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How to Reclaim Unpaid Rent in France in 7 Steps

Explore a detailed guide for landlords on how to manage situations when tenants miss their rent payments. Learn about the legal steps you can take and proactive strategies to reduce risks.
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Step 1: Demand payment of rent from the tenant

Step 2: Encourage amicable resolutions and dialogue

Step 3: Speak with the guarantors

Step 4: Using insurance to safeguard yourself against unpaid rent

Step 5: The process for terminating a lease in the event of non-payment

Step 6: Take the tenant to court

Step 7: Start the eviction process

Other Steps

 

What do you do if a tenant doesn’t pay their rent?

Step 1: Ask for a rent from the tenant

If a tenant fails to pay their rent, the initial course of action is to give them a call. Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle reminder to fix the issue because the tenant could have forgotten.

Presuming this step is insufficient, send an email or a plain letter stating that rent is overdue. Remember to maintain a professional demeanor and refrain from emotional responses for a more successful resolution.

Supposing a discussion has taken place, document the main points in a formal email or letter so that the conversation is documented in writing. This might come in handy for upcoming conflicts.

Step 2: Encourage amicable resolutions and dialogue

 Always try to reach a cooperative agreement with your tenants over late rent. The following are a few cooperative ways to address the problem:

      • Structured payment plans ease financial strain on tenants and owners by allowing gradual payment.

        • Landlords should consider extending due dates, providing tenants more time to pay their rent, and supporting occupants experiencing short-term financial issues.

        • If tenants are experiencing short-term financial challenges, temporary rent reductions may also be an option.

      Send a formal notice to the tenant (mise en demeure)

      Let’s say the initial effort is unsuccessful, and contacting the tenant is still tricky. In that scenario, the owner may begin the rent collection process and serve a formal reminder of the late payment by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt, known as mise en demeure, to the noncompliant renter.

      What information needs to be in the official notification letter regarding overdue rent? How should a formal notice of unpaid rent be written?

      Unlike the previous one, this late rent notice carries legal weight and must be unambiguous in form and content.

      The official notification letter for overdue rent must be date-stamped and clearly state the reason for the notice, the intended recipient (the tenant), and the sender’s contact information (the owner).

      The formal notice letter for delinquent rent should include the total amount owed for rent (including utilities), past due (in months), and the payment deadline.

      Penalties

       Accordingly, it’s essential to explain the possible results of not paying. Ensure the recipient understands the situation and can take action to avoid any negative consequences:

          • If the tenant doesn’t make the required payments by the deadline, the landlord has the right to evict the tenant, cancel the lease, and take legal action to recoup any unpaid rent.

          • A qualified attorney (avocat) should draft the official notification of delinquent rent.

        Meanwhile, you can look at this free template of a formal notice letter for unpaid rent.

        Note: Only after sending out this formal notice can the owner take legal action to collect the unpaid rent and end the tenancy.

        Step 3: Speak with the guarantors

        The owner may demand the remaining rent from the designated guarantor on the lease, starting with the first delinquent rent. Within ten days of the first non-payment, the owner must send a brief reminder letter to the tenant’s guarantor.

        Next, after the first non-payment, inform the guarantor within twenty-five days.

         Also, the landlord should contact his rent insurance company if he has any.

         Step 4: Using insurance to safeguard yourself against unpaid rent

        When tenants neglect to pay their rent, an insurance policy against the non-payment of rent can be a lifesaver for landlords. In addition to providing financial coverage, this kind of insurance reimburses landlords for unpaid rent and offers additional guarantees like:

            1. Legal protection: In addition to handling rent collection and, where necessary, eviction procedures, the insurer also pays for legal expenses like attorney fees and bailiff costs.
            2. Eviction expenses: The insurance pays for furniture storage, removals, and a locksmith;
            3. Damage waiver: It provides coverage for the harm the tenant causes when they vacate.

          For a more comprehensive overview of insurance policies for unpaid rent, check out our Expert guide to the Landlord responsibilities in France.

          What is the best time to call your unpaid rent insurance?

