If you want to come to France as a student, you probably have a relatively low budget for housing.

And Paris, unfortunately, is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Of course you want a place that’s liveable. Not too small, preferably in a nice neighborhood, and clean. Even better if it’s close to several metro lines and has a nice landlord.

And you’ve probably seen ads for such places on PAP and LeBonCoin, and maybe even on the site of an agency or two. Studio, 15 square meters, heart of the Marais, €650 + €30 charges.

So do these places really exist?

There are some reasonably priced apartments in Paris, so if you get really lucky, the answer is yes. But for the most part, the answer is no.


1) Scams. Many, many scams.

Nine times out of ten, if you find an ad for an apartment that seems too good to be true, it is.

Scammers like to post ads for nice apartments, with pictures that they’ve stolen off other websites, and list prices that are slightly below market value to ensure they get lots of responses. In many cases, they offer to meet you to visit the apartment, even through they’re currently traveling because their husband just got transferred to West Africa or Lorient (sic).

Unfortunately, these apartments don’t really exist, and so while it may *seem* like there are cheap apartments out there in good neighborhoods, replying to some of the ads will quickly reveal the scams. As you look at more and more apartment ads, your scam sense will develop and you’ll be able to avoid responding. (Pro tip: no phone number in the ad or the response is a big clue.)

It should go without saying that you should never transfer money to anyone via Western Union, especially if you haven’t signed a lease and gotten keys. And scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated, putting more effort into communications and enticing desperate people to send them a transfer.

2) No French co-signer or proof of income in France.

French law offers lots of protection to renters and very little protection to landlords if they don’t get paid. It takes a long time and a complex judicial process for a landlord to be able to kick out a renter who doesn’t pay the rent, so landlords are justifiably leery of renting to anyone without a guarantee and a co-signer.

Because landlords don’t want to get stuck with a mooching squatter, they take many precautions to ensure that they select the best applicant possible for their apartment. And it’s a seller’s market, so they can basically require anything they want and still get someone to rent from them.

The most common requirement is to have a co-signer in France who has a significant proof of salary and who is able to take responsibility for your rent if you don’t pay. Having a co-signer outside of France unfortunately doesn’t help, as this person would not be subject to French law, and it would be impossible for the landlord to sue and seize the funds in the case of non-payment.

Another common requirement is to have proof of sufficient income in France, earning at least 3 times the rent. And even if you do have a salaried position, you’re competing for apartments with French applicants who have all of the requested paperwork.

In other words, without a French guarantor and proof of sufficient resources, you’re not going to “win” the highly competitive reasonably priced apartments.

3) Location saisonnière.

I’ve talked on here before about the travesty that is “location saisonnière,” or the illegal practice of renting out furnished apartments for short term leases (defined by French law as less than 1 year). The fact is that if landlords are going to rent to foreigners, they’re going to do so in a way that maximizes their profit and minimizes their risk – by operating as a hotel and charging tourists by the week.

Generally speaking, tourists aren’t going to exercise squatters’ rights and try to stay in the apartment, and the landlord gets to earn a lot more money by setting up the apartment as a luxury property.

Illegal in Paris, this practice limits the number of apartments available for reasonable rents – and often, when you see an apartment advertized in a nice neighborhood for €600, that’s €600 per week, not per month.

If you want to rent an apartment in Paris, then, you’ll have to set a realistic budget and spend tons of time combing through housing ads. You’ll visit a ton of places, get rejected for most of them, and hopefully, eventually find a place with a decent landlord. Most importantly, remember that you’ll pay a premium for being a foreign student, and budget accordingly.

And if you’d like our help with finding housing in Paris, be sure to check out Paris Unraveled’s Student Housing Service.

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