Everything You Need to Know About Renting an Apartment in France

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Perhaps your semester abroad turned into grad school in Europe, or a vacation fling with a cute local got serious. Maybe you just fell in love with the country, and decided that France was where you needed to be. Either way, now you’re there, and you need somewhere to live.

French bureaucracy is notoriously difficult to navigate, and that extends to accommodations. So it’s worth figuring out which category you fall into before beginning your search.

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Short-term rentals

If you need somewhere to stay for less than six months, don’t even bother renting. Airbnb will provide you with a number of options to fit your budget and length of stay, and this guide will give you a few things to look out for. For slightly more personalized or higher-end short-term rentals, you might try Plum Guide or Paris Perfect (which even has a fractional ownership option).

Students

If you are enrolled in a French university, you will need a guarantor, or garant, in order to secure an apartment. The garant will need to be a French resident who makes at least 3 times your monthly rent, and will need to vouch that they are financially responsible for your lease if you should default.

If you don’t have a guarantor, but you do have the funds upfront, you can always propose a caution de bancaire, where you put a year’s rent in escrow and withdraw from it each month to pay your rent.

There are a number of student residences throughout France if you want to be with others your age, but they tend to cater more to foreign students rather than French natives, who tend to live with family or rent their own apartments.

Employees of French Companies

If you are lucky enough to be employed by a French company, you will have a much easier time finding an apartment than if you are not. You will need to provide proof that you have a CDI (contrat à durée indéterminée), or full-time, salaried job, that pays you at least 3 times your rent, and you will need to provide recent pay stubs.

Where to look (French-language): SeLoger, LouerAgile

Where to look (English-language): FUSAC, Paris Attitude, Spot A Home 

Other

If you are not employed by a French company or enrolled at a French university, and you are looking for a long-term apartment rental, your options will be limited. Your best chance would be to try and rent directly through a landlord, as they are often more lax with requirements than rental agencies. Airbnb comes up again here as an option, as you can reach out directly to owners (who already have experience renting to foreigners), and see if they would be willing to offer a long-term lease on a listed apartment. And you’ll probably end up paying far less than the listed nightly rate.

Other direct rental arrangements can be found through PAP or Le Bon Coin (often referred to as “French Craigslist”). And of course, there’s always the good old fashioned OG Craigslist, which is available in a few cities including Paris and Lille. You’ll need to keep an eye out for postings, and be aggressive about contacting owners when you see something you like, or else it will probably disappear. Bring a friend to any showings, and listen to your gut if something looks sketchy.

What You Will Need

One of the critical tools you will need in your apartment search is your dossier, an application file containing (but not limited to): a copy of your ID (Carte de Séjour or passport), work contract, recent pay stubs, previous year’s tax documents, RIB (French bank account number), and rent receipts or a letter of attestation from a previous landlord. Be ready to write a check for first month’s rent, plus one month’s security deposit. It will probably help to have a French friend look over your application (especially when signing any paperwork), to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is being asked. This French government website explains what you can and cannot be asked to provide.

Need-to-Know Vocabulary

T1, T2, etc.: The number of rooms in an apartment, not including kitchen or bathroom(s). So a T2 is a one-bedroom apartment.

Appartement à louer: apartment to rent

Appartement à vendre: apartment for sale

Assurance habitation: rental insurance

Assurance loyer impayés: unpaid rental insurance

Caution: security deposit

Caution de bancaire: rental escrow account

+Charges: rental price may not include additional fees

Charges comprises (cc): charges included in rental price

Charges locatives: service and maintenance fees

Dépot de garantie: security deposit

Dossier: application

Frais d’agence inclus (FAI): agency fees included

Garant: guarantor

Honoraire: agency fee

Logement meublé: furnished apartment

Logement vide: unfurnished apartment

Loyer: rent

Immobilier: real estate

Pièce(s): room(s)

Featured image: Stock Photos from Worawee Meepian / Shutterstock