Evicting a Tenant in France: The Best Step-by-Step Legal Guide

Our guide's purpose is to assist landlords in navigating legal grounds for eviction and give you an overview of the eviction procedure to ensure a lawful and efficient resolution.
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Section 1: Legal Grounds for Eviction

    Section 2: Pre-Eviction Requirements

      Section 3: Initiating the Eviction Process

        Section 4: Court Procedures

        Section 5: Enforcing the Eviction

        Section 6: Legal Considerations

          Section 7: Legal Resources and References for Further Assistance

          Section 1: Legal Grounds for Eviction

          In France, a tenant’s lease is their safeguard. The landlord can’t quit the agreement until the lease expires unless the tenant has not paid rent or significantly failed in their obligations. So, it automatically renews unless the landlord has one of three valid legal grounds to terminate it.

          An eviction involving a bailiff, a judge, and the local police force can, on average, take more than seven months. If scheduled during the winter ‘amnesty period,’ when evictions cannot occur in France, it can take more than a year.

          Overview of valid legal reasons for eviction under French law

          Landlords are limited to three reasons for reclaiming their property:

              • Reclaiming for Personal Use

            The property is needed for the landlord’s or a close relative’s use.

                • Intention to Sell Property

              The landlord decides to sell the property.

                  • Violation of Lease Terms

                Should the tenant break any lease terms, the landlord has the right not to renew the lease.

                What constitutes a breach of terms

                The property owner has the right to reject a lease extension. That is, the landlord or landlady can request the tenant leave due to a rental contract violation.

                Lease termination can occur when tenants neglect to fulfill one of their obligations. For example, the tenant may pay rent irregularly, fail to show proof of house insurance or create disturbances in the neighborhood.

                On these terms, the tenant may be required to vacate the premises and return the keys to the landlord by the end of the notice period at the latest.

                Legal Steps to Address Lease Breaches

                    • Notification

                  Understand the proper way to inform tenants about a breach.

                      • Mediation and Conciliation

                    Consider using mediation services to address and resolve conflicts cooperatively instead of opting for litigation.

                        • Initiating Legal Action

                      Understand the appropriate time and method to start official legal actions. Also, consider the engagement of various professionals (e.g., avocat, huissier).

                      To learn more about common tenant breaches of lease agreements and the legal steps to address them, check out our digest, Tenant Lease Breaches in France: What New Landlords Should Know.

                      Examples of legal grounds on which a landlord can evict a tenant in France

                          1. Non-payment of rent and charges.
                          2. The landlord must recover the property for personal use or significant renovations.
                          3. Subletting without Permission
                          4. Allowing people to live in the property not listed on the lease agreement without the landlord’s permission.
                          5. Causing significant damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.
                          6. Using the property for illegal purposes, such as drug production or other criminal activities.
                          7. Repeatedly causing noise or disturbances affecting the neighbors or the building’s peaceful environment.
                          8. Using a residential property for commercial purposes without the landlord’s consent.
                          9. Failure to perform required maintenance or repairs, which is the tenant’s responsibility, leads to the deterioration of the property.
                          10. Making unauthorized alterations or additions to the property.
                          11. Not allowing the landlord access to the property for necessary maintenance or repairs.
                          12. If the lease has specific pet clauses (e.g., no pets allowed) and the tenant violates these terms.
                          13. Not vacating the property upon lease termination or not following agreed-upon conditions for leaving the property.

                        Section 2: Pre-Eviction Requirements

                        Step-by-step guide on issuing formal notices

                        According to French law, the landlord’s notice of termination must be sent at the right time. Otherwise, the contract will be renewed.

                        A landlord cannot end a tenancy contract before the expiry of the term. This can only occur in case of a breach of the tenancy conditions, property sale, or landlord/landlady occupation.

                        Furnished vs. unfurnished property

                        Depending on the nature of the letting (furnished or unfurnished), the landlord gives a minimum notice period called “le congé.” The notice must state the reasons why the landlord wishes to recover possession.

                        Unfurnished property

                        The renewal extends for three years for unfurnished properties or six years if a company owns the property.

