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Finding an accomodation

Determining your needs and priorities

You must first determine your needs, set your criteria and create a budget. As a general rule, do not limit your search only to Paris. Nearby suburbs are often easily accessible via the metro and rental rates are substantially lower than within Paris.

Key terms that often appear in listing ads:

  • Loyer CC ou TCC: rent (service charges included)
  • Hono/H + €: letting agency fees
  • T1: the number that follows the "T" corresponds to the number of rooms
  • The floor area is always indicated in square metres
  • PK/GAR: parking or garage
  • ET: floor or storey
  • ASC: lift access
  • INT/DIG: intercom/digital code entry
  • SDB: bathroom (may include a bathtub, but not always the case)
  • DCH: shower
  • KITCH: kitchenette located in the main room and at the very least equipped with a sink, hot plates and a refrigerator.

The first contact with the landlord

Up next is the initial telephone call to the property manager, landlord or letting agency. If you don't speak french very well, you absolutely need to request help from a french student. Some of the landlords don't speak english at all.

Be clear about what you want to know and ask specific questions. If you are unsure of any information found in the listing ad, do not hesitate to ask for clarification.Be aware when reading listing ads that an address is rarely included and claims such as "10 minutes from the metro station" or "ideal for student" are not always accurate. Ask about the bus and metro routes that circulate through the neighbourhood and nearby corner shops. If necessary, take it upon yourself to verify.

The viewing

Before you begin, prepare all the supporting documents required for entering into a tenancy agreement. This will save you considerable time.

Front and back photocopy of identification document for both you and your guarantor;

Photocopy of the last three pay stubs for you and/or your guarantor (if you do not have any, those of your guarantor will suffice);

Photocopy of the last income tax return for you and/or your guarantor;

Proof of residence for your guarantor (latest receipt of rent payment, last utility or telephone bill);

Bank details or RIB (for a commercial, savings or postal bank account) for both you and your guarantor;

Affidavit completed by your employer, if you are employed (the landlord may request this).

Preparing your dossier ahead of time can potentially give you an advantage over the competition.

More importantly, show up on time for your appointment to view the flat. Be sure to cancel any appointment that you are unable to attend prior to the scheduled date and time. Courtesy and politeness are very much appreciated. Arrive plenty of time before the appointment to walk around the neighbourhood. Take notice of the nearby corner shops, bus stops, and the noise-level in the daytime, etc. The flat viewing is the most crucial moment. A careful inspection of the property could help you avoid unpleasant surprises. Of course you can fall in love with the flat, but be aware that it may hide certain defects that you will later regret. Ideally, you should view the property along with a parent or a friend who could offer a different perspective.

What you should verify: The overall state of the accommodation and that all installations are in good working order. Verify the plumbing – turn the water faucets all the way on and flush the toilets (if there is no running water, get it written down in the tenancy agreement to have the service resume) – the sanitary facilities, the electrical installations (fittings and fixtures) and the heating installations (even in the middle of the summer). Are these compatible with the standard regulations? Count the number of electrical outlets and verify the radiators. Check for the availability of a telephone socket, a TV antenna/areal socket and the possibility for Internet connection. Verify the condition of the paint and wallpapers, doorways and openings (doors, windows, shutters), and flooring. If on the top floor, verify the thermal insulation properties of the roofing system. This way, you could avoid having to endure freezing winters and stuffy summers.

The building: Is there a caretaker? Are the stairways kept clean? What condition are the letterboxes in? Where are the rubbish bins located? Is it possible to bring your bicycle indoors? Do other students reside in the building? What are the security features of the building (digital code entry or intercom)? Ask the neighbours about the pros and cons of residing in the building and in the neighbourhood.  

Rent and associated costs

There are several rental costs for which you are responsible:

Rent: generally, you must pay one-month rent once you sign the tenancy agreement. The rent amount must be written into the tenancy agreement separately from the service charges. Always ask if any charges are included (and the types of charges involved) in the given amount.

Service charges: these include the costs for maintaining the common areas in the building and for one or more utilities (for example: lift usage, water, rubbish collection). Charges are paid to the landlord who in turn arranges provision of the services. In some cases, separate costs associated with water and heating may also be included. Be sure to ask which service charge items may or may not be included in your monthly rent.

