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How to Actually Resolve Tenant-Landlord Disputes in France?

This post offers guidance on resolving rental disputes in France. It outlines three main approaches: advisory services, mediation, and legal recourse.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I Addressing Rental Disputes Effectively

1. Advisory Services

2. Mediation

Disputes & procedures

Conciliation procedure

    3. Legal Recourse

    II Conciliation procedure with the help of a third party

    III Where can you find legal assistance in France?

    IV Useful links

     

    I Addressing Rental Disputes Effectively

    The top three items on the list of rental disputes are security deposits, rental charges, and disruptive situations.

    Suppose the complaint concerns something other than the lessor not returning the security deposit. In that case, it usually involves a disagreement over what was agreed upon during the “inventory of the housing” or how much repairs should cost.

    The number of complaints about disruptive situations is also rising. The inadequate thermal resistance of the walls and windows, the malfunction of the heating system, etc., create difficult conflicts to solve.

    There are a few different ways to handle disagreements.

    Wherever possible, it makes sense to address issues directly, if only to avoid the emotional and financial costs that can occur when matters spiral out of control and get into the hands of third parties.

    If the issue cannot be settled amicably, three significant options exist.

    1. Advisory Services
    2. Mediation
    3. Legal Action

    1. Advisory Services

    There are three primary official advisory services.

    This is the official government housing advice agency, with offices in most towns of France.

    • County Consumer Protection Department (DGCCRF)

    The trading standards officers are based in your local prefecture.

    Legal advice centers are based in most main towns, some of which are free and others only accessible on a means-tested basis. These advice centers are called Conseil Départemental de l’Accès au Droit (CDAD).

    2. Mediation

    The Commission Départementale de Conciliation (CDC) is a government-sponsored mediation service. The CDCs are based in the préfecture.

    Generally, if you are considering legal action, you must first contact the CDC to settle the situation. It would be wise to speak to them first.

    Their decisions are not binding on either the landlord or the tenant. Therefore, their power to resolve conflicts has restrictions.

    Disputes & procedures

    Paris Mediation and Arbitration Center (CMAP) promotes mediation between landlords and tenants. This mechanism helps to avoid legal proceedings in renting disputes.

    The CMAP is competent to deal with disputes concerning:

    a) Inventory conflicts during moving in or out of the property;
    b) Rent re-evaluation at lease renewal for non-regulated rentals (e.g., second home, seasonal, business, commercial, rural, or on-site accommodations);
    c) Service charges.

    Conciliation procedure

    At least fifteen days before the conciliation session, the CMAP sends letters to both parties, summoning them to the meeting. Like many other mediation-conciliation processes, it is customary to show up in person with all the supporting documentation for the complaint.

    Nonetheless, one may have the assistance or representation of a lawyer. If you come to an agreement, the CMAP drafts a document summarizing the agreement’s contents. The parties’ signature on this document will give it the same legal force as a contract.

    Should the parties be at odds, the Commission will make a decision in two months. In fact, if an agreement cannot be reached before the Committee, both parties may take the case to the Tribunal d’Instance (the French equivalent of a magistrates’ court that handles civil cases).

    Rarely does the CMAP decide totally in one of the two parties’ favor.

    How do you refer to a CMAP?

    There is no fee associated with the referral to the CMAP. The CMAP secretariat offices, represented by the “Direction Départementale de l’équipement” (services responsible for public facilities), receive a recorded letter in French with an acknowledgment of receipt that serves as the basis for this referral. The original complaint letter submitted to the opposite party and the rental agreement must be included in the file.

    3. Legal Recourse

    If disputes become abusive, unreasoned, and permanent, here are the solutions available: 

    1. Take the tenant/landlord to a district court (excluding winter break);
    2. Call the Commissioner of Justice.

    Note: The National Assembly of France adopted a new measure in favor of property owners/landlords to take immediate action in unpaid rent cases. This new measure:

    1. Allows them to terminate leases as soon as possible if rent hasn’t been paid.
    2. It helps diffuse the situation before it reaches the local courts.
    3. Helps avoid abuse of tenants and sets a precedent for an anti-squatting law. 

    Landlord’s options for resolving disputes without court intervention

    1. Appeal to the guarantors;
    2. Call on a guarantor body to set up a file and subscribe to unpaid rent insurance or “Unpaid Rent Guarantee (GLI)”;
    3. Contact Action Logement if the tenant has opted for the Visale guarantee;
    4. Reach to a bailiff.

    II Conciliation procedure with the help of a third party

    In the event of a conflict over a rental unit with a residential lease, engaging in a conciliation procedure with a third party (e.g., a Justice Conciliator) before referring the issue to a judge is often necessary.
    For instance, here are some scenarios for resolving disputes related to:

    1. Furnishing
    2. Lease
    3. Security deposit
    4. State of entry or exit

    Registered mail

    If you cannot communicate with your landlord or tenant, you may send them registered mail with an acknowledgment of receipt.
    The letter should summarize the facts as precisely as possible.

    You must include papers (legislation, rules, invoices, photographs, etc.) to support your remarks.

    Conciliation

    If you are not successful with registered mail, it may be helpful to initiate a conciliation with:

    1. Commission Départementale de Conciliation (CDC);
    2. A Justice Conciliator.

    Conciliation is always free of charge.

    The Departmental Conciliation Committee will be specifically responsible for compensation due to the renter or owner.

    However, if the dispute exceeds €5,000, you must refer it to either the Departmental Conciliation Commission (CDC) or a Conciliator of Justice before you may take your case before a judge.

    Send the case to the judge

    You can file a complaint with the protection litigation judge in the court that oversees the rented accommodation.
    When the disagreement first arises, you have three years to resolve it.
    This includes any disagreements that arise between a renter and his landlord (or his agent, such as a real estate company), including those about:

    • Unpaid rent or expenses;
    • The subscription for a home insurance;
    • Eviction.

    III Where can you find legal assistance in France?

    If you seek legal advice for free, there are many places you can turn to for help in France to have an answer to your legal issue or guidance in your legal proceedings:

    1. Avocats au service des victimes is available through the Parisian Regional Council of Access to Law. It mainly focuses on criminal and immigration affairs.

    2. Les Points d’accès au Droit de la Ville de Paris – These centers, representing the city hall of Paris, organize permanent sessions throughout the year. They are in Paris’s 13th, 15th, 18th, 19th, and 20th districts. They offer help with issues related to work, home, family, foreign and immigration law, consumer contracts, social protection, violence towards women, discrimination, and proceedings involving a French administration or organism.

    3. PAD Jeunes – Located at QJ, 4 Place du Louvre, it offers legal advice from an official delegate of the rights defender.

    4. Les Maisons de Justice et du Droit – Managed directly by the Ministry of Justice, these centers offer free, anonymous, and confidential meetings in Paris’s 10th, 15th, and 17th districts. They have a specific division for victims of criminal offenses.

    5. The Paris Bar Association – Lawyers of the Paris Bar Association volunteer to offer pro bono legal consultations in the city halls of each district and at the Judiciary Tribunal of Paris. They cover various legal issues, including family law, criminal law, employment law, and immigration law.

    6. Les Relais d’accès au Droit—These centers organize free, anonymous, and confidential sessions for legal issues. With more than 60 locations in Paris alone, they provide access to lawyers or attorneys to guide individuals needing legal help.

    IV Useful links

    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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