                        The landlord must give notice to quit at least six months before the end of the contract.

                        Furnished property

                        If a furnished property is rented out as a principal residence, the written agreement has a one-year term. The renewal extends on an annual basis.

                        A landlord must provide three months’ notice if they do not wish to continue a contract.

                        If the notice period is not respected, the contract is automatically renewed.

                        Prerequisites before filing for eviction

                        In situations where a tenant breaches the lease, here’s some guidance on what a landlord should do:

                        1. First, try to contact the tenant by phone or email. This can sometimes solve the problem without further action.

                        2. If reaching out doesn’t work, send the tenant a formal notice through a registered letter that requires them to acknowledge they received it. This is a way to officially let them know there’s a problem.

                        3. Presuming the tenant still doesn’t respect the tenant agreement clauses. And, that the rental agreement says the landlord can end the lease if tenants don’t meet their responsibilities. In that case, you can send them an official demand through a bailiff.

                        Section 3: Initiating the Eviction Process

                        How to file an eviction claim?

                        1. Sending a formal notice and a tenancy contract cancellation letter

                        If the first attempt fails, the owner can initiate the contract violation procedure and send a tenant a formal reminder letter by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt, called mise en demeure.

                        Creating a tenancy contract cancellation letter (lettre de résiliation de bail) for a property in France has to fulfill specific legal terms or can be disregarded by the tenant. This is why following the process with a professional (avocat, lawyer, huissier) who fully understands the system is essential.

                        2. Notice letter of leave (lettre de résiliation de bail

                        The letter of leave addressed to the tenant must specify:

                            • The reason for the leave;

                            • The name and address of the tenant;

                            • The relationship between the owner and the tenant.

                          The landlord may refuse to allow the lease to continue and may decide to give the tenant leave for severe and legitimate reasons.

                          This is when the tenant does not fulfill at least one of his obligations. For example, if the tenant causes trouble in the neighborhood, pays his rent with repeated delays, or does not provide proof of home insurance.

                          This is also the case when the owner wants to do specific work, such as significant renovations on the housing.

                          3. To whom should you send the notice letter?

                          You must send the letter of leave to the tenant:

                              1. Either by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt;
                              2. Or by an act of commissioner of justice (formerly act of bailiff);
                              3. As well as by hand delivery against signature or receipt.

                            The landlord cannot just give leave by e-mail. Even if the recipient accepts it by return mail, this way of providing leave remains invalid. However, the landlord can give leave by sending one registered letter (RL).

                            To be valid, the tenant must receive the leave letter at least three months before the end of the lease. If the letter of leave reaches the tenant late, the leave is not valid.

                            4. How can you send the notice letter?

                            Template for a lease termination letter given by a landlord:

                            Please remember it is essential to customize this template to suit the specific circumstances and ensure compliance with French law:

                            City, Postal Code
                            Phone Number 
                            Email Address
                            Tenant’s Name 
                            Tenant’s Address
                            City, Postal Code

                            Subject: Notice of Lease Termination for [Address of the Rental Property]

                            Dear [Tenant’s Name],
                            I am writing to formally notify you of the termination of your lease agreement for the property located at [Address of the Property]. This termination is by Article 15 of Law No. 89-462 of July 6, 1989, governing residential leases in France.
                            Please be advised that the lease will terminate on [Date – typically three months from the date of this notification for unfurnished properties], which is your official notice period required by law.
                            [Choose the appropriate reason and modify the letter accordingly]:
                            Due to [specify reasons, such as repeated late payments, significant violation of lease terms, etc.], I am compelled to terminate this lease.
                            Please ensure that the property is vacated by the date above and returned in the same condition as at the beginning of the tenancy, normal wear and tear excepted. I would like to schedule a final walk-through inspection of the property on [suggest a date], or we can arrange a different date that is mutually convenient.
                            It is also important to settle all outstanding utility bills and ensure the property is clean and free of all personal belongings. Upon successful inspection and return of the keys, your security deposit will be returned within the legal timeframe, minus any deductions for damages if applicable.
                            If you have any questions or need further clarification regarding this notice, please feel free to contact me directly.
                            Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I appreciate your cooperation in ensuring a smooth transition.
                            Your Signature
                            Your Printed Name

                            Good to know

                            Similarly, you can use a personalized template for a cancellation letter to your tenant. Simply fill out our online form, and then download your letter in Word and PDF format.

