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What kind of rights do you have as a tenant in France?

Updated: May 4, 2021

Everyone deserves to live at a decent place. It is not easy to find a new home, but that doesn’t mean you should take anything that you can get.

Relocation expat moving to Lyon France

1. Can’t be too small

Every apartment in France has to be at least 9 m2 with a height of at least 2.2 m to rent it out. Furthermore, it must contain a window, a possibility to cook warm meal, a heating equipment as well as a separate bathroom and toilet.

If the place doesn’t fulfill all the criteria above, it’s illegal to rent it out.

2. It has to be in a good condition

The landlord is only allowed to rent out his or her place if the apartment is in an overall good state and all the appliances are in order.

Of course, it can happen that the apartment needs renovation, but in this case, the landlord and the tenant can agree to lower the rent if the tenant is taking care of the repairs. They should add a clause to the lease, stating the renovations.

3. What kind of repairs have to be paid by the landlord?

The landlord has to maintain the apartment in a general good condition, at least on the same level when he or she rented it out. That means, if something needs to be repaired or improved, it is the landlord that pays it. For example, if the water boiler breaks or the roller shutter on the window gets stuck. The landlord is also obliged to pay for any renovation in the common area of the building, like the corridor or even the façade.

To respect the tenant’s privacy, the landlord must inform the tenant in advance about a repair in the apartment. If the reparation work is longer than 21 days, the tenant has the right to ask for a reduction of the rent, because he or she couldn’t enjoy the apartment undisturbed.

In case of a dispute or disagreement between the landlord and the tenant, they can turn to The Departmental Conciliation Commission (CDC) to find and amicable solution. The service is for free.

On the other hand, the minor repairs and problems that have occurred from misuse, are the responsibility of the tenant. These smaller issues usually don’t require a professional, just a good handy man.

Check out the list of rights and obligations of tenants and landlords from the Agence National pour l’Information sur le Logement (ANIL)

To avoid uncomfortable conversations, it is obligatory to take notes and photos of everything when a new tenant moves in, called the “état des lieux”. It is a detailed document signed by both parties, that describes the state of every room, furniture and home appliances.

4. Can the tenant renovate the apartment?

Yes of course, the tenant can improve the overall state of the place he or she is renting. For example, with a fresh coat of paint, hanging up some pictures, changing the carpet or putting up some shelves. In order to change the structure of the apartment by knocking down a wall, the tenant needs to ask for permission from the landlord first.

It is generally agreed that when the tenant moves out, he or she needs to turn back the place to its original state. Repaint the walls to their original color, fill the holes in the wall.

5. Asking for proof of payment

Landlords have to provide for free a so called “quittance de loyer” which proves that the tenant was paying the rent. The document should show the date and the amount of the rent, as well as if there was any additional cost for repairs.

6. Peace and quiet

According to the Agence National pour l’Information sur le Logement (France’s National Accommodation Agency) the landlord mustn’t enter the apartment without prior permission from the tenant. Special circumstances may occur in a state of emergency, such as gas leakage.

Even though, the landlord owns the apartment, the tenant has the right to live there undisturbed.

After the tenant has decided to end the lease and while the landlord is looking for a prospective new tenant, the visits have to be announced and approved in advance by the tenant who still lives there.

7. When can tenants be pushed out of the apartment?

The landlord has the right to vacate the property (with six months’ notice) only with a serious and legitimate reason, such as: the landlord needs to move in, they want to sell the place, the tenant was not paying the rent.

Converting the place to an Airbnb in not good enough for a reason.

8. What happens when the lease expires?

In most of the cases, leases for furnished apartments in France are signed for one year. For unfurnished ones, it is generally three years if the owner is an individual and six years if it’s a real estate company, developer or other professional body. For students there are also some nine-month lease contracts available in France.

The tenant has the right to stay in the property even after the lease has expired, if the landlord hasn’t given a six months’ notice. The contract is automatically renewed after expiry (for the same period of time), without the need for a redraft.

9. Tenant’s right to buy the apartment before others

If a landlord has decided to sell their property, the tenant has the first right to refuse to buy it or accept the offer for the marketed price that the landlord accepts from any other buyer.

The tenant has two months to accept and proceed with the sale, or four months if the purchase is being funded with a mortgage.

If the tenant decides not to proceed and the landlord then accepts another offer at a lower price, the tenant must once again be given first right of refusal. If the tenant doesn’t want to buy the apartment, the landlord must give the tenant three months notice for a furnished apartment and six months notice for an unfurnished one.

10. Tenants have the right to quit the apartment with relatively short notice

In furnished flats, the general notice period is one month for tenants and it can be reduced in certain cases such as illness, unexpected job loss or work relocation. However for unfurnished flats the notice period is three months, except if it is in a demanded area.

Tenants in France can announce their departure at any time during their lease, but it must be sent by registered post as an official signed notice.

11. What happens if the landlord dies?

Life is unexpected. If your landlord dies, the person who inherits the flat will become your new landlord. They can only ask you to leave with a six months period notice, and only if they wish to sell the apartment or move in themselves.

12. Important rights regarding the deposit

Before a new tenant moves in, the same time as signing the lease, both sides should write a detailed inventory list to avoid uncomfortable discussions in the future. This document is called the “état des lieux” where everything in the apartment gets listed and described.

When a tenant is moving out, the property is inspected with this list and the cost of any damage is taken away from the deposit. Tenants have the right to be refunded with the (total or partial) deposit within 60 days after the contract has expired and they have moved out. It is important to know that the deposit cannot be increased when the lease is renewed.

13. Nobody can be evicted in winter

As a humanitarian measure, there is a winter truce called “La trêve hivernale” that stops landlords from kicking their tenants out between the period of 1st November and 31st March in the following year. In 2021 this period is extended until 31stMay.

Nobody should become homeless and sleep rough on the streets during winter, even if they cannot pay the rent.

It is very reassuring for tenants, but this also means that landlors think twice before they rent their property out. They will choose very carefully with whom they will sign a lease, making it difficult for people who have modest incomes to find accommodation.

Do you need help with finding your next new home? Sojoourn offers Home Search services in Lyon as part of a relocation service for expats and French coming home.

Don't hesitate to contact us for more information or fill out our registration form and we will schedule a free Zoom call with you.

We take care of finding your new home in Lyon, worry-free!


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