Renting a Property in France – (part 4)
In part three of our property rental guide we tackled what rates are payable on French properties, what’s involved in sole/joint tenancies and what insurances you’ll need. In part four we’ll be looking at obligations when it comes to repairs, dealing with disputes and ending the tenancy.
Issues concerning property repairs are one of the main causes of disputes between landlords and tenants. So, when it comes to a property repair who is obligated to meet the cost?
Happily, when it comes to repairing rental properties in France the obligations of the tenant are limited.
Theoretically tenants are responsible for nothing but the most routine of property repairs (things like clearing out guttering, keeping the garden presentable etc).
However, the tenant is responsible for any repairs needed as a result of their own negligence or because of any damage they have caused.
The tenant cannot carry out major repairs or structural changes to the property unless the landlord allows it.
If the rental property has an open fire tenants are responsible for having the chimney swept annually. Failure to do this can make the house insurance policy invalid.
There may be other conditions laid out in the tenancy agreement. If there are you are advised to check whether they conflict with the law.
In France landlords are obliged to provide accommodation which is deemed ‘decent’ and must organise/pay for all but the most basic of property repair costs. However, the legal standards which a ‘decent’ property must meet are only stated in general terms and are not strictly enforced.
Although a landlord can usually only enter a rental property with the consent of their tenant, they do have the right to access the property in order to carry out repairs (this doesn’t apply to improvement works). They also have the right to access the property without tenant consent in order to collect outstanding rent payments.
If the property has a pool it is the landlord’s responsibility to install a security system which meets with French pool security standards.
While it would be wonderful if everyone could get along with their landlords all the time disputes do happen.
If you end up involved in a dispute with your landlord there are several ways you can try and tackle it.
As it can be difficult to explain an issue verbally sometimes, particularly if emotions are running high, write down what you think the problem is as clearly (and politely!) as you can, and if applicable offer possible solutions. Send the letter/email to your landlord and keep a copy for yourself.
If their reply doesn’t resolve the issue, or if they fail to reply at all, try to address them once more directly, either in person or via letter. Again, calmly and politely explain your concerns and if you aren’t satisfied with your landlord’s response indicate that you are prepared to take the matter further.
If the problem remains unresolved there are three main ways you can proceed:
1. Advisory Services
In France there are three main advisory services where you can go to get help with resolving rental property disputes. They are the Housing Information Agency (ANIL), Legal Advice Centre (CDAD) and County Consumer Protection Department (DGCCRF). The ANIL is the official governmental housing advice agency, with offices in most French towns. CDAD centres offer legal advice and are also based in most French towns. The DGCCRF is a branch of French trading standards, with regional offices.
In France there is an official mediation service sponsored by the government. They take a neutral stance in the dispute, assess the facts and pass judgement/offer solutions. The Commission Départementale de Conciliation (CDC) should be approached before legal action is taken, however the decisions they make are not legally binding so their ability to resolve disputes is limited.
3. Legal Action
If you have considered all your options and think legal action is the only avenue left to you, you must first visit a huissier. Huissier’s are, effectively, bailiffs appointed by the public. They can offer advice on what steps to take and are responsible for transferring certain papers between you, the landlord and the court. Although most huissier fees are regulated you will find that they can mount up quite quickly so before taking legal action really consider whether it will be worth your while to do so.
Ending the Tenancy
What to do if you want to end your tenancy agreement.
As the Tenant
In France tenants may opt to leave a rental property at any time and for any reason, but they must give the minimum notice laid out in their tenancy agreement.
Typically, an unfurnished letting will require a notice period of three months while one months notice is all that’s needed for a furnished letting.
If you decide to end your tenancy you are advised to inform your landlord in writing, either by post or email, and keep records of your correspondence so it can’t be disputed later.
As the Landlord
In France a landlord cannot end a tenancy before it is up. The tenant of a furnished letting has the right to a minimum term of one year whilst the tenant of an unfurnished letting has the right to a minimum term of three years.
However, if the landlord issues notice they must give three months for a furnished letting and six months notice for an unfurnished letting.
In France the landlord must adhere to strict procedures for a notice to be legally valid.
If the landlord decides to sell the property before the tenancy is up the tenant has the right of first refusal and the landlord must adhere to strict procedures.
In part 5 of our French property rental guide we’ll take an in-depth look at the taxes payable on French rentals.