Apartment Leases in France: What Tenants Need to Focus On

Learn about the different lease options to find the one that best suits your needs. It is crucial to thoroughly review and comprehend the terms of the rental contract, which covers aspects such as the duration of the lease, rent, deposit, and obligations of both parties.
Photo by Emily Baruffaldi on Unsplash

Section 1: Navigating French Rental Contracts

Types of leases for furnished rentals

Section 2: Terms in Rental Contract

Section 3: Insights on Rules and Tenant Duties in France


Section 1: Navigating French Rental Contracts

Firstly, before signing the contract, you should make some inquiries. Many of these will be answered in the tenancy agreement. However, it’s usually preferable to approach the landlord or agent directly for clarity. Never underestimate the importance of asking the right questions.

After signing a contract with your French landlord, both parties are bound by legal rights and responsibilities outlined by law. The good news is that the legal system is highly tenant-friendly. 

The rental contract covers all aspects, such as the length of your lease, your responsibilities and entitlements clauses regarding rent and security deposit, and penalties for any breaches of the agreement. Therefore, reviewing and comprehending all terms before signing the rental contract is crucial.

In France, a typical rental contract includes:

      • Names of tenant and landlord;

      • Address of the rented apartment;

      • If booked from the agency, the address of the rental agency;

      • Start and end date of the contract;

      • Contract renewal possibilities;

      • Obligations and responsibilities of tenant and landlord;

      • Rent and deposit;

      • Insurance information;

      • A clause about rent increase;

      • Clauses about fines;

      • Bank address to pay the rent;

      • Inventory of the apartment;

      • Utility information (if it’s included in the rent);

      • Check-in and check-out information;

      • Information on notice periods for ending the contract.

    Types of leases for furnished rentals

    When renting an apartment in France, it’s essential to understand the type of lease you’re entering into.

    There are different types of leases for furnished apartments. Here are some common ones you may come across:

    1. The furnished residential lease (Bail habitation meublé)

    This lease type applies when you plan to use the apartment as your primary residence, i.e., to live in the property. Usually, the contract automatically renews after each term. You can legally end the lease only if you decide to do so or if the landlord provides a good reason. Tenants sign this lease for a minimum of one year.

    2. The unfurnished rental lease

    It is considered unfurnished if a rental property lacks the necessary amenities to enable its occupants to eat, sleep, and live decently and properly in the demands of everyday life.

    An unfurnished property has a three-year period if the owner is an individual or family. In the following cases, the lease may be shorter (minimum 12 months):

        • The tenant is a student.

        • The renter moved temporarily because of changes at work.

        • The renter is retired.

        • The lessee is expected to vacate.

      3. The student lease (Bail d’étudiant)

      This is a type of bail habitation meublé lease.

       Landlords and students can reduce the minimum term from a year to nine months when they sign a lease.

      4. A Bail Mobilité 

      Bail Mobilité, or the Mobility Lease, is a rental contract that covers only a short tenancy period. You can use it for as little as one month and up to ten months. This lease is for people visiting France temporarily for employment or study.

      Please keep in mind that Bail Mobilité is not the same as tourist-oriented vacation rentals (like Airbnb).

      It is an excellent substitute for the typical French rental leases, which last for nine months for short-term and twelve months for long-term rentals.

      Nevertheless, unlike regular rental leases, mobility leases are not renewable after the first ten months. If the tenant requests an extended stay in the property, the landlord must offer a standard long-term rental lease instead.

      Mobility leases can be extended as long as the total term is under ten months. For example, if a renter with a Mobility lease rents an apartment for five months and wants to stay an additional three months, he can do so, provided the landlord permits it. In this instance, the landlord extends the Mobility lease.

      However, if the tenant wanted to stay for an additional six months or eleven months, that would not be possible.

      Prospective tenants who can benefit from the mobility lease have to prove that they are:

          • In vocational training;

          • Within higher education;

          • In an apprenticeship contract;

          • In internship;

          • Enclosed by voluntary enlistment as part of a civic service;

          • On a professional transfer or temporary assignment (temporary workers or seasonal workers).

