Long term rentals
Thinking about trying the French way of life but not yet ready for the purchase of a house? Then why not rent a property? Whether on a yearly basis or for a short period of time, renting offers a flexible and secure way of living in France. First of all, the regulations applying to rentals, just like property purchases, are those of the country in which the property is located, i.e. French regulations.
In France, renting a house is strictly regulated. When the principal residence of the tenant (the place where one lives at least eight months a year and where one works and has his family), the content of the contract is strictly regulated. On the other hand, if it is a secondary residence, its content is more flexible.
It is also important to know that French regulations protect the tenant very effectively: from a general point of view, the contract must be fair to both parties and should not include clauses giving excessive advantages to the owner. Moreover, specific regulations (the obligation to rent accommodation in good condition, to provide inspection reports, to secure swimming pools…)ensures the tenant that the property will comply with the rules.
Two types of rentals exist: furnished and unfurnished
“Unfurnished” rentals designate accommodation rented without furnishings and used as a principal residence by the tenant. This type of contract is the most protective for the tenant: the lease is long-term (three years minimum) after which it is tacitly (“tacitly” meaning without any formality to complete) renewed for the same period. During the term of the lease, the owner may not take his accommodation back. He is indeed allowed to give notice to the tenant only at the end of the three-year term, with a six-month notice, and he must prove his decision to sell the accommodation or take it back for himself or a close relative. The tenant may on the other hand give his notice at any time, without having to give any explanation and with a shorter notice period (generally three months).
A rental is considered “furnished” when the accommodation is equipped and furnished in such a manner the tenant can live decently in the premises upon arrival (bed, table, chair, kitchenware, a minimum of household appliances, etc.). The contract is valid for one year, renewable by tacit reconduction of one year. The owner may only take back his accommodation at the end of the term, and he must explain his reasons and give a three-month written notice. The tenant may leave the premises at any time, without any motivation and providing a one-month written notice.
Signature of the contract
If it’s for seasonal rentals, the contract between the owner and the tenant is often remotely conducted, via email, and without visiting the accommodation, for long-term rentals, the contract is usually established at the premises after the viewing. Unlike the deed of sale, the rental contract is not a notarial act (before a notary), it is signed between private parties. It is possible to use the services of a legal expert (notary, solicitor), but this is extremely rare and greatly superfluous. Setting up a written contract is always necessary. This document specifies the beginning and end of a rental period, the amount of rent and charges, and defines the obligations and rights of each party.
Appended documents to the lease contract
• Inventory of the premises
This is a written document which must indicate the condition of the accommodation at the beginning (the day the keys are handed over to the tenant) and at the end of the lease (the day the keys are returned to the owner).
• Inventory of furniture
If the premises are rented furnished, it is usual to make an inventory of furniture and contents in the presence of both parties. At the end of the leasing period this allows the owner to make sure that all objects made available to the tenant are present and to check their condition. For the tenant it is also a means of verifying that all expected equipment and furniture are really provided.
A natural (forest fire, avalanche…) and technological (dangerous factory) risks inspection report is required, as well as an energy performance report (quantity of energy consumed for standard use of premises) and a report stating the risks incurred by exposure to lead for any premises built before January 1st1949.
What type of contract to sign?
Whatever the type of contract selected, it must include the following required minimum information:
- the identity of landlord and tenant
- the type of accommodation and its possible out-buildings and elements
- the duration of contract and its termination conditions
- the date on which the beginning starts
- the amount of rent, service charges and deposit
- the respective obligations of owner and tenant
The duration of contract
The duration of the rental period is completely open. The contract must stipulate the initial length, then the length of possible renewal by tacit reconduction.
The initial rent is set freely by the owner. During the lease, the increase of rent is regulated: it may be revised only once a year as stated in a condition which is always appended in lease contracts.
A deposit is required the day the keys are handed over to the tenant. Although not mandatory, the owner always asks for a deposit, since it represents an advance payment covering some or all costs should the tenant deteriorate the accommodation or leave outstanding rent debts upon his departure.
Rental charges correspond to the payment of various services and supplies provided to the tenant (water, heating…). Rental charges are higher for a joint co-ownership than for a private house. Two different methods are used to calculate rental charges: « effective » charges (the tenant refunds the owner the charges based on the effective cost of invoices) and “inclusive” charges (charges are a fixed amount that does not vary, whatever the effective charges amount to).