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Tenants’ Rights in France: The Most Important Facts to Know

Many tenants are unaware of their rights when signing a rental agreement, sometimes leading to their signing something unfair or illegal. So, we've assembled a guide outlining every tenant's rights in France.
Image by Jaye Haych on Unsplash
  1. Property has to respect space measures
  2. Apartment/house must be in good working order
  3. Repairs the tenant is responsible for
  4. Permission to make adjustments to the apartment
  5. Requesting evidence of payment
  6. Right to privacy
  7. Eviction from an apartment
  8. Duration of the lease agreement
  9. Tenant’s exclusive right to purchase the apartment
  10. Tenants are allowed to vacate the unit with a short notice
  11. Tenants’ rights in case the landowner passes away
  12. Rights relating to the security deposit
  13. During the winter, tenants can’t be evicted
  14. Use of apartment
  15. Rent Payment Method
  16. Prohibition of clauses absolving landlord responsibilities
  17. Tenant’s Privacy and Documentation
  18. Right to take legal action against landlords

 

Renters’ rights are heavily safeguarded in France, and evicting someone from a rental property is a complex legal process that requires valid reasons and court approval. While this benefits tenants, it also means that property owners need more and more guarantees, and finding a rental has become quite challenging.

1. Property has to respect space measures

 In France, an apartment must meet certain conditions to be legally rented. It should be at least 9 m2 and 2.2 m tall, have a window, can prepare warm meals, heating equipment, and a separate bathroom. Additionally, the building and the apartment must not threaten a tenant’s health and safety.

It is unlawful to rent a property if it does not meet all the abovementioned requirements.

2. Apartment/house must be in good working order

The landlord may only rent out their space when the apartment is in good condition and all equipment properly functions, such as plumbing, heating, and electrical systems.

Naturally, the apartment may require renovations; however, in this scenario, the landlord and the tenant can decide to lower the rent if the tenant takes care of the repairs. They should add a clause to the lease stating the renovations.

3. Repairs the tenant is responsible for

The landlord must maintain the flat in good shape or at least in the same condition as when it was rented out. That implies the landlord is responsible for covering any necessary improvements or repairs.

For instance, if the window’s roller shutter becomes stuck or the water boiler malfunctions. The landlord must also cover repairs to the building’s communal areas, such as the façade or corridor.

When an apartment has to be repaired, the landlord must notify the renter in advance, considering their privacy.

If the reparation work lasts longer than 21 days, the tenant can request a rent reduction because they cannot enjoy the apartment undisturbed.

If there is a dispute or disagreement between the landlord and the tenant, you can turn to The Departmental Conciliation Commission to find an amicable solution.

On the other hand, minor repairs and problems that have occurred due to misuse are the tenant’s responsibility. These minor issues usually don’t require a professional, just a good handyperson.

When a new tenant moves in, the landlord must document everything with notes and photos—a process known as the état des lieux—to prevent future confrontations. The état des lieux is a comprehensive document that both parties have signed detailing the condition of every room, furniture, and household item.

Also, the list of tenants’ rights and obligations is available at the Agence National pour l’Information sur le Logement (ANIL).

4. Permission to make adjustments to the apartment

Of course, the renter can improve the space they rent, such as applying a new coat of paint, adding shelving, hanging some artwork, or replacing the flooring. However, any significant alterations require the landlord’s consent. If in doubt (for example, if the tenant wants to paint the walls), it is better to ask the owner’s permission before doing the work. Still, tenants cannot make significant structural changes (like demolishing a wall).

The law on repairs is quite strict in France. A judge can force the landlord to make the repairs or impose rent reductions if the repairs are serious. If the landlord refuses to make the repairs, you can end the contract without notice.

It is generally agreed that when the tenant moves out, they need to restore the place to its original state, including repainting the walls to their original color and filling the holes in the walls.

5. Requesting evidence of payment

 The landlord must give the tenant a document called “quittance de loyer” that confirms the payment of rent, free of charge.

6. Right to privacy

The National Accommodation Agency of France (Agence National pour l’Information sur le Logement) states that the landlord cannot enter the unit without the tenant’s consent.

Once the tenant receives the keys, the landlord cannot access the rented property without permission. Also, the landlord cannot conduct viewings for future tenants on weekends, holidays, or for longer than 2 hours on weekdays.

The tenant has the right to reside in an apartment without interference from the landlord, even when the landlord controls the building. However, a state of emergency may bring unique situations, such as a gas leak, in which the landlord can enter the property.

