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How to Conduct Tenant Background Checks in France: A Guide You’ll Need

This article will explore the different types of tenant background checks in France, such as identity verification, employment history, and rental history checks. This includes understanding privacy laws, anti-discrimination laws, and data protection regulations.
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

     

    As a landlord, it’s not just about selecting tenants but about ensuring the safety and reliability of your property. This is why conducting thorough tenant background checks is crucial. It’s a proactive step that shows landlords’ responsibility and commitment to providing a safe and secure living environment.

    Conducting background checks on prospective tenants in France is not just about verifying their reliability and trustworthiness. It also involves navigating a complex web of legal considerations, including privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and anti-discrimination laws such as the French Equal Treatment Act, which must be respected.

    We will discuss the legal considerations landlords must consider when conducting tenant background checks in France. Stay tuned to learn more about this crucial aspect of the rental process.

    Different Types of Tenant Background Checks

    Landlords have a range of tenant background checks at their disposal to aid in making informed decisions. These checks span from basic screenings to comprehensive background checks.

    Landlords can use these tools to safeguard their properties while providing tenants with a safe and secure living environment.

    Regarding background checks, verifying tenant’s identity, income, employment (or legitimacy of the business), and tax notice is essential. While these checks can provide insight into a tenant’s history, they may not give a complete picture of a person’s financial stability or past behavior.

    Comprehensive screenings, on the other hand, offer a more thorough investigation, providing insights into a potential tenant’s trustworthiness and reliability.

    A Background Check: Steps

    Due to strict privacy laws and regulations in France, traditional background checks like those in some other countries (including credit scoring and comprehensive background reports) are not as freely accessible. However, there are some tools and services that landlords can use to assist in verifying the information provided by potential tenants:

    Conducting a background check for a tenant in France involves several steps, primarily focused on ensuring the prospective tenant’s reliability and financial stability.

    Here’s a general guide on how to proceed:

    1. Rental Application

    To find the right tenant, you can ask them to complete a rental application. The application form should ask for basic information like their full name, previous address, place of employment, and references.

    Typically, landlords require renters to provide proof of income that is three or four times higher than the rent or to have a guarantor who can cover three or four months of rent or both. These strict rules lead many to use fraudulent documents, including fake payslips, to convince landlords to rent to them.

    One way for landlords who are looking to streamline rental application process is DossierFacile.fr. It’s a French government platform that allows tenants to assemble and submit all required documents online.

    This initiative aims to prevent fraud and illegal use of documentation, thus enhancing transparency for landlords.

    It’s a great way to save time and effort, and having a pre-verified dossier can help tenants to stand out and reduce paperwork at property viewings.

    So, if you want to make rental application process smoother and hassle-free, DossierFacile.fr is definitely worth checking out.

    2. Proof of Income

    To ensure your tenant has a stable income, ask for their last three months’ salary slips (bulletins de salaire). Also, requesting a copy of their most recent tax return can give you an idea about their financial health.

    The Income Tax Notice Verification Service (SVAIR) is an online service that allows you to verify the authenticity of an income tax or a tax notice submitted by a third party.   

    In order to ensure the confidentiality of all users’ tax information, the verification of a tax notice requires entering two identifiers appearing on the document, which are:

       

        • The tax number

        • The reference to the tax notice

      3. Identification

      To confirm the tenant’s identity, ask them to provide a valid ID, such as a passport or national identity card.

      In order to verify the identity of the tenant:

         

          • Ask to see their ID and compare it with similar documents to see if there are any mistakes

          • Check the social security numbers (the number is written on their payslips)

          • The first digit corresponds to their sex (1 for a male, 2 for a female), and the 2nd and 3rd digits of the social security number correspond to their year of birth. 

        For instance, in case that the tenant is 23 years old and hands over a pay slip with a social security number starting with “2 84” it means that the number indicated is false.

        4. Residence Permit (for non-EU tenants)

        Verifying if a non-EU citizen tenant possesses a valid residence permit before leasing a property to them is imperative. This will ensure the tenant can legally stay in France throughout the lease period and avoid legal complications for both parties.

        5. Renter’s Insurance

        One helpful way to evaluate a prospective tenant’s reliability is by checking whether they have previously held renter’s insurance. Insurance providers, such as MAIF or AXA, offer services that can verify a tenant’s rental history with their consent.

        Alternatively, when insurance companies provide Unpaid Rent Guarantees (GLI), they meticulously review the rental file to ensure that everything is in order. If a document in the file is found to be falsified insurance companies may refuse to provide compensation.

        6. Online Rental Application Platforms

        Did you know there are some helpful platforms out there for landlords in France? For instance, BailFacile, Unkle, and LocService make it easy to collect rental applications and all the necessary documents online.

        The best part is that these platforms also have features to help validate the information provided by tenants, all while staying within the legal framework of French law.

        7. Documents you cannot insist on

        It’s worth noting that, surprisingly, there are certain documents that can not be available upon request, such as a reference from a previous landlord confirming the absence of any outstanding rent arrears.

        The other documents you cannot insist on include the following:

           

            • Social security card;

            • Employer reference;

            • Authorisation to pay rent by direct debit;

            • Divorce judgement or marriage contract;

            • Medical records

          It is advisable to consider obtaining multiple pieces of original evidence (not photocopies), such as salary slips and income tax returns, to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information.

          8. Credit Check

          In the US, for example, late rent payments can negatively impact a tenant’s credit score. On the other hand, France doesn’t have a credit score system, so late rent payments don’t have a direct effect on credit.

          Instead, they rely on the tenant’s financial documents to assess their financial reliability.

