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Tenant Lease Breaches in France: What New Landlords Should Know

Explore the typical reasons behind lease breaches by tenants in France, including failing to pay rent and misusing the property, and understand how landlords can respond through legal procedures such as notice letter, mediation and legal actions.
Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash

    1. Common Breaches of Lease Agreements by Tenants
    2. Legal Steps to Address Lease Breaches
    3. What does the notice letter of leave have to say?
    4. What is the notice period?
    5. How do I write a formal notice for unpaid rent?
    6. To whom should I send the notice letter?
    7. How do I send the notice letter?
    8. Conditions for Tenant Protection
    9. Legal Resources and References for Further Assistance
    10. Protections for landlords who are victims of unpaid rents
    11. Case study
    12. Eviction Process

     

    The property owner has the right to reject a lease extension. That is, the landlord or landlady has the power to 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. The landlord must issue a notice letter to inform the tenant why they won’t renew the lease.

    If a tenant breaches the agreement, the landlord/landlady can take legal action to recover possession of the property.

    1. Common Breaches of Lease Agreements by Tenants

        • Non-payment of rent;

        • Subletting without permission;

        • Unauthorized use of the property;

        • Damage to the property;

        • Disturbance of neighbors or other tenants;

        • Failure to comply with other specific terms of the lease.

      2. 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.

            Consider an engagement of various professionals (e.g., avocat, huissier).

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

            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 it is essential to follow the process using a professional who fully understands the system.

            3. What does the notice letter of leave (lettre de résiliation de bail) have to say?

            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.

              4. What is the notice period?

              The notice period is the length of time that the landlord gives to the tenant before terminating the lease agreement. The minimum notice period (called le congé) that a landlord must give depends on whether the letting is furnished or unfurnished.

              Unfurnished Letting – Six months

              Furnished Letting – Three months

              However, if you don’t give notice during this period, the rental agreement will be automatically renewed for another term.

              5. How do I write a formal notice for unpaid rent?

              Unlike the first reminder, this late rent notice must be clear in form and content, as it has legal weight. The formal notice letter for due rent must be date-stamped, and the subject, the recipient (tenant), the sender’s contact detail (owner), and a payment deadline must be specified. 

              For example, the letter of formal notice for unpaid rent must include the following essential details:

                  • The amount of rent due (rent and rental charges)

                  • The amount overdue (number of months)

                  • The payment deadline.

                  • Penalties incurred

                  • The letter should also give clear notice of the potential consequences of non-payment, such as:

                  • A right to terminate the lease;

                  • Expulsion of the tenant;

                  • Legal action to recover the sums due if the tenant fails to pay within the deadline.

                It’s advisable to have a professional lawyer draft the formal notice for unpaid rent. In the meantime, here is an accessible copy.

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

                The huissier should manage the letter from the landlord to the tenant to ensure that all elements comply with the law and that the correct terminology is used throughout.

                Long before employing the services of a huissier, the landlord must start gathering records, proof, and correspondence that can help to support the case if the worst happens. 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.

                6. To whom should I send the notice letter?

                You must send the letter of leave to the tenant:

                    • Either by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt;

                    • Or by act of commissioner of justice (formerly act of bailiff);

                    • 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.

                  7. How do I 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:

                  Name
                  Address
                  City, Postal Code
                  Phone Number 
                  Email Address
                  Date
                  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.

                  Sincerely,

                  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.

                  If you merely change the lock to avoid legal proceedings, the tenant may sue you. You risk being fined by the court and ordered to allow the tenant to stay (even if the rent is unpaid).

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

                  8. Conditions for Tenant Protection

                  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.

                  Additionally, the tenant may receive protection if they meet at least one of the following conditions:

                  Tenants under 65 years of age at lease expiration – While French law does not explicitly grant blanket protections based purely on being under 65, the protections for these individuals are generally more about their socio-economic conditions. For instance, they may qualify for certain protections if they have low income or are vulnerable.

