Accommodation in France

Accommodation in France
Updated 2019-08-14 15:01

Every year, the lifestyle, culture and history of France draws millions of visitors to the country. Many, attracted by the charm and beauty of the country decide to move for longer periods, whereas others find themselves with employment opportunities in some of the booming sectors of the French economy. When it comes to finding housing in France, however, be prepared to find yourself in difficult territory since the procedures required to secure and move into a house or apartment can be particularly difficult for foreigners, especially if your French employers are unable to back your application.

Finding accommodation in France

In recent decades, France has experienced a real-estate crisis, especially in its major cities, resulting in scarcity issues and high rents. In Paris, for example, rents have skyrocketed, making the City of Light one of the most expensive in the world, although it remains more affordable than other capitals such as London. However, high prices do not necessarily apply to smaller cities and towns. On the contrary, prices in these areas have often tended to fall in recent years.

If you are moving to a major city, it is generally quite difficult to find affordable houses within the walls of the city. In Paris, for example, houses are extremely expensive, and if a garden is on your wishlist, it would be more appropriate to focus on the suburbs of the city, many of which attract families. Because of zoning rules for public health services and schooling, it is also important to choose the area in which you want to live accordingly.

There are numerous dedicated websites offering a wide range of accommodation options for rental and purchase. In general, however, keep in mind that if you decide to secure and negotiate your accommodation on your own, you will generally need to have a very good mastery of French, since the majority of renters will probably not speak English.

If you find it difficult to negotiate in French, it might be more convenient to get in touch with a real estate agent. Major cities, as well as industrial hubs which regularly welcome expatriates, will have a wealth of English-speaking agencies. These agencies will charge a commission based on the size of the housing unit you wish to rent. Also, many of those agencies specially target expatriates and offer other services in addition to helping you find accommodation, including setting up the internet, water, internet and electricity.

If you go through an agency, you will be asked to provide a shortlist of the neighbourhoods which interest you the most, and the agent will prepare a list of properties and accompany you during your visits. It is, of course, better to select your accommodation in person before you move. In the event you need temporary accommodation other than hotels, remember that there is a wide range of services you can pick from.

Good to know:

In general, you are more likely to find non-furnished accommodation in France. In fact, most furnished housing units are rather expensive and let for a fixed-term. These are more ideal for tourists or short stays.

Lease conditions in France

The lease contract for non-furnished housing units is generally of a period of three years. If you opt for a furnished housing unit, you should expect to sign a yearly renewable contract. To renew the lease contract, you don't necessarily have to meet the owner again upon its expiry date ' the lease can be automatically renewed. Signing the lease contract before a notary is not mandatory, but the contract must be signed at the latest on the lease starting date.

The lease contract must include the exact date at which the apartment or house is passed over to the tenant. It must also mention the charges which are the owner's responsibility and those which are the tenant's responsibility. In general, the rent price does not include charges such as water, gas, electricity and telephone bills.

Good to know:

Note that you are expected to pay a security deposit, as well as rent in advance - which can be up to three months' rent. The security deposit will be refunded to you upon vacating the premises, but according to the housing unit's current condition.

Be aware that the rental price may increase every year, in line with inflation. With regards to the deposit, note that it is illegal in France to use the security deposit as a form of payment for the last months in which you will be in the rented property.

An inventory of the premises is compulsory, both when taking over and vacating the housing unit. Some repairs (water heater, windows, etc.), should be taken care of by the owner before letting the premises. You should, therefore, make sure to read the lease contract thoroughly and settle for an agreement with the owner before signing. The inventory is a crucial part of the process since it is very difficult in France to fully recover the initial deposit. Very often, landlords tend to be pedantic about the process and it is highly advised that you return the apartment or house in the same condition as when you first leased it, including removing scratches off walls and ensuring that the furniture is in good shape.

If you are planning to vacate the premises, you are required to give three months' notice to the owner via a 'Recommandé avec Accusé de Réception' (recommended letter) form by post. In case you leave the housing unit during the prior notice period, you will have to pay the rent until the official vacating date. However, you are entitled to negotiation with the owner regarding the notice and payment of rent issues in case of emergency repatriation or loss of employment.

Good to know:

Once you have started occupying the housing unit, the owner is not allowed to enter it without your authorisation. In case of disagreement, you can seek legal advice and assistance provided you can prove that your tenant rights have been violated. Find more information in the useful links provided below.

Rent prices in France

Rent is usually calculated according to the neighbourhood, the type of housing unit and the facilities provided. However, there is no exact price table regarding the number of rooms, floors, etc. In Paris, for instance, you are not likely to find a two-bedroom flat for less than 1,000 euros per month.

Useful links:

Online resources:

Se Loger
De particulier à particulier

Government agencies:

Agence Nationale pour l'Information sur le Logement

Real estate agencies:

Century 21
La Forêt
Guy Hoquet
Orpi ' Real estate specialist
A partager ' flat sharing in Paris and the rest of the country

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.