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What Is Subletting, and How to Rent to a Subtenant in France?

Find out about subletting, where a tenant rents out part or all of a property to another individual for a predetermined sum. Subletting in France involves complex legal and practical considerations, requiring meticulous attention to ensure all parties understand and agree to the terms. We'll guide you through this process to ensure a smooth and compliant arrangement.

1. What is subletting?

    2. How does subletting work?

      3. Legal Considerations and Permissions

        4. Frequently Asked Questions

        1. What is subletting?

        Subletting is when the tenant of a property rents out an apartment, a house, a room, a part of the apartment, or even an office directly to another person, who in return transfers them a sum of money defined beforehand by the two parties (the primary tenant and the subtenant).

        It’s widespread in big cities, particularly in Paris, where accommodation is difficult to find, especially for a short stay, and where your file needs to be extremely strong to rent with a landlord or use a real estate company.

        Flat-sharing vs. subletting

        People often confuse the terms flat-sharing and subletting, which differentiates the two. Flat-sharing means sharing an accommodation with several people and signing a contract directly with the landlord. In the case of a sublet, the tenant rents all or a part of his property to someone else.

        Depending on the lease’s terms, tenants are free to share or even rent out the property they’re currently renting to others. But when they earn from it, that’s when it becomes subletting.

        The important distinction is that the tenant subletting the property earns financial compensation. However, if tenants let friends or family stay in the property without receiving any benefit, it is not considered subletting.

        Conditions for subletting 

        It would be best if you respected some conditions. First, the landlord must agree in writing to sublet the property to a third person.

        Be careful. The rent of the sublet cannot, under any circumstances, be greater than the rent indicated in the lease/commercial agreement.

        In metropolitan areas, especially in Paris, tenants cannot sublet their principal residence for more than four months a year.

        Suppose you’re thinking of subletting your apartment to someone else. In that case, it’s crucial to evaluate if it’s large enough to accommodate another person and if sharing the rental costs would benefit your finances.

        Moreover, if you’re planning a vacation, subletting your apartment can be an excellent option to avoid paying rent while away.

        Considering all these factors carefully can help you decide about subletting your accommodation.

        Subletting is a fairly widespread practice in France, especially in student circles. However, it is not always well regarded in real estate because it can sometimes be bordered by illegality.

        Therefore, you must follow two basic rules: be well-informed about the laws in the field and be transparent with your landlord.

        Reasons why tenants sublet their space

        Signing a lease in Paris isn’t easy; it is why, by subletting, the main tenants make sure to keep the property they’re renting.

        Subletting is one way for tenants to make the most out of their living space. There are two forms of subletting that you can consider:

        1. The first is when you offer your vacant accommodation to a third party while you are away for an extended period.

        2. The second one is when you share your living space with another tenant in a shared apartment. This type of subletting can be a fantastic way to split rent and utility costs.                                                                                            

        2. How does subletting work? 

        The primary tenant collects the money from the sublet and continues to pay the rent owed to the landlord. If the subtenant were to pay directly to the owner, this sublet would become a shared apartment, which is no longer the same thing.

        There is often confusion between the two terms, and it is recommended that you understand the differences.

        Therefore, the tenant must create a sublease contract with the subtenant and present it to the lessor for approval.

        As a reminder, the law requires that you occupy a home for at least eight months out of twelve to be considered the primary tenant.

        Don’t underestimate websites such as Craigslist and Sublet.com. These are excellent sources for all types of renters, and they make it easy to get your ad in front of thousands of people in seconds.

        Regardless of where you find your tenant, you must proceed cautiously before handing over the keys.

        Once you find someone interested in your sublet, you must ensure they’re qualified. To protect yourself, have them sign a sublease rental agreement.

        Without a proper lease agreement, your subletter could tear down your entire apartment and leave you on the hook for the bill.

        Risks for the tenant

            • Failure to follow the proper legal process could expose the tenant to significant risks, such as difficulty taking legal action against the subletter in case of non-payment or property damage.

            • If the subletter decides to leave without notice or payment, the tenant could be left without a renter and any compensation.

            • The landlord is not legally tied to the subject; therefore, the tenant is responsible for any apartment deterioration or furniture deterioration by the subtenant and will have to face the consequences with their landlord.

            • Illegal subletting comes with heavy financial penalties that the tenant has to answer for.

            • If there are no written agreements between the tenant and subtenant, the tenant cannot sue the subtenant in case of violated terms (unpaid bills, unpaid damages, nuisances, etc.).

            • The tenant risks terminating the lease with the owner/landlord because of the subtenant.

          Advantages for the tenant

          Subletting can be a lifesaver in tight rental markets like Paris. Imagine this: you land your dream job in a new city, but you’re stuck in the middle of a year-long lease. Breaking the lease could hurt your credit, and who wants to keep paying rent for an empty apartment?

