My first apartment in Paris, 2008

Outside of my first apartment in Paris, 2008

The first time you rent an apartment in Paris, you might not know what to do.

Especially if you’re rent an apartment for the first time ever.

And that’s OK.

The laws are different, and you don’t know how to protect yourself, and you’re already having a rough time finding someone, anyone in Paris who will rent an apartment to you because you don’t have a French garentor and you’re ready to take whatever you can get.

Even renting from an agency doesn’t seem to help. The housing market is tight in the fall and it’s a landlord’s market, so you’re afraid that if you insist too much that your landlord “follow the law,” you’ll never find a place to live.

Don’t worry.

Wait a minute.

Before you sign any rental contract, especially in a foreign country, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities when you rent an apartment in Paris.

The last thing you want is to be charged illegally for having guests or to have a long, drawn out battle because your landlord won’t give you back your security deposit after two months and you’ve left the country. Even though laws protecting tenants are very strong in France, a study published in Le Parisien in 2010 found that many student apartment leases in France had at least one illegal or abusive clause.

As in the United States, French landlords are prohibited from discriminating against potential renters based on race, national origin, religion, affiliation, and a host of other obvious qualities, but unfortunately, it’s hard to cry discrimination when there are 50 people lining up and practically begging for a place to live.

Once you do get an apartment rental contract, you’ll want to look it over and make sure it respects these 13 conditions before you sign:

  1. The right to a decent lodging: closed, covered, and in good repair.
  2. The right to use your lodging as you see fit: a landlord may not prevent you from (or charge you extra rent for) hosting a friend, for example.
  3. The landlord cannot prohibit you from having pets of any kind.
  4. The right to pay only the agreed-upon rent and utilities. The landlord is required to pay for repairs and agency fees related to the rental (this does not include the finder’s fee, usually one month’s rent).
  5. The right to have the security deposit reimbursed no more than two months after returning the keys. The landlord may deduct outstanding utilities bills, fees for necessary repairs, and taxe d’habitation (renter’s tax) from the deposit. The landlord may not include the taxes foncières (property owner’s tax) in the fees.
  6. The right to a receipt, a ‘quittance de loyer,’ for all rents paid, which cannot be billed to you.
  7. The landlord cannot require you to allow him to hold a visit (for renting or selling the lodging) on holidays, or for more than two hours on workdays.
  8. The landlord may not require you to pay the rent by automatic withdrawal on your account, and the renter may not authorize it.
  9. The landlord may not require the renter to make advanced payments for repairs before the cost is assessed by both parties.
  10. The landlord cannot cancel the lease for reasons other than non-payment of rent, a security deposit, or the non-adherence to a renter’s insurance plan.
  11. The landlord cannot automatically assume the renter is responsible for any degradation of the lodging, or automatically assess fees to renters collectively for the degradation of something in a common area.
  12. The landlord cannot require you to pay for the état des lieux, unless it is carried out by a bailiff.
  13. The lease may not contain a clause absolving the landlord from responsibility and preventing the renter from bringing him to court if necessary.
  14. The landlord may not ask for more money than what is in the contract.
What to Do If your Apartment Lease Doesn’t Respect These Conditions
What do you do if your landlord includes a clause that says you can’t have a cat, or that you have to pay €30 per night if you have friends stay over?
Since these clauses are illegal, your landlord can’t enforce them.
Don’t jeopardize signing the apartment lease by pointing this out and potentially angering your landlord. But if they come up again, you can say (politely) that the apartment is your residence and that you have the right to use it as you see fit, which includes pets and house guests.
What to Do if Your Landlord Tries to Enforce a “Clause Abusive”
Normally, if you’re in the apartment, and you point out that something your landlord wants you to do is not so legal, he won’t push the issue.
But sometimes, he’ll insist you’re wrong and try to charge you anyway or stop by unannounced for “repairs” or “visits,” or harass you with late night phone calls until you pay for that heater that went out through no fault of your own. And sometimes, he’ll keep the entire security deposit for spite, and you think you can’t do anything because you’re not in Paris anymore.
Then what do you do?
The first step is to send a lettre recommandé with avis de réception to your landlord, explaining the issue and asking him to stop. Note that you’ll contact the DALO (information below) if the issue continues, to show that you know your rights and that you’re not going down without a fight.
At the very least, this provides a record that you tried to rectify the issue and shows that you’re not going to let yourself get pushed around. In many cases, simply suggesting that you’ll follow up on the issue will get him to stop. In many cases, the landlords are counting on you not knowing what to do.
If that doesn’t work, the next step is to contact the housing mediator in the department where you live. They are a free service all over France, and the mediators have experience resolving problems between landlords and tenants. If what your landlord is doing is really illegal, they should be able to send him a letter telling him so, and usually, he’ll stop.
You’ll have to send a lettre recommandé explaining the problem, attaching a copy of your lease, and asking for an intervention. You should also include a copy of the letter you already sent to your landlord, his reply (if it was written) or a summary of it (if it was not), and a copy of the recommandé slip showing he received the letter. You’ll provide your landlord’s contact information in your letter, so they can contact him for a reply.
If he doesn’t reply, or keeps harassing you, the next step will be to ask them to escalate it, and they’ll let you know whether your claim is legitimate and how you can file a suit against him.
The suit won’t cost very much if you represent yourself, as you’ll just have to pay for a timbre fiscal to file it at the Tribunal d’Instance. The mediation office will tell you what to do.
Send your lettre recommandé to:
Droit au Logement Opposable (DALO)
Préfecture de Paris
ATTN M. Daniel CANEPA (10/2008)
5, rue Leblanc
75911 Paris CEDEX 15
If you want to walk in to talk to someone, go to:
11 rue Leblanc
75015 Paris
Open Monday – Friday, 8:30 – 5:30
Closes Fridays at 4:45.
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