        5. A Civil Code lease 

        A Civil Code Lease is a lease based on the French Civil Code’s requirements. This type of lease can be exempt from numerous regulations, making it less strictly regulated than conventional leases. Also, you can use it only for your secondary residence.

        The Civil Code lease applies to individuals seeking to rent a pied-à-terre or second home. Still, companies can also use it to rent for corporate purposes or provide housing for their employees. In this instance, the lease is called a company lease (bail de société).
        This lease is of interest to embassies frequently.

         6. Holiday Lease

        This is mainly for vacation rentals that are short-term or Airbnb-style rentals.
        It is non-renewable and has a maximum duration of 120 days or roughly four months. Furthermore, because this lease is date-to-date, you may prolong it, if necessary, provided it doesn’t exceed ninety days beyond the initial expiration date.

        Section 2: Terms in Rental Contract

        If the property is the tenant’s primary residence, a formal tenancy agreement, or a contrat de location or bail, is required.
        Certain clauses are obligatory in a tenancy agreement.

        1. The lease agreement needs to include the tenant’s name and property information, the start and end dates of the tenancy, the kind of property usage, the rent and deposit amounts, and the property size (only for unfurnished rentals).

        2. The lease agreement also specifies the day the tenant pays the rent.

        3. Furthermore, the landlord has to include a technical report on the rental and a Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT). The DDT also includes the apartment’s energy performance report, or diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE). The report should cover the overall condition of the electrical installation. Failing to do so could result in a fine.

        Learn more details on the preparation of a French tenancy agreement.

        Security deposit

        The landlord usually demands a damage deposit, which can offset the property’s dilapidations and rent arrears.

        This damage deposit is as a dépôt de garantie.

        The law regulates the amount of the deposit: it is one month’s rent for unfurnished properties and two months’ rent for furnished flats.

        Your landlord will ask you to pay a security deposit after you sign your rental contract and before you move in.

        Unless otherwise stated, the tenant can’t use the deposit to pay last month’s rent.

        You will receive your security deposit 60 days after moving out unless the property is damaged, in which case the landlord will retain the deposit to pay for the costs.

        What are the differences between a deposit and a security deposit in the case of rental?

        The deposit is an amount that the guarantor will pay in case the tenant fails to pay, and it is not refundable.

        The tenant, not his guarantor, pays the security deposit. The landlord collects this sum at the lease’s signing and returns it to the tenant.

        Forbidden clauses

        A surprising number of clauses are forbidden by law, such as requiring tenants to pay their rent by standing order or directly from their salaries and any requirement to take out an insurance policy that the landlord suggests.

        Additionally, it is against the law for a landlord to turn away pets from a vacation rental or an annual tenancy.

        Legally, a contract must specify the rent and other charges that are due each month. In addition to rent, fees are paid for services like trash disposal, common area cleaning, and water and heating.

        Receiving a RIB from your landlord and setting up a monthly direct debit is an easy way to pay your rent. The document includes your account information and the national bank account ID, also known as the RIB number, and is referred to as your banking ID details or Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB).

        Want to know what should not be in lease? Check out this detailed guide Prohibited clauses in residential lease.

        Note: If you specifically request one, your landlord must provide you with a quittance de loyer (rent receipt). In France, the renter may request that the landlord provide a rent receipt. The rent receipt serves as evidence of payment, proving that you paid the rent on schedule and were not in arrears.

        Many tenants are unaware of their rights when signing a rental agreement, sometimes leading to their signing something unfair or illegal. So, we’ve assembled a guide outlining every tenant’s rights in France.

        Duration of rental agreement in France

        Generally, you can rent furnished flats for up to a year through short-term contracts. Unfurnished apartments need long-term rental agreements of a minimum of three years from an individual landlord or six years from a firm. Contracts for student rentals may be for the entire academic year.

        Tenancy agreement renewal

        As the lease’s expiration date draws near, you might wonder, “What now?” If your contract allows renewals, you can extend your stay. The lease can easily be renewed if neither party doesn’t want to cancel the tenancy—unfurnished rentals for an additional three or six years and furnished leases for one more year.