          Here’s where subletting comes in. You can find someone to take over your lease for a set period, allowing you to fulfill your obligations without the financial burden. It’s a win-win: you avoid a credit hit and wasted rent, while someone else gets a temporary place in a desirable location.

          While subletting can be a great solution, it’s important to remember that you will first need to get your landlord’s permission to sublet.

          When done legally, subletting has many benefits for the tenant:

              • The rental duration is more flexible, depending on the agreement between the tenant and the subtenant.

                • It can be very advantageous for cities like Paris to be able to sublet, as many people only need a temporary home for a few months (for example, while they’re doing an internship, training, or short-term work contract).

                  • When you’re the primary tenant of a rental unit, you can spread out the cost of your rent over time.

                    • You can leave without worrying about paying for a unit you aren’t using and leave your belongings there.

                      • Plus, the unit remains occupied when you’re away, lessening the burglary risk.

                        • Even when you’re not there, the landlord still receives rent.

                          • If you have a sub-tenant, they can benefit from APL and other housing aids if they have a rental contract with you and the landlord agrees.

                            • And, if there’s an emergency, your sub-tenant can find a temporary solution.

                          What are the advantages for subtenant?

                              • The subtenant gets to stay in temporary accommodations while they’re in the process of looking for a new residence. 

                              • Subtenants don’t have to pay a financial guarantee or agency fees.

                            What are the risks for subtenants? 

                                • The provisions laid out in French law do not apply to subtenants. They cannot enjoy the same rights and protection as the standard tenant. 

                                • Unwritten contracts and agreements are also standard in subletting, which comes with its own risks (scams, no proof of payment, etc.).

                                • If the standard tenant’s lease ends, the subtenant also loses the right to stay in the property.

                                • There is no direct and legal relationship between the subtenant and the owner, so the landlord can’t directly communicate with the subtenant.

                                • The primary tenant can legitimately request a security deposit from their subtenant(s). Although this is not a legal obligation, tenants who intend to sublet the property can also set the exact requirements. 

                              3. Legal Considerations and Permissions

                              Is subletting legal?

                              Many people believe that subletting is illegal and that Parisians do not have the right to sublet their property. This is not true. Subletting is legal where the law allows it and the landlord allows it.

                              If it is done without the landlord’s consent, subletting poses risks for the tenant.

                              Undeclared subletting can turn sour if the subtenant decides to go against the rules. It will be difficult for you to sue the subtenant if they do not pay their share of the rent or if they cause damage to the apartment.

                              The subletter can also leave the sublet overnight without giving notice or paying what is owed to you.

                              In many cases, the subtenant is in a favorable position in an illegal situation.

                              The legal framework surrounding subletting

                              In France, tenants can sublet their apartments partially or entirely by receiving written permission from the landlord. When subletting, you must send an official letter to your landlord stating your reason for subletting, information about the flat, and duration.

                              Also, you can’t sublet it for higher than the original rent price.

                              Remember that subletting without the landlord’s approval leads to termination of the rental agreement and massive fines.

                              Special regulations regarding social and low-rent housing

                              These apartments are offered at below-market rates to help those struggling financially. To ensure these options reach those who need them most, subletting is generally not allowed. However, there are some exceptions.

                              Organizations dedicated to supporting vulnerable groups, such as students, people with disabilities, or senior citizens, may be allowed to sublet these units. This allows them to connect those in need with affordable housing options.

                              Subletting to someone who qualifies for low-rent housing themselves might also be permitted, with approval from the housing authority. This ensures the unit stays occupied by someone who meets the income requirements.

                              In summary, although the general rule prohibits subletting low-rent housing to prevent misuse of subsidized housing, exceptions are in place to serve the needs of vulnerable groups.

                              Lease agreement clauses related to subletting

                              The owner/landlord can decide whether or not to allow the tenant to sublet the property. They reserve the right to refuse if they do not want to grant permission.

                              But if they allow the subletting of their property, they must confirm and submit it in writing. The owner/landlord also has the right to set the rent amount for the sublet.

                              For example, if you plan to sublet your property for short-term holiday rentals, you must register with your local town hall and pay any required tourist taxes.

                              Remember, that the rent you charge your subtenant is not more than what you’re paying your landlord.
                              This will prevent any unfair profit from the sublet arrangement.

                              Moreover, the tenant must declare all revenue from the sublease to the tax authorities. Tenants risk a tax reassessment if they fail to report their sublease income.

                              Note: In the bigger French cities, especially in Paris, you can only rent out your primary residence on a holiday lease for a maximum of 120 days (approximately four months). In addition, you must declare the holiday lease (and subletting if this is the case) to City Hall. 

                              Airbnb and subletting

                              A court recently fined a tenant 5000 € for renting on Airbnb without his owner’s agreement.

