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Renting a home in France

Every expat I meet here has either rented from other expats or bought their home all of which is well covered and to me a well-known and fairly painless and simple process. But renting from French owners it appears has quite different requirements.

My experience has always been that one looks at ads in local newspapers or goes to an agency to rent a property. As long as your credit rating is good, you have a reference and/or you have sufficient funds to pay the rent 6 months in advance then renting a property is not an issue.

Renting in France though is not quite so simple. There are agencies who advertise properties for rent and there are ads in local papers, shop noticeboards etc. as per normal. However as a foreigner renting in France there are some hoops to jump through. Landlords usually require a lot of paperwork and guarantees before they take you on as a tenant.

First of all, to make sure you don’t waste time and go in making a good impression put together a “bon dossier” – a good file in other words. Its a requirement if you want to rent in France from an agent and from some landlords. If you are employed, your “bon dossier” should include copies of your Passport or ID card, driving licence, most recent tax form, most recent three pay slips, and confirmation from your employer stating when you started work and that you are still employed (not unlike applying for a mortgage really). If you’re unemployed you’ll need to include all the above excluding employment information plus the last three tax notifications and confirmation that you are who you say you are from an official such as a lawyer. The “bon dossier” is for the rental agent or landlord so be prepared to hand these details over. You should check with them exactly what is required as you may find that more documents and proof of earnings are necessary and some agents may insist that you provide details for someone to pay the rent if you don’t and then you’ll need to supply the guarantor’s “bon dossier”. The agents are very likely to contact your employer, bank or guarantor for confirmation so be prepared for that.

This can of course be very testing if you’re a foreigner looking to rent in France. And don’t even mention Paris where there’s such a lack of rental property available that not only will you need to provide the paperwork but you’ll have to compete with everyone else looking for rental property. All of which means the high earners will win over those less fortunate every time.

So, how to work with these requirements and find somewhere to rent.

One way is to rent directly from owners who may not be quite as demanding as rental agents. Certainly expat owners don’t seem to apply such complicated requirements to their rental packages. You could also flat share which will keep the costs down as well. Subletting is another way but you need to be really confident with whoever you’re subletting from. It’s not uncommon for people to be cheated in this way so don’t be taken in – check them out and do your homework thoroughly.

If you’re working in France, your employer should be able to help you rent somewhere and provide support with the administration requirements and paperwork.

If you’re a foreign student coming to France to study, your University administration staff should be able to help you and for much more detail on this see our Students in France section.

There are plenty of English language sites specialising in long term rental properties which may also be helpful. A quick search on the internet for properties to rent in France will turn up a big selection.

When you do find somewhere to rent, you’ll need to pay a month’s deposit plus one month’s rent in advance. Get a receipt for the deposit as you’ll need that at the end of your rental term to make sure you can claim it back.

If you have an area in mind for renting – you can check on the Clameur website – a rental analysis company – for average rents in the area.

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