7. Eviction from an apartment

The only significant and valid reasons for the landlord to evict tenants (with three/six months’ notice) are when they need to move in, wish to sell the property, or if the tenant breaches the contract (for example, stops paying the rent).

8. Duration of the lease agreement

In France, one-year contracts are typically made for furnished apartments. For unfurnished properties, the duration is normally three years for private owners and six years for real estate companies, developers, or other professional bodies. In France, mobility leases are suitable for students or business travelers.

After the lease expires, the tenant can stay in the property if the landlord hasn’t given those three/six months’ notice. The contract automatically renews for the same term when it expires without needing a redraft.

9. Tenant’s exclusive right to purchase the apartment

If a landlord has decided to sell their property, the tenant has the first right to refuse to buy it. Alternatively, he/she can accept the offer for the marketed price the landlord receives from any other buyer.

If a mortgage finances the purchase, the tenant has two or four months to agree to the sale.

The renter must again have first right of refusal if the landlord accepts a lower-priced offer after the renter chooses not to proceed. The landlord has to give the renter three months’ notice for a furnished apartment and six months’ notice for an unfurnished one if they decide not to purchase it.

 10. Tenants are allowed to vacate the unit with a short notice

Tenants in furnished apartments have a one-month general notice period. Specific circumstances, such as illness, unplanned job loss, or work relocation, can shorten this. The notice time for unfurnished apartments is three months unless the apartment is in a highly sought-after location.

In France, tenants can announce their departure anytime during their lease, but they must send it by registered post as an official signed notice.

11. Tenants’ rights in case the landowner passes away

 If a property changes hands, the new owner must honor the existing rental contract and cannot evict the tenant.

Your new landlord will inherit the apartment in the event of your landlord’s death. They may only ask you to vacate the apartment with a three—or six-month notice and only if they decide to sell it or move in.

12. Rights relating to the security deposit

To prevent unpleasant conversations later on, both parties should prepare a thorough inventory list before a new tenant moves in, simultaneously signing the lease. This document, referred to as the état des lieux, documents and details everything in the flat.

When a tenant leaves, this list is used to inspect the property, and any damage found will be deducted from the deposit.

Tip:

Take pictures of the apartment when you first move in, especially areas that may already be damaged, and take the same picture when you move out.

The deposit should not be more than one month’s rent for unfurnished properties or three months for furnished properties. The tenant does not need to pay for anything that they can prove they didn’t damage.

After expiry of the tenancy agreement or the move-out date, the deposit must be reimbursed after 2 months. If defects are found in the inventory when moving out (“État des lieus de sortie”), the amount of the refund may be reduced. Understanding that the deposit cannot be raised if the lease is renewed is crucial.

13. During the winter, tenants can’t be evicted

A winter truce known as “La trêve hivernale” prevents landlords from evicting their tenants between November 1 and March 31 of the following year as a humanitarian gesture.

While this comforts tenants, it also makes landowners reconsider leasing their property. Therefore, it is challenging for those with low earnings to secure housing because the landlord will be picky about who they sign a lease with.

14. Use of apartment

The tenant has the right to use the property as they see fit. This includes allowing others to stay at no extra cost and keeping pets. If the tenant asks the other person for compensation, it becomes subletting and requires the owner’s authorization.

15. Rent Payment Method

As a renter, you can refuse the landlord’s request to pay rent through automatic withdrawal from your account.

16. Prohibition of clauses absolving landlord responsibilities

Any lease agreement cannot include clauses absolving the landlord from responsibility and preventing the tenant from taking legal action against them, if necessary.

17. Tenant’s Privacy and Documentation

Landlords have to respect your privacy, and there are strict rules about how much they can know about your private life. For instance, landlords can’t ask you for documents such as identity pictures, bank statements, and criminal record extracts.

18. Right to take legal action against landlords

As a tenant, you have the right to take legal action against your landlord if they break the lease agreement. Also, if they fail to return your deposit, make unjustified deductions from your deposit, or neglect to make necessary repairs.

To successfully rent a property in France, it is crucial to have a strong understanding of the legal requirements surrounding the process. Consulting with a lawyer can provide valuable insights and advice to ensure a smooth renting experience.

Want to know more about renting in France, French tenancy agreements, and landlord responsibilities? Check out our articles How to rent an apartment in France: Step by Step Guide You’ll Need, The Ultimate Checklist for Tenants Renting In France, and Expert Guide to the Landlord Responsibilities in France.

Do you need help with finding your next new home? Wunderflats offers a various selection of furnished apartments for rent. We take care of finding your new home in France worry-free!

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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