                            You’ll have to send this letter by registered mail with an acknowledgment of receipt (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) to ensure you have proof of delivery.

                            Customize the notice period and reasons according to specific circumstances and local regulations. This is especially true if the rental property is in a tense zone or other factors might legally alter the standard notice period or conditions.

                            For more intricate details, don’t hesitate to check out our digest, Giving Targeted Notices to Tenants in France: Useful Tips.

                            Section 4: Court Procedures

                            Step 1 Preliminary steps

                            Before proceeding with an eviction lawsuit, landlords must ensure they have completed all preliminary steps, including giving the tenant notice of any lease violations or missed payments and allowing any required grace periods to expire.

                            Step 2 Prepare the Documents

                                1. Lease Agreement: Provide a copy of the signed lease that clearly outlines the alleged breaches by the tenant.
                                2. Payment Records: Keep documented evidence of any rent or financial obligations.
                                3. Formal Notices: Include copies of all notices served to the tenant.
                                4. Proof of Notice Delivery: Show proof that the tenant received these notices, such as a receipt from registered mail.
                                5. Sworn Statement: A statement outlining the case details and reasons for seeking eviction.

                              Step 3 Use of a Huissier

                              The process of recovering possession begins by engaging the services of a huissier, who will effectively manage the whole process for you. You can also call on a conciliator of justice or civil mediator to try to reach an agreement with the tenant.

                              Step 4 Court

                              In France, eviction cases need to be filed at either the “tribunal judiciaire” (judicial court) or “tribunal d’instance.” The specific court will depend on the type of tenancy agreement and claim value.

                              Step 6 Court Hearing

                              The hearing will occur at the Tribunal d’instance, where hiring an avocat is not mandatory. Still, it is advisable to consult the huissier to determine if hiring an avocat is recommended in the given circumstances.

                              Also, both the landlord and tenant must be present at the court hearing, and each party has one month to appeal against the decision.

                              Should the court decide in favor of eviction and the tenant chooses not to appeal the decision or leave the property on their own, the landlord can then enforce the eviction.

                              Step 6 Appeal

                              If an appeal leads to possession being granted to the landlord, the tenant has a two-month window to vacate or request a postponement from another judge known as Juge de l’Exécution.

                              Step 6 Préfecture

                              Within these two months, the huissier will work on enforcing the possession order, although they cannot forcibly evict the tenant.

                              If the tenant refuses to leave, the huissier must seek help from the Préfecture and involve police in carrying out eviction procedures. However, Préfecture reserves the right to decline police involvement if it perceives ‘risks’ for the family. While practices may differ locally, it is not uncommon for préfet to refuse to execute court orders.

                              Step 7 Le Référé

                              In exceptional situations, a landlord can go to court for an immediate resolution, known as “le référé.” In these cases, the landlord (via the bailiff) has the option to approach the Tribunal administratif and request reimbursement for rent losses (both past and future) from the government.

                              The role of the “huissier de justice” (bailiff) in the eviction process

                              Repossession of the property due to the breach of conditions is complex. Because of this, the huissier is the most suitable person to manage the situation. It is carried out using a slightly shorter process. Breaches include non-payment of rent or failing to register home insurance, which is mandatory for all French tenants.

                              A huissier is a public official who provides an auxiliary service to the judicial system. They act on behalf of individuals and businesses, guiding landlords through rent recovery, eviction, and any other rental matter.

                              You may be able to terminate a lease yourself if your tenant is amicable, but generally, the correct method is to carry out proceedings using the huissier. That way, there is no room for error or repercussion.    

                              Long before employing the services of your huissier, you must start gathering records, proof, and correspondence that can help to support your case should the worst happen.

                              The French courts are the 3rd stage of a drawn-out procedure, so it would be beneficial wherever a matter could be resolved before then.

