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How to rent an apartment in Paris? Part 1

by | Jun 4, 2021 | Family services, House hunting

Renting an apartment in Paris for beginners

Our guide in 5 Ws

Your dream has come true: you’re moving to Paris!

Perhaps it’s a solo temporary assignment, or maybe it’s a permanent move with your family. No matter, the first question you’ll likely ask yourself is: where you’ll be laying down your hat at night?

renting an apartment in Paris - map of Paris

Want this rather complicated milestone to be professionally and flawlessly managed from A to Z, while always having a say in it?

We’ll make sure to land the perfect apartment for you. Stress-free, easy-peasy, and all you’ll have to do is sign the rent contract and pack your carry-on luggage.

Feeling bold? You should be, considering you’re venturing into an unknown land of 1,200 kinds of cheese. So let’s read on. Hopefully you’re sitting down, because it’s generally not an easy journey – but we’ll always have your back!

WHO (can rent an apartment)

Legally, anyone meeting certain requirements (basically having a visa and income) can rent an apartment in Paris.

Practically, things are a bit more complicated. The Paris rental market is always in high demand. Yet, available apartments (aka supply) are only but so many. This means landlords typically have the luxury to choose their candidate from a pile of dozens and dozens of applications. Couple that with the fact that evicting people from their apartments is very difficult and you get landlords that are pickier than a 4-year-old at dinner time.

But.

Even if the average landlord might want to favor a certain profile (let’s say, French professional, in a straight couple, wealthy and aged 30-40), this doesn’t mean they can. They cannot ask personal questions or classified documents aiming to determine race, origins, handicaps, religion, health, and so on.

This is the so-called “rental discrimination” and is heavily fined (up to 45.000 € fine and 3 years of prison).   

How to rent an apartment in Paris

The only documents legally required to apply for a tenancy are an ID/visa, proof of residence, proof of paid rents, proof of professional activity, and proof of income.

These documents (the more the merrier!) are usually collected in a nice folder, or dossier, which works like your cover letter when applying for a job: it has to be bulletproof, well organised, appealing but not too fancy, excellent spelling… we are known to prepare perfect ones, and landlords love themselves some perfect dossiers!

You’ll want to open a French bank account. While not absolutely essential, it is strongly recommended (contact us to open up one for you)!

Look for a guarantor, garant. Landlords can ask you to have someone as a backup to pay the bills, should you default. Unfortunately, this almost always has to be a French person living in France. Don’t have one of those lying around? Don’t worry. There are quite a few online services, such as Unkle and Garantme, that provide affordable alternatives.

WHAT (kind of apartment)

Ok, let’s talk about fun things now, your future chez vous! And let’s try to match dreams to reality.

First things first, the budget (ok maybe not so fun). Average rental prices in Paris are typically between €30–40 per square meter per month. Luckily, space is pretty optimised in most Parisian apartments. Thus a 60 square meter (~650 sq ft) flat in Paris is more like 90 sqm (~1,000 sq f) in US.

Landlords and agencies will usually ask that your monthly net income is least 3 times the monthly rental amount. However, this is a rule of thumb and not the law. It’s helpful for you to set a realistic budget as you’ll also have other expenses to account for, like:

  • Utilities
  • Taxes (such as council tax due by the tenant on occupancy basis),
  • Insurance
  • And of course, furniture, if the flat is unfurnished or non meublé. Fun side-note, some unfurnished flats don’t have kitchen furniture like cabinets or countertops!

Account for the depot de garantie as well It’s the security deposit (capped at 2 months rent) that’s paid at the contract signing. It covers costs such as damages (a broken appliance or a stained wall) and unpaid bills.

You should get this deposit back within 2 months of your moving out. BUT landlords seem to always find a reason to withhold it entirely or deduct a good chunk of it. Another fun side note if you want to get back the full refund amount? We have a 100% success rate in recovering the deposit (knock on wood)!

Now that you have a realistic budget, the next question is how much space will you need. Not only surface area but most importantly the number of rooms.

Attention! In France, the overall number of rooms (pièces) is different from the number of bedrooms (chambres).

So a “4 pièces 3 chambres” will have 3 bedrooms for your family, but only one other living/dining room. A “4 pièces 2 chambres” will obviously sacrifice a bedroom for an extra living/dining room. You don’t count bathrooms and kitchens in the number of pièces/rooms. Speaking of bathrooms, very often a toilet can be found separate from the shower/bath. This is great for the morning rush but sometimes awkward when there’s no sink in the toilet room.

For now, we’ll leave you with the third and most important thing. Write down a list of criteria, from the most important to the least. Let’s say, you’d die without natural light, so an elevated floor facing south/east/west is non-negotiable. That’s understandable, and you can use this as a great filter in your search. With that said, perhaps a balcony (which would be the cherry on top) could go lower down in the pecking order. Or you can go vice versa and elevate the balcony even if you’re facing north. Either way, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and have your priorities ranked.

See you in two weeks for the second part. Ciao!

Elena Ferrari
Elena Ferrari
Legal and Administrative Associate

Born in Genova, Italy, and adopted by la Ville Lumière, I’ve been a corporate lawyer in London and Dubai, a burnt-out mum in Singapore, and an event manager in the fanciest art galleries and boutiques of Paris.

Now I’m here to help you avoid the cortisol-infused nightmares that my previous 9 relocations have been.

The sunrise over the Oman desert, the sunset in Bali, a pint in Notting Hill or a Martini on a New York rooftop: I wouldn’t trade a croissant in Latin Quarter for any of it!  

If you needed to know where to live in Paris as a family or/and as an expat check our proposals. Book a free call with Your Friend in Paris and let us know about your plans to move 

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We are expats that have been living in France for a combined 31 years. We are expats that have faced the challenges that you have and ones you’ve never even thought of.

We are your friends to lend you a helping hand and put you on the path to success in Paris. Whether it concerns coming, living or leaving we are a group dedicated to making life as easy as possible!

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