                              Under French law, it is perfectly possible to be a tenant and rent Airbnb or, in other words, to sublet Airbnb. But before you start, you must make an official request by registered letter or bailiff to the accommodation’s owner.

                              Once you have requested, waiting for their written authorization is imperative.

                              An oral agreement is not enough because, in the event of a dispute, you have no physical proof. This is why exchanges must take place only in writing through the official channel.

                               When you sublease a property, can you receive APL (Personalised Housing Assistance)? 

                              There is only one case where the sub-tenant can receive the housing assistance.

                              According to the ELAN Law, tenants aged 60 and above can sublet part of their rented property to young people under 30. This is called Solidarity Intergenerational Cohabitation. In exchange, the subtenant pays part of the rent and performs specific tasks to help older adults with their daily lives. 

                              Under this arrangement, the young subtenant contributes to the rent. However, unlike traditional rental agreements, the subtenant is expected to perform specific tasks to assist the elderly tenant. These tasks might include help with grocery shopping, basic housekeeping, or simply spending time together for companionship.

                              This goal is to encourage intergenerational co-living and solidarity regarding housing.

                              Sublease Terms: Put It In The Lease!

                              No matter your feelings about subletting, all landlords should agree that including a sublet clause in their lease agreement template is necessary!

                              Sublet clauses can take on numerous directions depending on your needs:

                                  • Forbid sublets completely

                                  • Allow sublets, with the landlord’s permission

                                  • Permit limited sublets under specific circumstances

                                  • Approve sublets at any time

                                Many landlords keep their sublease clause straightforward; for example, “the tenant may not sublet the rental property unless I give written permission.”

                                4. Frequently Asked Questions

                                1. Can you save money by subletting? 

                                Certainly, tenants can economize by subletting their apartments. This practice enables tenants to earn an amount that covers all or part of the rent they owe to their landlord during periods they’re not occupying the property, such as during vacations.

                                Subtenants also benefit financially, typically enjoying lower rent compared to standard lease agreements without the burden of paying a security deposit or agency fees. This is particularly beneficial in cities like Paris, where rent savings are crucial for groups such as French or international Erasmus students and interns, who often have shorter stays in the city.

                                2. Is using vacation rental services the same as subletting?

                                It’s important to distinguish between subletting and using vacation rental services like Airbnb. Unlike Airbnb, which calculates prices nightly for shorter stays and leads to higher costs, subletting involves longer durations and monthly rent calculations, making it a more economical choice for those staying in Paris for more than just a few days.

                                3. Is an illegal sublet risky?

                                Subletting is indeed very risky when it is illegal. If you do this, your landlord could take legal action to declare the sublet invalid. This could lead to several problems for you, including being evicted from the apartment entirely, having your lease terminated early, or even being forced to pay for damages caused by the subtenant.

                                Even short-term rentals through Airbnb or similar platforms can cause trouble if you don’t get your landlord’s authorization first. This risk is especially high in big cities like Paris, where city officials and housing associations are vigilant about unauthorized subletting.

                                4. How to avoid scams?

                                Among all the subletting offers in the capital and other French municipalities, some can be scams or risky if they are illegal. So, how do you avoid taking risks and choose a suitable sublet? 

                                First, avoid people who ask you to transfer to foreign bank accounts, often before you have even visited the premises. Instead, choose a reliable company for a short-term sublet or the leaders in furnished flat-shares offering more extended stays.

                                5. How to prevent subletting?

                                Landlords must include a clause prohibiting sublets in their lease to prevent tenants from subletting their apartment rental. Subletting is also only allowed with the owner’s prior written authorization.

                                Conduct thorough reference checks on tenants (as we explained in Required documents for renting) before agreeing to a tenancy. This includes verifying their identity and employment status and checking their previous rental and financial history.

                                6. What should you do as an apartment owner if your tenant sublets your apartment?

                                First, prepare all supporting documents, such as updating tenant contacts, collecting property and income tax statements, copying the lease agreements, and taking photos of the property that show more occupants than the lease lists.

                                Second, a bailiff should record the sublease.

                                Then, in severe cases, you can decide to evict the tenant and sub-tenants immediately, but there are also other resolution methods, such as mediation.

                                They should incorporate appropriate language in the contract, thoroughly vet potential renters, mandate renter’s insurance, perform periodic evaluations, and assist with the eviction process if someone violates the contract.

                                You must not leave managing a property and ensuring its smooth functioning to chance; it requires proactive and assertive management.

                                Valuable resources for subleasing an apartment:

                                  Subletting can be a complex process, and it’s essential to approach it with caution and care. You must consider all legal obligations and ensure that all parties involved are on the same page.

                                  At the end of the day, open communication is vital to ensuring everyone’s needs are met and that the arrangement is beneficial and compliant.

                                  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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