                              Useful resources:

                                Section 5: Enforcing the Eviction

                                Once the judge has decided to end the lease and evict the tenant, a landlord needs to assign a commissioner of justice (a bailiff) to inform the tenant of this decision and issue a directive for them to vacate the premises.

                                Usually, the tenant is given two months to move out of the property (though the judge can shorten or waive this timeframe in cases of misconduct).

                                Within this period, the tenant can approach an enforcement judge and request an extension (or grace period) ranging from one month to one year. Before deciding, the judge considers factors such as the tenant’s circumstances (age, health status, etc.) and willingness to cooperate.

                                Good to know

                                Once the lease is terminated, the tenant transitions into an occupant ‘without right or title’ who must pay an occupancy fee rather than rent.

                                Upon expiry of the deadline for vacating, a huissier must carry out their eviction.

                                Important Note:

                                Only a huissier can take charge of tenant eviction.

                                    • Do not enter the residence before the hussier arrives. Refrain from changing the locks or moving any belongings. Failure to comply may result in a criminal offense for trespassing.

                                    • If you proceed with eviction independently, you could face imprisonment for up to 3 years and a € 30,000 fine.

                                    • Eviction is not permitted during the winter moratorium period, from November 1st to March 31st (inclusive) of the following year. If the lease expiration falls within this timeframe, eviction will be delayed.

                                  Section 6: Legal Considerations

                                  When a landlord intends to issue a notice to a tenant to vacate the property, there are certain conditions under which the tenant can be protected from eviction.

                                  Special Regulations and Protections

                                  Landlords are legally required to ensure that tenants over 65 with limited income have access to alternative housing in the event that they need to reclaim the property. This obligation applies only if the property is the tenant’s primary residence and conforms to the income requirements for eligibility for social housing.

                                  In France, a winter truce (la trêve hivernale) prevents landlords from evicting tenants during winter for reasons such as not paying rent.

                                  Even though physical evictions are paused during the winter break, landlords can still begin the legal eviction. This means they can ask the judge to examine the case in court to start the eviction procedure.

                                  This preparatory step is crucial because it sets the legal wheels in motion, even if the eviction cannot be carried out until after the winter break.

                                  “Protected tenant” in France

                                  The “protected tenant” status aims to prevent the eviction of elderly tenants, ensuring they have security in finding alternative housing. To be classified as a protected tenant, one must be over 65 and have an income below a specified threshold. All household members must meet the criteria for the status to apply.

                                  This protection mainly benefits elderly singles or couples, particularly in Paris and surrounding areas where landlords might want to evict tenants to increase rent.

                                  No official document for this status exists, but age and income documents can support claims against landlords attempting evictions. Protected tenants have their leases automatically renewed.

                                  Effective January 1, 2023, income thresholds vary by the number of people in the household and their location in France:

                                  An “automatic termination clause”

                                  In France, a new law makes it easier for landlords to deal with tenants who don’t pay their rent. When a landlord and tenant sign a rental agreement, they must now include a special rule called an “automatic termination clause.” This rule says the landlord can end the lease without going to court if the tenant doesn’t pay the rent.

                                  Lawmakers introduced this law to address the problem of people squatting in properties they don’t own, though some express concerns about its fairness to tenants. To address this, the law also says that if a tenant thinks there’s a good reason why they couldn’t pay, they can ask a judge to pause this automatic lease ending.

                                  Additionally, the law tries to make rent disputes go through the court system faster than before. This clause ensures quicker resolution of issues.

                                  The idea behind this is to make things fairer for landlords and discourage squatting. This law started to apply to all rental agreements signed on July 29, 2023.

                                  Section 7: Legal Resources and References for Further Assistance

                                  Here are some critical legal resources and references that can help you navigate the rules regarding lease termination (résiliation de bail) by a landlord in France:

                                  1. French Legislation

                                  2. To ensure accuracy and compliance with the latest legal requirements, you might want to consult the following resources or seek advice from a professional:

                                  A local notaire or a lawyer specializing in real estate law can offer personalized advice and ensure that any legal document, including a lease termination notice, complies with current regulations and specific circumstances.

                                  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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