        Even after your lease has ended, you are entitled to continue living in the property if the landlord hasn’t given you six months’ notice. In this instance, there is no need to draft a new contract because your current one will automatically renew for the duration of your original contract, and there’s no need to prepare a new one.

        Rent increases

        Are you aware of how rent adjustments work in France? Landlords might be able to increase rent each year, but only if they adhere to government guidelines

        Termination: end your contract

        Let’s say your contract doesn’t state the definite end time, or you wish to vacate the apartment before this date.

        In this scenario, you must provide a written notice (which is advised) to the landlord within the designated notice time (known as le congé), either through registered mail or a bailiff.

        The notice period to terminate a long-term rental agreement for an unfurnished unit is three months for tenants and six months for landlords.
        For short-term furnished rental agreements, the tenant must give one month’s notice, and the landlord must give three months’ notice.

        In some cases, one-year contracts don’t have a let-go period; in these situations, you must stay until the end of the one year. If your furnished rental agreement has a mobility lease (bail mobilité) clause, you may terminate it with one month’s notice.

        Understanding how to give notice properly is crucial to ensure compliance with rental laws.

        When your rental term expires, is extending or renewing your lease better?

        A lease renewal is a document you use when you renew or sign another lease. It establishes a new agreement between the renter and the landlord. Your landlord should offer you a renewal within sixty to ninety days of your lease expiration date. Since a lease renewal creates a new contract, changes to the agreement may include a rent increase.

        Though there are other options for contract renewal, month-to-month, biennial, and annual agreements are the most popular.
        An agreement permitting you to prolong the terms of your existing lease temporarily is known as a lease extension. A lease extension extends the current lease.

        Usually, it doesn’t include any adjustments to a rent increase.

        An extension typically lasts between thirty and sixty days but never lasts longer than ninety days.

        Documents Needed to Rent an Apartment in France

        To give yourself every chance of success, check that you have all the documents you need for your application. This will ensure you have a complete file to give the landlord at the end of your visit.

        The French Government has made available a list (www.legifrance.gouv.fr) of what is admitted in terms of documents to request by a landlord and a tenant to his landlord.

        Section 3: Insights on Rules and Tenant Duties in France

        Eviction: When Can Landlords Do That, And When Can They Not?

        Landlords are limited to three reasons for reclaiming their property:

        1. Reclaiming for Personal Use
        2. Intention to Sell Property
        3. Violation of Lease Terms

        Check out our summary for details:

        Repairs and renovations

        Tenants are responsible for all routine maintenance, minor repairs, and any more extensive repairs arising from the tenant’s misuse. 

        Before modifying the property or equipment, the landlord’s written consent is crucial. If changes are made without the landlord’s approval, the tenant will not be entitled to compensation. So, it’s always better to have authorization to avoid any potential disputes.

        At the end of their leasing agreement, tenants are liable for basic repairs like filling in drill holes and repainting walls to their original color. Still, they cannot make significant structural changes (like demolishing a wall).

        Additionally, the landlord may ask that you return the property to its original state if the alterations harm its security or usefulness.

        Tenant rights

        Embarking on a rental journey in France means more than just signing a lease. Knowing your legal rights and obligations regarding housing when searching for and relocating to a new home will ease your negotiations with potential landlords and lessen your stress.

        Tenant insurance policy

        If you hope to rent a furnished or unfurnished apartment in France and wonder whether you’ll need to take out an insurance policy, the answer is absolutely!

        If the tenant does not have an insurance policy for the accommodation, the landlord can choose to terminate the lease or take out insurance on behalf of the tenant (and get reimbursed).

        Tenant must also provide a copy of their insurance certificate (attestation d’assurance) before moving into the property.

        If you are a tenant of a rented accommodation with a residential lease (including a mobility lease), you must take out home insurance. Find out more in our guide, What You Should Know about Tenant Insurance in France.

        Please note: This article does not constitute legal advice – the information on this page has been prepared solely for your information. As we are not a law firm and act as a platform, we can and may share our estimations, but we cannot give you legal advice for your individual further proceedings.


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