want to renew the lease. During the duration of your lease, you can move out at any time, as long as you give your notice in advance (I explained the rules in Moving out). A landlord can only ask you to leave under very specific conditions. If you do not get any notice from your landlord, your lease agreement is automatically renewed.

The lease agreement specifies on what day the renter pays the rent. The lease agreement must contain a Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT), a technical report of the rental. The DDT also contains a diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE) which is the energy performance report of the apartment. The report should describe the general state of the electricity installation as well.

You should get the property keys right after you signed the lease and paid the first month rent. Once the keys have been handed over, the landlord has no right to enter the property without your consent.

Did you know?
Premier étage literally means first floor but it actually refers to the second floor we are used to in the United States. Let’s say you live in a three-story building. The first floor is “rez-de-chaussée” (or “rez-de-jardin” if there is a backyard). The second floor is “premier étage”. The top one is “deuxième étage”. No third floor!

How to pay your rent in France

A convenient way to pay your rent is to get a RIB from your landlord and do a monthly direct debit (check Open a French Bank Account As An American if you do not have a French bank account yet). You can also pay your rent by check or in cash if your rent is lower than €1,000.

Your landlord has no obligation to give you a quittance de loyer (rent receipt) unless you explicitly require one. Provide your quittance de loyer when you need a justificatif de domicile.

Renters protection

Renters’s rights in France are highly protected and it is pretty much impossible to kick someone out of a rental property. While it is great for renters, this is also the reason why property owners require more and more guarantees and finding a rental has become more and more difficult.

Since 2015, owners can subscribe to an insurance called GLI (garantie des loyers impayés) which guarantees the rents for owners of rented properties. When a landlord subscribes to GLI, the renter must prove his eligibility to rent the property. The renter must usually earns 3 times the property rent and must be employed on a CDI contract (unlimited long-term employment contract).

Unfortunately, these GLI conditions make it very challenging for Americans in France who are not on a CDI with a French company to rent a place. Your best bet in that situation is probably to rent from a private owner who has not subscribed to GLI.

Tenant’s responsibilities

Home insurance for rentals in France

By French law, as soon as you sign the lease agreement, you have to get an Assurance Habitation (home insurance policy). You can try asking your bank if they do provide Assurance habitation contracts as most banks in France do.

I also recommend using Les Furets, which is a reliable comparison site to purchase a home insurance.

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Taxe d’habitation

Taxe d’habitation used to be a housing tax for the person living in a property on January First. Since January 2023, this tax has been abolished on primary residences (résidence principale). As long as you’re renting a place which is your primary residence, you don’t have to pay taxe d’habitation. This is true even if the place you’re renting is a second-home for your landlord.

Moving out

To move out, you have to give your préavis (notice) in writing by lettre recommandée (certified mail) or en main propre (handling it directly to your landlord). There is a 3-month delay for an unfurnished property unless you live in a “flux tendu” (high demand) area. In that case, you can give your notice one month prior leaving. You can check if your place is in a flux tendu area with the French government’s simulator. The delay for a furnished apartment is a 1-month notice.

Your notice must indicate the date of your move. Join a proof that you are in a flux tendu area if your préavis is shortened for that reason. Remember to notify your home insurance assurer when you move out.

Before moving out of a rental in France, you perform a last état des lieux with your landlord. Make sure you give your landlord your new address so he can send you your dépôt de garantie in the following month.

Change of address

When moving from a property to another one in France, you can use the French government’s online service Déclaration De Changement de Coordonnées to broadcast your new address to several institutions at once (CPAM, impôts, service de carte grise, EDF…). La Poste provides a paying service to forward your mail for 6 or 12 months.

Do it the French way!

It is pretty common for French people to ask their friends for help when they move instead of hiring professional movers. Once settled, do not forget to invite your friends and neighbors to pendre la crémaillère (throw a housewarming party)!

If you’re planning a move to France, read Shipping household goods to France.

Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

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13 thoughts on “Renting in France”

  1. Excellent article, Nathalie and very current.

    We are seeing a new issue prop up in 2021 – new for us because we’ve never seen agencies requests like below:
    “MINIMUM NET INCOME = 3 TIMES THE CC RENT, NO POSSIBLE GUARANTEES, NO BANK DEPOSIT”
    I understand the the 3 times monthly income but not “NO POSSIBLE GUARANTEES, NO BANK DEPOSIT”

    We used “Garantme” for the past 18 months to rent our unfurnished condo in Villefranche-sur-Mer, but now we want to return to Paris and live.

    All the agencies want this and we have our carte de séjour as retirees we don’t work in France. We have a French Premier HSBC Bank account in Paris and a BNP PARIBAS Bank account in Beaulieu-sur-Mer.

    Our dossier can show $10,000 per month in income – we can provide the monthly documents but they say it’s not in France.

    Our major monthly retirement can be verified but it’s with companies in the USA not France.

    Please help us with this issue or refer us to an agency in Paris that will rent to us.

    Thank you,
    Teresa

    • Hi Teresa,

      I am sorry you’re having troubles renting.
      Did you ask the agencies if they accept GarantMe and they replied that they don’t?
      This is news to me and it’s a real concern as many Americans use GarantMe.
      Maybe you can ask GarantMe directly about that, they might know what has changed.
      I’m not around Paris so I don’t know any agency but I’ll research and get back to you.

      • I haven’t asked Garantme but 2 agencies said they are no longer accepting Garantme. It appears many single owners we’re paying higher taxes and now they have collectively joined institutional corporations that just want French money or money earned in France. I’ll continue to do research and update you with my information. Thank you for answering.

  2. You asked! I am 73 years old and have moved at least 34 times since leaving my parents’ home the day after I turned 18. I am sure I have forgotten a few places in the calculation. I lived in at least 25 different places in 16 US cities in 4 different US states, and one territory. I’ve lived in 9 different dwellings in 7 cities in 3 other countries (so far; leaving for France soon). My dad was in the military in my early years so we moved frequently then, too.

  3. Wow wow wow!
    I just found your site and am so grateful! I’m moving to Toulouse in March 2022 and am trying to prepare now so this wealth of info. is invaluable.

    Merci!

  4. Yet another excellent article, Nathalie.
    You know that I’m one of your biggest fans, right?
    Just 2 little comments, and if you’ve already covered them in a separate article, I apologize :
    1) On “https://garantme.fr/fr”, you can buy a guarantee that your rent will be paid. Retired Americans with no CDI have difficulty finding a French landlord that will accept Social Security statements or big bank deposits.
    2) Would love for you to cover what types of repairs tenants are responsible for, since renting in France means tenants must repair many more things than in the US.
    Un énorme merci pour les articles si bien écrites ! Bonne continuation !

    • Hi Janice,

      You ARE indeed my biggest fan 🙂
      1) I do mention garantme and unkle in the “Caution needed” paragraph but maybe I should underline that people without a CDI should use these services (not only when the ad says “caution needed”).
      2) This is an excellent idea Janice! I’ll add that to the article later.
      Thank you Janice for your comments and suggestions.
      Take care!

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