          Commonly used methods and services involved in checking the financial standing of potential tenants are:

             

              • Proof of Income

              • Guarantors

              • Rent Payment Insurance (Assurance loyers impayés – ALI)

              • Tenant Screening Services

            However, there are other serious consequences of late rent payments in France.

            To rent an apartment in France, tenants are required to provide their past three months’ rent receipts. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you pay your rent on time to make sure you have the necessary documentation when looking for a new apartment.

            9. Guarantors

            If you’re looking for ways to secure your rental agreement, especially if you’re unsure about the tenant’s financial situation, you can ask for a guarantor. A guarantor signs the lease with the tenant and agrees to pay the rent if the tenant cannot.

            10. Professional Verification

            Employment verification ensures that the tenant has a stable source of income to meet rent obligations.

            Whether the tenant is an employee or a contractor, it is possible to verify the company on Société or Infogreffe

            It is sufficient to indicate the SIREN number (first 9 digits of the SIRET number mentioned on the payslips) to have access to this information.

            At the same time, do not hesitate to call the company for some information.

            Verifying a tenant’s employment status directly with their employer in France is legally permissible, but due to privacy regulations, it requires the tenant’s explicit consent.

            This consent should specify what information can be discussed (e.g., confirmation of employment, job title, and perhaps duration of employment).

            11. Guarantor Services

            Some tenants may need extra help getting approved for a rental property. That’s where services like Garantme and Unkle come in. They offer guarantor services to tenants who may not independently meet all the financial requirements.

            These services evaluate the tenant’s financial situation and provide a guarantee to the landlord.

            12. Legal Compliance

            Lastly, it’s essential to follow all French laws and regulations, including data protection (GDPR) and discrimination.

            Any data obtained must be handled according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which includes ensuring that the data is collected for legitimate purposes, secured appropriately, and not kept longer than necessary.

            Respecting the tenant’s privacy and rights is crucial when you collect personal information. Adhere to all applicable laws and regulations regarding data handling and discrimination.

            It’s vital to ensure everyone feels safe and secure when sharing their personal information with us.

            Legal Considerations for Tenant Background Checks

            1. Data Protection and Privacy

            General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to landlords. This regulation requires landlords to legally, transparently, and securely handle personal data.

            To comply with GDPR guidelines, landlords must inform tenants about the personal data they collect, the purpose of the collection, how long the data will be stored, and the tenants’ rights concerning their data.

            Also, tenants can access, correct, and delete their data.

            Overall, GDPR is a positive step towards ensuring personal data is handled ethically and transparently.

            2. Consent

            It’s important to note that tenants must provide explicit consent for collecting and processing their data. This consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous. By giving consent, tenants can ensure that their data is being used in a way that they are comfortable with.

            3. Purpose Limitation

            Landlords can only collect data necessary for specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes. This means collecting only the information needed to assess the tenant’s ability to pay rent and comply with the lease terms. For example, landlords may collect employment details to verify income or references from previous landlords to assess reliability.

            4. Credit Checks

            In France, landlords cannot access their tenant’s credit reports or scores. Instead, they must rely on other documents, like income proof, tax returns, and bank statements, to assess their financial stability.

            It’s a bit different from other countries, but it’s all part of the process of making renting fair and accessible to everyone.

            5. Non-Discrimination

            In France, it is strictly forbidden to discriminate based on factors such as race, color, sex, ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. This means that when landlords select tenants, they must base their decisions solely on factors that relate to the tenant’s ability to meet the lease obligations.

            6. Documentation

            Landlords usually require tenants to submit documents like proof of income and ID for rental properties. However, avoid requesting overly personal information, as it might be considered too invasive unless there’s a clear justification for it.

            7. Retention of Data

            Any personal data collected from tenants should only be kept for as long as necessary for the purpose it was collected. As a friendly reminder, landlords should have clear policies on how long they keep tenant data and how they securely dispose of it after use to protect everyone’s personal information.

            8. Right to Housing

            France considers access to a safe and comfortable home a fundamental right. This means any actions or policies that unfairly prevent people from accessing housing could be evaluated based on this principle.

            Make sure that you’re following the legal requirements when screening tenants. This will protect the tenants’ privacy and rights and shield you as a landlord from potential legal issues.

             It’s always a good idea to consult legal professionals to ensure your screening process complies with French law.

            Frequently Asked Questions

            What background checks are required for tenants?

            It’s common practice for landlords to request background information from potential tenants before finalizing a lease agreement. Typically, these background checks include verification of the identity, income, employment (or legitimacy of the business), and tax notice of the tenant. These checks help landlords ensure they rent to reliable and trustworthy tenants, which can lead to a positive rental experience for both parties involved.

            Why do landlords perform background checks on tenants?

            By conducting a background check, landlords can ensure the safety and well-being of other tenants and the property. It’s a great way to give everyone peace of mind and create a healthy living environment.

            Do all landlords perform background checks on tenants?

            Performing background checks is not a legal obligation for landlords. Yet, many landlords prefer to carry out such checks to ensure the safety of their properties and tenants. This practice helps them screen potential tenants and minimize risks associated with renting properties.

            What are the legal implications for tenants when they submit false documents?

            If a tenant submits false documents or includes them in their rental file, they could face serious legal consequences. Specifically, they are subject to a fine of €45,000.00 and a prison sentence of up to 3 years. In addition, they will be charged with fraud, which could result in fines of up to €375,000.00 and a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

            Can a background check impact my chances of getting a rental property?

            A background check can influence your chances of getting approved for a rental property.

            If a landlord consider that the prospective tenant does not have the means to meet their rental obligations then he/she is entitled to refuse to grant a tenancy.

            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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