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What are my rights as a renter in France?

Reading time: 8 minutes
Finally! After searching and searching you’ve found your dream place to live. You probably can’t wait to pick up the keys but be careful not to rush. It’s important that you know your basic rights but especially when you’re in a new country. Before moving in make sure you’re up to date on yours when renting in France.

Your renter’s contract (“le bail”)

Before moving in you’ll be given a tenancy agreement where you’ll find your tenant’s rights. The French are famous for their bureaucracy, but le bail is a good thing for renters and French law is generally pro-tenant. The lease agreement is there to protect you and your landlord if anything goes wrong and to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to what is expected of you.

You have the right to a lease agreement in good form. It should specify…

  • The duration of the lease and the date the housing will be available
  • A precise description of the house from top to bottom, including outbuildings
  • A list of the common areas which you can use
  • How you pay rent; the cost (and the conditions of its revision – for example if there is a rent increase), the payment date (you generally pay month to month) and the deposit amount
  • A clause explaining the termination of the lease in the case of non-payment as well as late charges
  • Whether you need home insurance or not (under French law if your landlord hasn’t covered it for you it’s up to you to do it).

Both you and your landlord need to sign this agreement before you move in and it’s always best to keep a copy for yourself.


Your deposit and giving notice

Your notice period and the size of your deposit depends on which type of tenancy you take:

  • For a furnished rental your landlord can’t ask for more than two months rent (excluding charges) and you’ll need to give a month’s notice to vacate.
  • For an unfurnished rental the deposit can’t be more than a month’s rent (excluding charges) and the notice period can’t exceed three months.


Housing in good condition

The home you rent must be livable and the furniture and appliances mentioned in the rental agreement (dishwashers, ovens, cupboards, fridges microwaves and so on…) must be in a good condition and you must keep them in the same condition until you leave the property.


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Remember: whilst routine maintenance is the tenant’s responsibility, it’s the landlord who’s responsible for keeping the housing in good overall condition


Rent receipts

As a tenant you can ask for a rent receipt from your landlord each month. Legally, property owners must provide this free of charge.

It must detail all costs paid by the tenant and separate rent from other charges (like utility bills).


What if my landlord wants to sell the house? Or passes away?

Your landlord may want to sell the property but this doesn’t mean that they can kick you out overnight. Your landlord is obligated to give you notice (three months for a furnished rental, six months for unfurnished) if the contract is to be terminated.

In the event that your landlord passes away and somebody else inherits the home you are still entitled to the same notice period, you don’t need to worry about an immediate eviction due to the change in circumstance.


Can my landlord…

Enter my house without permission?

No, as a renter in France once you’ve signed the lease and moved in the landlord can’t enter your home without your permission. To do so would be illegal and you could take legal action against them for trespassing. There are some cases in which the law requires the renter to let the landlord in but this does not mean they can enter without your permission. For example if you’re moving out and you’ve given your notice the landlord or letting agent is entitled to right of access for the purpose of finding a new tenant or for resale. To do this though each visit must…

  • Not last longer than 2 hours on a working day
  • Not be on a Sunday or a bank holiday
  • Be agreed between the owner and the tenant

The landlord can’t enter without your permission or when you’re not at home. They can’t force you to give them a set of keys either but if you do give them your key they can only enter your home during periods that you’ve authorised in writing.


Stop me from redecorating?

Who doesn’t like to make a place their own?

You might want to paint the walls and change the carpets but it’s always best to check with your landlord before making any changes like these as they can ask that  the property is restored to its original state at the tenant’s expense. When getting permission from a landlord it’s always best to do so in writing so that you have proof in the case of a dispute.


Stop me from running a business from my rental?

Entrepreneurial spirit is never a bad thing but if you intend to run a business from your home it’s always best to check with your landlord and the local council too (le conseil municipal) before going ahead. They will be able to advise you on local laws and regulations so that you can make sure everything is above board. Usually you can’t run a business from your rental if it means you’re receiving goods or customers and you need planning permission if you intend to turn a home into business premises.


Forbid pets?

The short answer is no – you’re free to move in without being deprived of your furry pal’s company. The only instance in which your landlord can ban a pet is if it’s perceived as dangerous (which includes some dog breeds). Don’t forget – you’re responsible for any damage caused by your pet.


Stop someone from living with me?

You reserve the right to accommodate friends or family even if they are not mentioned in the lease as long as you’re not charging them to live there – your landlord can’t prohibit this. If you get a roommate they’ll need to be named on the lease – if you’re charging somebody to live at your home without permission (even if they’re friends or family) this is known as subletting which is illegal and violates the terms of the contract– read more about that and other rights and responsibilities here


Most renters get by without any problems so don’t worry – it’s always good to know your rights as a tenant but hopefully you won’t need to use them.