          The owner must write a reminder letter to the tenant and retain a copy upon discovering a late rent payment. After the tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord must send a formal notice to the tenant by registered mail and keep a copy of this notice. If the tenant does not respond or pay the rent within 15 days, the landlord may proceed with a summons through a bailiff.

          Finally, the landlord may take legal action if the tenant still does not respond after the second notice. If the problem continues, the landlord should contact their unpaid rent insurance provider for help.

          How do you get the insurance company to process a claim for overdue rent?

          The property owner must submit a thorough letter to the insurer with the following details to start a claim for unpaid rent insurance:

              • Policy number;

              • Address of the insured property;

              • Description of the situation, such as unpaid rent, etc.;

              • All correspondence.

            After receiving the letter, the insurance company will check the tenant’s records for eligibility. The owner doesn’t need to take any more action after validation because the insurance provider will handle everything.

            The selected insurance plan will reimburse the owner for the first three delinquent rents within ninety days. After that, the owner will receive regular quarterly payments.

            Step 5: The process for terminating a lease in the event of non-payment

            In situations where rent arrears persist despite attempts to address them through amicable means, the landlord may have to consider legal action as a last resort to recover the late rent.

            The tenant and their guarantor must receive a summons to pay (commandement de payer), which the owner must request to be sent by a court commissioner (bailiff).

            A summons letter is a written document issued by a judicial commissioner to regularize the situation of unpaid rent. It directs the person to complete their duties and pay unpaid rent and rental costs within two months.
            The following details are necessary for the summons for overdue rent to be valid:

                • The payment date is in two months;

                •  The amount of the rent and other costs each month;

                • An explanation of the debt.

              Note: If a rent payment is not made within two months, and the lease includes a resolutory clause, it can automatically terminate.

              Legal requirements and landlords’ rights in cases of unpaid rent

              1. According to French Civil Code article 1342-4, the landlord has the right to demand full payment and to reject partial payments.

              2. If the lease agreement specifies this, the landlord may pursue damages in the event of nonpayment (article 1343-1 of the French Civil Code).

              3. The landlord is entitled to collect unpaid rent and maintenance fees for three years after the tenant vacates.

              Likewise, landlords must follow the law when handling delinquent rent. Although it can be time-consuming and laborious, following the law guarantees a just and lawful resolution and safeguards the landlord’s rights.

              Step 6: Take the tenant to court

              If the tenant fails to pay two months after the notice to pay was sent and the landlord and tenant cannot agree on a repayment plan, the owner may file for expulsion before the Tribunal d’Instance.

              The landlord may request that the tenant pay the unpaid rent and any associated legal fees, end the lease, vacate the property, and provide compensation in the form of an “occupancy indemnity,” which is a sum that the tenant must pay after their lease expires. They no longer have a legal claim to the space.

              Court

              The court hearing will take place no sooner than two months from now, though depending on the area, it is not uncommon to wait a year or longer due to court system delays.

              The hearing will take place before the Tribunal d’instance. If the huissier advises that you hire an avocat given the circumstances, you should follow their recommendation.

              Appeal

              If an appeal is filed and the judge decides possession should be granted to the landlord, the tenant has two months to leave or request a postponement from the Judge de l’Exécution, another court.

              This judge may grant up to one-year eviction delay.
              The judge will consider the circumstances of both the landlord and the tenant, including the possibilities for new accommodation and the tenant’s age, health, and family situation.

              Both parties have the right to appeal against the decision of the judge.

              The huissier will next attempt to execute the possession order within the two months given to the tenant to depart; however, they are not authorized to use force to evict the tenant.

              The huissier then has to request support from the Préfecture to utilize police to carry out the eviction if the tenant refuses to vacate the premises.
              However, if the préfecture believes the family is “at risk,” they may choose not to call the police to carry out the eviction order.

              In these circumstances, the landlord (through the huissier) can go to the Tribunal administratif and seek compensation from the government for the loss of rent (past and future). 

              Step 7: Start the eviction process

              After getting the eviction notice, the tenant typically has two months to vacate the rented property. If a tenant is uncooperative, the judge may shorten or eliminate this time frame.

              During this time, the tenant may request an extension from the court, a maximum duration of one year. The judge will decide based on the tenant’s circumstances (age, health, etc.) and goodwill.

