Tips on how to rent an apartment in France

Tips on how to rent an apartment in France

by Clara Avrillier

Updated November 7, 2022

For decades, France has been the number one tourist destination in the world – and for good reason. Some people are so taken by the country that they decide to live there permanently, but this can come with challenges. For example, renting an apartment in France. To help you navigate this exciting but tricky move, we’ve put together tips on how to rent an apartment in France, including what documents you need, the renting process and some useful vocabulary. Let’s make your dream a reality! (And remember to research and get yourself set up correctly before moving.) 

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Finding an apartment: Where should you look?

Once you’ve decided where you want to live in France, the next step is finding an apartment. There are two ways to do this: via an agency or via a private landlord. With agencies, it’s a good idea to select one in the area you want to live. Agencies can be really helpful if you plan on looking while you’re still in your home country, as estate agents can provide great insight into the area, prices and the current market. For private landlords, have a look at websites like leboncoin or SeLoger.  

Pro tip: Reach out to people in your company or friends who might know someone with an apartment in need of tenants. This can help you avoid agency fees and generally create a smoother process for foreigners. 

Furnished or unfurnished?

While renting a furnished apartment in France might seem easier, it’s worth considering an unfurnished rental. This is because under French law, tenants have more rights in an unfurnished home as contracts are longer (three years instead of one for furnished flats). Plus, unfurnished rentals tend to be cheaper than furnished ones.

Pro tip: If you decide to go for a furnished apartment, make sure you clarify what furniture is part of the apartment during your visit. Some landlords only provide the bare minimum, therefore it’s important to know what furniture is included before signing a contract.

What documents are needed to rent an apartment in France?

So you’ve found your dream flat in France, what next? Well, you will need to provide a variety of documents, especially if you’re an expat. You will likely be asked for the following:

  • Valid ID or passport
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of income, usually three months of payslips. If you can’t provide this, you may have to provide a French guarantor (for example, your company, Garantme, or you might be eligible to ask the state for a Garantie Visale
  • Visa or residence permit

Pro tip: Prepare your documents beforehand in a dossier (file) so that you’re ready to go when you find the right one. It’s also worth adding in some extra documents to solidify your dossier, for example, references from prior landlords or a cover letter. On the French government’s website, there is a list of documents a landlord can legally request (in French). 

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Do you need a French bank account to be able to rent an apartment in France?

This is one of the most common questions that expats ask. The short answer is no, this is not a requirement. As long as you have proof of funds, either through a job or savings, you can rent an apartment in France without a French bank account.

Pro tip: If you want to open a bank account before renting an apartment in France, do some research on the best banks for foreigners, as well as neobanks. 

Useful vocabulary 

Types of apartments: 

  • Studio
  • T1, T2, etc. 

In France, T stands for “type” and the number attached to it indicates the number of rooms. For example, a T1 is an apartment with one room and a separate kitchen and bathroom. A T4, therefore, is a flat with three bedrooms and a living room. 

Other useful phrases: 

  • Caution or dépot de garantie: security deposit
  • Charges: fees/costs (for example, electricity and gas)
  • FAI (Frais d’agence inclus): agency fees included
  • Appartement meublé / non meublé: furnished / unfurnished apartment
  • Le loyer: the rent

Learning some basic French vocabulary will certainly help you with renting an apartment in France. It will also help you get around when you first arrive (for example, doing a food shop). 

Home sweet home 

Understanding how to rent an apartment in France might seem overwhelming, but it will all be worth it in the end! The administrative side of things is never simple when you’re an expat, but once you’re settled in and living the dream, you’ll never look back. 

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Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with expats looking to move to France. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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