                  Tenants over 65 years of age at lease expiration – French law provides more robust protections for tenants over 65, especially if they have low income or no other available housing options. Landlords cannot quickly evict these tenants without providing suitable alternative accommodation. This design aims to provide stability and security in housing situations for older tenants, who may be particularly vulnerable.

                  Lastly, this rule applies to both unfurnished and furnished lettings.

                  These protections balance the rights of tenants and landlords, ensuring fair handling of evictions and addressing the needs of more vulnerable populations.

                  9. 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

                      • Law No. 89-462 of July 6, 1989 Article 15: This law, often referred to as the “Loi de 89” or “Loi Mermaz,” governs residential leases and provides detailed provisions on the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants, including the conditions and notice periods for lease terminations. Legifrance allows access to this and other laws in French.

                    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.

                      10. Protections for landlords who are victims of unpaid rents

                      Since the implementation of Law No. 2023-668, dated July 27, 2023, all rental agreements signed after July 29 must have a clause for termination if the tenant doesn’t pay rent, charges, or the security deposit. If a renter doesn’t pay their rent as agreed, the landlord can ask the justice commissioner to give the renter a payment order. Following that, the tenant then has six weeks to settle their debts. The landlord can take the matter before a protection litigation court to end the lease and issue an eviction order.

                      A renter may be fined €7,500 if they stay in the property for more than two months following an eviction order. However, this penalty is waived during winter breaks if a ruling permits them to remain despite the eviction process.

                      Our information guide, How to Reclaim Unpaid Rent in France in 7 Steps, explores detailed approaches for landlords to manage situations when tenants miss their rent payments.

                      11. Case study

                      Here’s a real-life example of how a landlord can handle tenant breaches.

                      Problem: I’ve been renting an apartment in France. The lease specifies that up to 2 people can reside there. However, three more friends have moved in with me over the months. I’m concerned about the consequences. Could I face eviction? Could I be charged extra for this situation?

                      Answer: The laws in France are pretty clear regarding rental relationships. They fall under the broader “overcrowding” category, and specific laws govern them.

                      According to Law No. 89-462 of 6 July 1989, there are stipulations regarding overcrowding. Article 6 of the law states that landlords must ensure tenants enjoy their property peacefully and use the property agreed upon in the lease as their residence only.

                      Also, Article 8 specifies that tenants should not disturb neighbors or fellow tenants in the building; overcrowding could breach this provision.

                      Therefore, if your lease agreement permits two occupants and you have allowed three extra friends to reside with you, it may violate the lease terms. In such a scenario, the landlord could have grounds for terminating the lease agreement.

                      12. Eviction Process

                      Evicting tenants involves lengthy procedures, complex legalities, and significant expenses. For instance, landlords are limited to three reasons for reclaiming their property: reclaiming for personal use, intention to sell property, and violation of lease terms.

                      You may wonder what some examples of legal grounds are for a landlord to evict a tenant in France. Well, some of them are:

                          • Non-payment of rent and charges.

                          • The landlord must recover the property for personal use or significant renovations;

                          • Subletting without permission;

                          • Allowing people to live in the property not listed on the lease agreement without the landlord’s permission;

                          • Causing significant damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.

                          • Using the property for illegal purposes, such as drug production or other criminal activities;

                          • Repeatedly causing noise or disturbances affecting the neighbors or the building’s peaceful environment;

                          • Using a residential property for commercial purposes without the landlord’s consent;

                          • Failure to perform required maintenance or repairs that are the tenant’s responsibility leads to deterioration of the property;

                          • Making unauthorized alterations or additions to the property;

                          • Not allowing the landlord access to the property for necessary maintenance or repairs;

                          • If the lease has specific clauses regarding pets (e.g., no pets allowed) and the tenant violates these terms.

                          • Not vacating the property upon lease termination or not following agreed-upon conditions for leaving the property.

                        We can help you navigate further legal grounds for eviction by giving you an overview of the eviction procedure to ensure a lawful and efficient resolution.

                          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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