Other charges: electricity, telephone, and Internet are usually separate from the rent. You must apply for these utility services separately and ensure that you terminate the contracts at the end of the tenancy. 

The deposit at the start of the tenancy: it serves to ensure that you honour your obligations, such as payment to repair damages caused by the tenant. Within two months after your departure, the owner is legally obliged to refund your deposit, minus the expenses he/she incurred to repair the damages made during your stay.

The inventory of the premises (états des lieux), unless conducted by a third party, is free of charge. A first inventory is done at the start of the tenancy, at the time the keys are given to you and before you move in. The inventory details the condition of the property and lists its content. The second inventory takes place at the end of the tenancy period. Both must be as precise as possible, with detailed observations, in order to avoid any dispute at the end of the tenancy. If you notice any defect, even if it may seem unimportant, ask that it be taken into account in the inventory. For example, a single stain on the carpet that goes unmentioned on the initial inventory could lead to an unscrupulous landlord charging you for the replacement of the carpet.

Home insurance: you are obligated to subscribe an insurance coverage through an agency of your choice (between 30 to 60 € depending on the size of your accommodation)

The guarantor: a guarantor is often required for student tenants – guarantee by a family member or a bank, or in some cases several months' rent in advance.

The housing tax is a local property tax payable each year in autumn. It is owed for the entire year by whoever occupies the property on 1st January of that year. Verify with your landlord the amount and who is responsible for paying this tax.

The tenancy agreement

The purpose of a written agreement signed by the landlord and tenant is to define their relationship and thereby protect the interests of both parties. The tenancy agreement can be made directly between the landlord and the tenant or through a third party professional (agency, bailiff, notary). The agreement must be executed in two (2) original copies, one for each party. Unfurnished tenancy is governed by the law of 6 July 1989. The landlord must abide by the conditions set forth in this law.

Characteristics of Decent Housing (Decree No. 2002-120 of 30 January 2002): the accommodation must comprise a liveable floor area of no less than 9 square metres above which a ceiling height of at least 2.20 metres, or otherwise a living space of at least 20 cubic metres. The accommodation must be equipped with heating, electric and gas installations that comply with safety regulations. If the property consists of only one room, its sanitary facility may be limited to a WC located outside the flat.

Definition of furnished accommodation: the law of 1989, which explicitly excluded furnished tenancy from its purview, imposes however certain requirements when the dwelling constitutes the primary residence of the tenant. A written tenancy agreement is required. A dwelling unit (house, flat, a spare or independent room) is considered furnished when the premises contain the proper and necessary furniture for everyday life: table, bed, storage, cookware, refrigerator, hot plates, etc. Sheets and linens are the responsibility of the tenant.

A standard tenancy agreement must contain the following:

  • Name and address of the landlord and/or agent
  • Start date and duration of the tenancy period
  • Description of the property and annexes
  • List of common areas
  • Use of the property (residential, professional or mixed)
  • Amount for rent payable and the date that it is due each month
  • Amount for service charges
  • Deposit amount (limited to one month's rent excluding service charges; it cannot be changed during the course nor when renewing the tenancy)

Standard clauses

For the landlord:

  • Make the property available to the tenant and maintain it in a good state of repair
  • Keep the premises fit for habitation in accordance to the tenancy agreement
  • Ensure that the tenant has quiet enjoyment of the premises
  • Guarantee the tenant against all vices and defects on the premises that prevent or diminish their use

For the tenant:

  • Pay the rent and services charges
  • Use the premises peacefully and refrain from activities that could harm or disturb the peace of the neighbourhood, including noise<
  • Pay for damages, unless attributable to force majeure or the landlord

The landlord may require that the tenant subscribe an insurance policy providing coverage for fire and water damage.

Please note: if you are required by the landlord to pay a holding deposit fee and sign a reservation agreement, the latter agreement must include a detailed description of the accommodation, the rent amount, the length of the tenancy, as well as the conditions for a refund of the amount paid, should you change your mind.

