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Letting (Leasing) Your French Real Estate: What You Need to Know About Tenants

I help real estate and title insurance professionals improve their business practices.

Long Term vs. Short Term Lets

French lets typically come in two types. The long term, unfurnished let and the short term, furnished let. Each type of let will come with its own unique type of renter.

With the long term let, you will generally find your prospective tenants to be individuals and families looking for a home. They are citizens and permanent residents of France and work somewhere nearby. They may or may not speak a second language, so if you are a foreign investor you will need to consider communication. Long term renters will be looking for a good home with the space and facilities for living daily life. Letting to this type of renter is a long term commitment and will require extensive background checks to ensure they are the type of people you want living in your property.

With the short term let, you will generally find your prospective tenants to be business travelers or families on holiday. They may be residents of almost any country depending on where you have advertised. Short term renters will be looking for a great holiday location which is convenient to shopping, dinning and attractions. They will also be looking for amenities that provide all the comforts of home and maybe even some luxury. Letting to this type of renter requires very little commitment and risk on your part as they will not be in the property very long and may even be paying all of the rent in advance, but do not get lax in your background check. They will still have full access to your property and furnishings, so you will want renters who are respectful and trustworthy.

Finding a Tenant in France

You have two options when it comes to finding a tenant, advertise the property yourself or hire a professional. As a foreign investor, hiring a professional is the easiest solution.

When it comes to professional help filling a vacancy, you have the choice between a property manager or an estate agent. If it is your intention to use a property manager, you might as well bring them into the equation immediately have them fill the vacancy then manage it. An estate agent will find a tenant for you, but does not offer all the additional services or expenses of a property manager. While it may be good business for you to pay the cost of the estate agent yourself, French law offers a provision for the cost of the estate agent to be shared between the landlord and tenant.

Advertising your property yourself to find renters must be well thought out. Depending on your market, you may only need to place a small ad in the local newspaper. Alternately, you may need to advertise nationally or internationally in multiple newspapers, websites, and magazines. Long term, unfurnished lets will obviously require advertisements less often for presumably less duration. Short term, holiday lets will require almost constant advertising in a variety of venues.

Selecting a Tenant

French law provides a great deal of protection to tenants from eviction, so select your tenants carefully. Obviously, you will want to gather as much information about your prospective tenant as possible to make an informed decision, but French law even restricts which documents and information you are allowed to ask for.

Items you are not allowed to demand:

  • Reference from a previous landlord.
  • Photo ID
  • Social Security Card
  • Bank statements or bank reference
  • Authorization to pay rent by direct debit
  • Medical records
  • Employer reference
  • Marriage or divorce records

There is still plenty of information and supporting documents you can ask for such as pay stubs or salary slips, income tax return, employer references, etc. When you have these items, make sure you follow up, verify the document validity, and talk to all references.

If you are still concerned about a prospective tenant's ability to pay you can either refuse them tenancy, ask them to provide a third party guarantor, or obtain insurance against the non-payment of rent.

Tenancy Agreements for French Rentals

The tenancy agreement in France is formally called a contrat de location but more commonly is called a bail. French law does recognize a verbal tenancy agreement so be careful what you say to prospective tenants. In the case of a verbal tenancy agreement, the courts only recognize the bare minimum of clauses. A clear and concise, written agreement is always preferable.

In France, there are two forms of written contracts: the privately signed contract or contrat sous seing prive and the officially recorded contract called the contrat authentique. The privately signed contract is drafted and signed directly between private individuals. A lease or tenancy agreement can be executed in this manner. The Officially recorded contract is drafted by a notaire and signed not only by the parties to the contract but also the notaire.

Enforcing an officially drafted tenancy agreement is easier than with a privately signed agreement. When a tenancy agreement is signed in the presence of a notaire it is enforceable as if it is a court ruling. A landlord who is owed rent can give their enforceable copy of the tenancy agreement directly to a bailiff to begin proceedings and collect the debt. Whereas a landlord in possession of a privately signed tenancy agreement must obtain a court order before they can collect from a defaulting tenant.

French law mandates certain text and clauses are included in various types of leases. The omission or infringement of some of those clauses is criminal offences. A landlord with an official tenancy agreement has less liability then one with a private, incomplete agreement.

If a notaire is used, it is common for the costs to be shared between the landlord and tenant.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.