Once you decide to rent an apartment, you must then consider whether you want a furnished or unfurnished home. Unfurnished apartments cost less, but be aware that unfurnished generally means no lighting fixtures, major appliances, towel racks, or even kitchen cupboards and counters in many cases. Sometimes these items can be purchased from former renters, but expect the bare minimum.In addition to your rent (loyer), you may also be responsible for monthly charges that cover the cost of some utilities, maintenance and repair of elevators and common spaces, and/or the services of a gardien(ne) or concierge. Make sure you verify whether these charges are included in the monthly rent (Cc or Charges comprises) or not. It is also important to know the approximate monthly cost for electricity, gas, water and heat. Take note that while the charges for the apartment which you pay on top of your rent are an approximation. You may receive an additional bill sometime throughout the year if the charges to take care of the building are more than the tenants have contributed. Very, very rarely, of course, is the approximation too high and money is due to the tenants!
Some apartment buildings provide underground storage units called caves. In modern buildings, these are usually real basement rooms that can be utilized for storing bulky items and off-season clothing, etc. Be aware, though, that the older buildings, the cave may be nothing more than a dirt floor with wooden fences secured with a padlock. In these cases, humidity, pests and rodents may make it impossible to store anything other than their original purpose, wine.
The Application Process
Although the procedure in renting an apartment in Paris is rather straightforward, it can seem like a great deal of paperwork. You will assemble a dossier of information which you will present to prospective landlords (or the real estate agent will present it on your behalf), which make the case that you are a responsible and financially stable tenant. The bare minimum includes:
- a copy of your passport and working papers,
- a copy of your work contract,
- a RIB (bank information slip, see ‘Banking’ for more information),
- and, if possible your last three pay stubs.
While the house-hunting process is not as cut-throat as New York City, for example, it can be difficult to secure housing. It is advisable to assemble your dossier and take it with you to any viewing so that you can leave it with the owner or agent if you are interested in the apartment. Giving your dossier does not legally bind you to the property, but shows interest and gives you the option of taking it if your application is accepted. Be aware that it can take anywhere from 24-hours to 2 weeks for you to hear if you have been accepted. Some French landlords are very particular about their renters and prefer to leave an apartment empty than to rent to someone about whom they are unsure.
In some cases, an apartment owner will require a bank guarantee. This is a sort of deposit. The equivalent of a portion of the rent, sometimes 6 months up to 12 months, is put aside in a bank account to protect the owner from a break in the lease, damages to the property, or any other dispute that may arise. While not especially common, as an expatriate with little proof of finances in France, you may be requested to agree to this. Some companies will take on this financial burden for their expats, as it can add up to a lot of money and be a huge inconvenience for an individual who would rather have such a large amount of money available and/or invested.
On the same note, while your company does not necessarily need to be involved, the process would be easier if they would undertake the lease by themselves and then ‘sublet’ the apartment to you. This is possible with certain companies, so be sure to check with your Human Resources department before your apartment hunting begins. It can also help to include a letter from your employer along with your work contract.
The Lease (Bail de location)
Unfurnished long-term apartments are usually leased for 3 years. They are automatically renewed unless notice is given by the tenant three months ahead of the expiration date. Less notice is required if the tenant is moving abroad, usually 30 days. To give notice, you must send a letter ‘en recommandee avec accuse de reception’ (a registered letter with proof of receipt). A tenant may only be evicted with six months notice for non-payment of rent, or if the owner is selling the apartment; a tenant may not be evicted for any reason between October and April.
The landlord will normally require a deposit (caution) of two months’ rent in addition to the first month’s rent in advance. More than this is illegal. You can pay your rent by check each month, or have it deducted directly from your bank account. The rent will increase each year by about 5%, which is regulated by law. There is also a taxe d’habitation (habitation tax) paid by the resident on January 1. This tax is set according to the value of the property. This will be sent to the apartment.
Either the real estate agent or a huissier (bailiff) will come to inspect the apartment before you occupy it and upon termination of the lease to verify the state of the premises. Make sure when you sign the ‘etat des lieux’ (inventory of the property) that all damages are indicated.
Renters are required to have property insurance. The most common policy is assurance multirisques habitation (multi-risk insurance), covering theft and water and fire damages, as well as third-party liability. Any damage must be reported to your agent within 3 days with a constat a l’amiable form.
Furnished apartments are abundant in Paris and can be rented by the week, month, or year. These rentals and their contracts (bail a usage d’habitation en meuble) are not strictly regulated. The rent usually covers the habitation taxes, building charges and insurance. Keep in mind, however, you are still responsible for insurance that covers property damage and personal liability. Ask the landlord to provide a detailed inventory and make sure that it matches what is in the apartment. Also, be sure to report in writing any problems with the apartment so that at the end of your stay, you will not be charged.
Prices for apartments vary wildly from 400 euros per month for a tiny student studio to six thousand euros or more per month for a luxurious flat. Current prices may be obtained by looking at the rental announcements on the websites proved in the ‘Finding a Home’ section.