As mentioned before, the law of 6th July 1989 proclaims that the right to a place to live (droit au logement) is essential. As such, the enforcement of the lease is difficult. Indeed, even with a legal title such as a court order, it can be difficult in practice for a landlord to obtain possession of his property even if the lease is legally terminated. This is especially the case when the tenant is having difficulties with relocating.
Courts often grant delays to the tenants to pay rent or to quit the property. Furthermore, the law of 9th July 1991 has created a ‘winter truce’ (from 1st November to 15th May) during which all eviction procedures are suspended.
To evade the strict rules of the law of 6th July 1989, the practice is often to furnish the housing and to grant a furnished letting. Furnished lettings are governed by the civil code which leaves most clauses to the parties’ agreement (however, please note that recent regulation makes the difference between both statutes less obvious in practice). As such, advices from a French professional are recommended before drafting or signing such contracts.
General provisions governing furnished letting
To be called ‘furnished’, the letting must correspond to minimum standards of equipment allowing the tenant to live a ‘current life’. By default, in the absence of such furniture, the tenancy is deemed to be as unfurnished and governed therefore by the law of 6th July 1989.
Duration and termination
The duration and termination procedure (notice) must be drafted carefully. If the duration is not mentioned or refers to an uncertain event, the lease will have an undetermined duration and both parties will be entitled to terminate the contract with ‘sufficient’ notice (usually three to six months). Note that if the tenant is maintained in possession of the housing and keeps paying the rent, the risk is that the renewal of the lease will be implied. Landlords should therefore ensure that tenants actually vacate the premises and take action immediately otherwise.
Please note that where furnished premises are a tenant’s principal residence, the contract must be for at least twelve (12) months. Furthermore, if the landlord wishes to obtain possession at the end of the year, he must give notice to the tenant at least three months before the expiry of the tenancy. If he gives no notice, or only late notice, then the tenancy is renewed automatically for a further twelve months.
As for the tenant, he/she is only obliged to give one (1) month's notice, and this can be at any time.
The amount of the initial rent and its increase are not regulated and rely on the parties’ agreement.
Maintenance and repairs
This point is to be considered with attention. Indeed, the article 1720 of the French civil code places any repairs except those for maintenance at the landlord’s expenses. However, the interpretation of maintenance repairs had lead to an important case law. As such, parties are therefore advised to carefully draft their contract (as the civil code gives them the opportunity to do so) and not leave their mutual rights and obligations at the judge’s appreciation. Legal assistance is recommended.
Although the furnished lettings are left to the parties’ agreement, the law of 2000 (with regard to decent housing) and the law 2003 (regarding the obligation of providing information on natural and technological risks) apply as well as the “winter truce” of the law of 1991 which make the enforcement of furnished lettings as difficult as unfurnished lettings.