              Furthermore, evictions cease during France’s five-month winter truce (November 1 to March 31).

              Other Steps

              Helpful tips to avoid unpaid rent

                  • Careful tenant selection

                The first and most crucial step in lowering the likelihood of rent arrears is choosing a reliable tenant and ensuring the best match.

                Working with a reputable real estate company with extensive experience in the area, such as Wunderflats, can make it much easier to find a good tenant.

                  • Requesting a guarantee

                To ensure rent payment, request a rental guarantee as a bank guarantee, a guarantee contract from firms like Garantme, or a physical guarantor.

                  • A detailed and comprehensive rental agreement

                Create a precise and comprehensive lease agreement outlining the rent payment terms and the penalties for late or non-payment.

                  • Rental Insurance

                If the tenant fails to pay, you can obtain further protection by subscribing to an insurance policy for non-payment of rent.

                  • Professional Property Management

                Consider hiring a competent property management company to handle tenant relations and financial concerns properly.

                 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

                1. Who is responsible for paying the fees charged by the bailiff?

                Depending on the circumstances, either the landlord or the tenant will cover the bailiff’s costs for handling an unpaid rent notice.
                In the case of a friendly arrangement, the bailiff’s fees are the landlord’s responsibility.
                The judge will decide whether the debtor tenant must pay the bailiff’s fees.

                2. Why is evicting a non-paying tenant in France so hard?

                 Because of numerous French rules protecting tenants, such as the Winter Truce, evicting a non-paying tenant is becoming increasingly difficult. In addition, the process of evicting a renter is typically expensive, time-consuming, and complex; it usually takes two years.

                 3. How long does the owner have to claim unpaid rent?

                The landlord may demand any unpaid rent or maintenance fees for a maximum of three years. Landlords, for instance, can collect back unpaid rent from May 2024 to June 2027.

                4. What is the latest rent-related law?

                 To comply with the July 27, 2023 statute, all lease agreements signed after July 29th, 2023, must now include an automatic termination clause for non-payment of rent, charges, or the security deposit.

                A fee of €7,500 is now imposed on tenants who continue to live in rental properties after a formal eviction order has been issued (Law n° 2023-668 du 27 juillet 2023).

                Nevertheless, if the tenant has been granted a delay of eviction or during the winter truce, this penalty is not applicable.

                5. What is the duty of a huissier?

                 Hiring a huissier is the first step in regaining possession; they will handle everything for you, but their services are not free.
                Huissier delivers a demand for payment, and before legal action may be taken, the tenant has two months (or one month for furnished rentals) to resolve the arrears.

                In the event of continued non-payment, the huissier will inform the tenant of proposed possession proceedings and apply to the tribunal for a hearing.

                The tenant may apply to the court for a two-year rent relief order, regardless of the outcome of these procedures.

                A huissier (a commissioner of justice) is responsible for evicting a tenant once the allotted time for them to vacate the premises has passed.

                6. Is the landlord allowed to evict a tenant?

                A commissioner of justice must handle the tenant’s eviction. The landlord cannot enter the property before the commissioner of justice’s intervention, alter the lock, or handle any furniture. If you do, you could face charges for breaking into someone’s house. You could face up to three years in prison and a fine of €30,000.

                7. What happens if a tenant receives housing assistance?

                When a tenant receives housing assistance (APL, ALF, or SLA), the landlord must report any outstanding balances to either the MSA (Agricultural Social Mutual Society) or the CAF (Family Allowance Fund). You must report the unpaid amount, ideally via a registered letter with receipt acknowledgment.
                Take caution—if you fail to submit the unpaid amount, you may be fined €7,332.00.

                Also, keep in mind that some tenants facing eviction may defer the process by claiming bankruptcy. If the tenant has filed an over-indebtedness, specific rules apply.

                Additional resources

                At any time, you can ask for advice from SOS on unpaid rents:

                SOS unpaid rents

                Coaching, advice, and prevention services are available in case of eviction risk due to unpaid rent. This service informs tenants, such as landlords, free of charge.

                By telephone

                0 805 160 075

                If you’re seeking assistance in becoming a landlord of a furnished rental in France, Wunderflats can greatly help.

                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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