It is important to convey any critical information to your landlord by means of a registered letter with return receipt. This is mandatory for terminating a tenancy agreement. It is also essential to respect the advance notice requirements and deadlines specified in your tenancy agreement, and in particular the notice requirements for terminating your tenancy.

The inventory

  • It is in the interest of both the landlord and the tenant to establish an inventory (états des lieux) in order to determine who is responsible for any repair costs at the end of tenancy. Insist on your landlord conducting an inventory. List details as precisely as possible regarding the condition of the property. Descriptions such as "in good condition" or "in average condition" can leave room for interpretation and should therefore be avoided.
  • The inventory should list the items and the condition of furniture put at the disposal of the tenant. It should be as precise as possible. This will allow the landlord to prove ownership of the furniture in question and an opportunity for the tenant to verify and require that all equipments be delivered in good working order.
  • The landlord can demand compensation from a departing tenant for damages caused to any furniture at the property.
  • A written inventory must be established in agreement between the landlord and the tenant, at the time the keys are given out and when the keys are being returned to the landlord. When done in this manner, the inventory is free of charge. In order to be valid, both the initial and final inventories must be signed by the two parties.
  • The landlord and the tenant can otherwise agree on using the services of a bailiff (huissier), and on which party will incur the costs.
  • You must notify your landlord within 20 days of any defects discovered after moving into the property, which were not taken into account in the inventory, by means of a registered letter with accused receipt.

In case of dispute

In case of dispute, the best course is to try to negotiate an amicable solution with your landlord or flatmate(s). For assistance, you may contact the Departmental Housing Information Associations (ADIL). The ADIL can provide information free of charge by telephone, by appointment at its centres, and is present in the municipal district halls as well as the offices of the CROUS. The ADIL can advise you on all types of housing issues. Free consultation:

  • by appointment only at the headquarters of the ADIL (46 bis Bd Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris). Telephone: 01 42 79 50 51
  • by appointment at the municipal district halls
  • at the CROUS (39 av Georges Bernanos), the first Tuesday of each month. For an appointment contact: 01 40 51 37 46 (Division de la vie étudiante)

If you have subscribed legal assistance coverage, you may also consult your insurance agency.

The deposit

The deposit covers potential damages to the property by the tenant as well as all outstanding amounts due to the landlord.

For an unfurnished tenancy, the deposit is limited to the equivalent of one-month's rent, excluding the services charges.

For a furnished tenancy, the amount of the deposit is not fixed and is usually no more than the equivalent of two months' rent. However, a landlord who requires three months advance rent cannot demand the payment of a deposit.

The deposit is paid to the landlord at the start of the tenancy and must be refunded within two months of the date the tenant returns the keys, minus any deductions for outstanding rent and/or other justifiable charges.

The deposit amount cannot be changed during the length of the tenancy.

If you damage or poorly maintain the property during your stay, your landlord may deduct repair costs from your deposit, or even withhold the full amount.

During the term of the tenancy, you are obligated to perform regular upkeep and certain repairs that fall under your responsibility as a tenant: replacement of broken windows and door handles, maintenance of plumbing fixtures, replacement of fittings on sanitary fixtures, etc.

Failure to fulfil your obligations may result in you being charged for the repair work done after your departure, based on the comparison of the initial and final inventories.

The guarantor

Landlords generally ask for a person with a sound financial record, often a parent, to act as a guarantor for rent payments. It is necessary to provide a written consent from the guarantor. This is the document whereby the person agrees to cover a tenant against non-payment of rent. For this document to be valid all rules in form and content must be respected.

Reminder: the law of 25 March 2009 prohibits the requirement of a personal guarantor when the landlord has already subscribed an insurance policy against the non-payment of rent (or GRL).

Insurance

Home insurance is compulsory in France. The landlord is entitled to ask the tenant to provide proof of insurance within a week of signing the tenancy agreement.

Different policy options are available through insurance agencies. Read the proposed conditions carefully: an excessive coverage is often expensive and may not necessarily meet your needs.

If your family resides in France, it may be possible to be covered under your family policy: be sure to verify this with the insurance agency.