The unfurnished property is governed by the law of 6th July 1989 which was officially designed to protect tenants (who are entitled to a right to a place to live “droit au logement”). This tendency is still in force as this has been confirmed by the recent laws.
The law of 6th July 1989 applies to unfurnished housing rented as a main residence. Furnished lettings, seasonal lettings and secondary residence lettings are then excluded. The main provisions of the law of 6th July 1989 can be summarised as follows.
Duration of the lease and termination:
The lease must be granted for a minimum of three years (six years if the landlord is a corporate body) at the end of which the tenant has the right to renew the lease under the same terms and conditions.
The term of the lease benefit only to the tenant as he/she may terminate the lease during the tenancy at any time with three months notice (reduced to one month in some cases).
This notice must either be sent to the landlord by register post (lettre recommandée avec avis de reception) or be delivered personally by a bailiff (huissier). The three months starts to run on the date that the landlord receives the letter (model of such letter in available in our templates database).
As mentioned above, in some cases, a tenant is entitled to give only one month’s notice. This applies only in the following situations:
- He/she loses his/her job or changes job;
- He/she is older than 60 and he needs to move for health reasons;
- His/her income is below a certain level.
The requirements for giving notice are identical to those set out above for a three month notice period, except that the tenant must include documentary proof of his/her entitlement to give only one month’s notice. If the tenant fails to do this, he will be held to the standard notice period, and will remain liable for the rent for three months.
As for the landlord, he/she can only terminate the lease at the end of the three year period (with a six months notice) and only for the following reasons:
- either in order to sell the property,
- or in order to occupy the property.
By virtue of the law, the landlord is entitled also, in principle, to terminate the lease in the case of a breach of the terms and conditions of the rental agreement but this in practice is not automatic and will require a court decision, a potentially long and costly process.
With regard to the first reason (e.g. selling the property), please note that the tenant has the right of first refusal (droit de préemption). In other words, a tenant of a long-term letting is entitled to first refusal, should the proprietor put the property up for sale.
In such a case, the landlord must follow a strict procedure as he/she must notify the tenant, in writing, of the sale price and the conditions of sale. If the landlord fails to do this, the tenant has the right to have the sale annulled, and to purchase the property at the price recorded on the contract for sale.
The amount of the initial rent and its annual increases are strictly controlled.
The initial rent must correspond to the average rent in the area and the annual increase is limited as it is calculated by using an index (indice de references des loyers) published every quarter by the INSEE (French National Institute of Statistics).
Rights and duties under the lease
Right and duties of the landlord
The landlord has to provide the tenant with a decent place to live, maintain the property and provide the tenant with a quiet enjoyment.
- Decent place: This notion of “decent housing” is the creation of the law of 6th December 2000 and is now strictly enforced. The decree of 30th January 2002 defines a series of precise norms in particular in terms of security or equipment.
- Maintaining the property: The landlord must maintain the property so that it remains in condition to be used according to the contract. The landlord in particular will be responsible for ensuring that the property complies with the standards of hygiene and security (asbestos, lead, termites, etc) and for maintaining the properties facilities (boiler, lift, etc.)
- Quiet enjoyment: The landlord must guarantee a quiet enjoyment of the property. As a consequence, the landlord cannot have access to the property without the tenant’s consent. However the lease may authorise limited access for ‘technical visits’ (for maintenance, to ensure that the tenant complies with his obligations or in order to sell the property).
Right and duties of the tenant
As for the tenant, he/she must pay the rent and the service charges, occupy the property peacefully, and according to its purpose, carry out the necessary repairs of his responsibility and insure the property.
- Payment of the rent and charges: The tenant must pay the rent and the service charges. The terms and the ways of payment are agreed by the parties. However, payment by direct debit cannot be imposed.
A formal receipt (“quittance”), further to the payment of the rent, is not mandatory unless requested by the tenant.
With regard to the service charges, those are legally defined as are related to the use and current maintenance of communal parts of the property. The decree of 26th August 1987 draws the list of the charges that can be invoiced (this include for example the maintenance of the lifts, individual equipment such as the maintenance of the boiler, communal parts of the property, etc).
- Occupation of the property: The tenant must not cause any ‘abuse of occupation’: e.g. noise, animals causing trouble, etc.
The tenant has no right also to sublet a rented property unless he has the landlord's permission, which should be in writing. Please note that even if the tenant sublets with his/her landlord’s permission, he/she is still liable to pay rent to his/her landlord, in the event that his/her sub-tenant stops paying rent. As such, it is better to have a direct tenancy agreement with the proprietor and the tenant who is subletting.
The property must also be occupied according to its purpose i.e. residential housing.
However, a landlord cannot prevent a tenant from working from a residential rental providing that:
- the property is the tenant’s sole or principal residence,
- and he does not receive clients or merchandise at the property.
Please note that in such a case, there is a risk that the tenant may lose the protection given by the law of 1989 status if the property is not at least partially used as a main residence.
Moreover, in apartment blocks, a tenant is also subject to the same rules and regulations that govern all the occupiers, including those who own their apartments. These often restrict the right to use the premises for work purposes (this can be checked in the co-owners’ regulations – Règlement de copropriété).
- Maintenance and repairs: The tenant must also carry out the necessary repairs of his/her responsibility. This depends whether it is a small repair or major one (in which case, it would be at the landlord’s expenses).
The difference between ‘small’ and ‘major’ repairs in the law of 6th July 1989 has been the subject of an important case law. However, the decree of 26th August 1987 has drawed a list of maintenance and repair works at the tenant’s expense. This covers, for example, replacing broken windows, broken keys, paintwork, bleeding of radiators, replacement of bulbs, fuses and light fittings, etc. Substantial works of maintenance and repair remain the responsibility of the landlord.
- Insuring the property: The tenant must be insured for the risks he is liable to as a tenant. This refers to fire explosions, water damage, and damages that could be caused to third parties (personal injury).
The landlord can ask for a copy of the policy and is entitled to terminate the lease if the tenant is not properly insured.
The rental agreement:
The contract must be written and signed by all parties. It does not have to be witnessed. However, a verbal lease is not null and void and its existence can be proven by any other written evidence (e.g. bank statement showing payment of the rent). In practice this will happen when a tenant wants to claim the protection of the law of 6th July 1989.
The tenancy agreement does not have to be drafted in French but it will be governed by French law as the property is situated in France. It is therefore advisable to have the contract drafted in French as, in case of a litigation, a French version will be needed.
Inventory (Etat des lieux)
The “Etat des lieux” is a record of the condition of the property at the time that the tenancy starts. In French law, a rented property is assumed to be in a good condition at the beginning of a tenancy, unless there is evidence to the contrary. As such, it is advisable to have a complete inventory of the property when the tenant enters into possession because, by default, the tenant will be deemed to have entered into a property ‘in good condition of maintenance repairs’ (Article 1731 of the French Civil code).
An Etat des Lieux is frequently prepared by a bailiff (huissier), who will carry out an inspection of the property before the tenant moves in but there is there is no obligation to instruct such a huissier. The “Etat des Lieux” can be prepared and signed with the landlord and the tenant (or their representatives)
Immediately after you have left the premises, a further Etat des Lieux must be carried out, and compared with that prepared prior to your entry into the property. In case of any damages, the landlord is entitled to deduct the costs of such damages from the security deposit.
With regard to the security deposit, this represents a maximum of one month of the initial rent (payable upon the signature of the lease) to cover damages, unpaid bills, etc. The initial amount cannot be updated. This security deposit must be returned to the tenant (after deduction of any costs as the case may be) within a period of two months after the termination of the lease.
The lease, as well as the Etat des Lieux must be completed in duplicate, and each signed by both parties. Several documents and information must be enclosed to the lease, such as Natural and technological risks report, lead contamination risk and the energy performance diagnostic.
The lead contamination and energy performance reports require a professional surveyor’s, intervention payable by the landlord.
Mandadory surveys (diagnostics obligatoires)
Please note that mandatory surveys must be carried out by a professional surveyor (payable by the landlord) and be enclosed to the lease agreement.
Those surveys are:
- Natural and technological risks report (Etat des risques naturels et technologiques),
- Energy consumption report (Diagnostic de performance energétique),
- and Lead inspection report (Constat de risque d’exposition au plomb).