Landing in France with a WHV — a guide to your first steps

Chapter 3: Finding a place to rent in France

Published: 27-01-2018



Finding a place to rent in France

It’s usually harder to find a place to rent in France than in Canada, Australia or New Zealand. WHV holders can consider shared-apartment options, which generally involves less red tape and gives you first-hand experience of French way of life and culture.

Successful apartment hunting is best done using a mix of strategies. Go online, ask around, read classifieds and check out rental companies.

Your rights and duties as a tenant

The ANIL (Agence Nationale pour l’Information sur le Logement) has a very informative website (in French only) to learn about your rights and duties as a tenant, whether you’re renting a furnished/unfurnished apartment or sharing a place with other tenants.

These are the main points to keep in mind:

  • When you find a place, you will have to sign the lease directly with the landlord or with the real estate agency. Many landlords will ask for a guarantor, i.e. a co-signer, or a person that agrees to be legally responsible for the apartment, its condition, and the money owed for rent. Guarantors are subjected to the same in-depth scrutiny as tenants and will have to provide proof of sufficient income.
  • When you’re moving into your new place, you need to make a thoroughly documented inspection of the entire unit. This way, any existing issue won’t be blamed on you when you move out. Read more about this on the ANIL’s website.
  • Tenant insurance (“assurance logement” or “assurance habitation”) is compulsory in France. If you’re the only tenant on the lease, you won’t be able to move in before purchasing insurance coverage, which usually cost between €8 and €15 per month.
  • Landlords can ask for a security deposit (“dépôt de garantie” or “caution”). The amount must be stated on the lease and it can’t be more than one month’s rent (not including utilities) for unfurnished apartments and two months’ rent (not including utilities) for furnished apartments. No security deposit can be required if rent is paid quarterly. The security deposit is collected when the lease is signed—NOT before! The best-case scenario for renters is when landlords don’t cash the deposit cheque—but legally, they can. If you give cash for the deposit, don’t forget to ask for a receipt. You will get your deposit back when you move out (or a few weeks after you move out) after the final walk-through if you leave the apartment in good condition but for normal wear and tear. Occasionally, you will have to fight to get your deposit back. If you don’t have the funds for a security deposit, check out the LOCA-PASS option. This institutional guarantee helps prospective tenants to obtain access to housing though the provision of an interest-free loan for the rental/damage deposit.
    However, be aware that not all landlords accept this option.
  • Your lease defines exactly how long you’ll be renting the apartment—one year (furnished apartment only), three years or six years. Legally, you can move out before the end of your lease as long as you give the landlord a three-month notice. Serve the notice by registered mail (“recommandé avec accusé de réception”). If you know someone willing to rent the apartment, you can ask the landlord if a shorter notice could be an option. Note that unless you serve a termination notice at the end of your lease, the lease is tacitly renewed.
  • If you’re sharing an apartment, there can be one lease (signed by all roommates) or separate leases (each roommate sign a lease with the landlord). Note that if your name isn’t on the lease, you have no legal rights. Learn more about renting an apartment with roommates on the ANIL’s website.

For more information (in French):

Where can I find a place to rent?

There are many free and fee-based options, from classifieds to real estate agencies.

  • Keep in mind that:
    Real estate agency fees will be paid only if you do choose to rent the apartment the agent helped you find. Don’t pay any fee before the lease is signed.
  • There are paid classifieds online, often called “marchands de liste” because they tend to sell listings you’d otherwise find for free. They are a scam or at best, a waste of money.


Classifieds in the “apartment for rent by owner” category work well to find housing in France. It’s also a way to skip the middleman and associated fees charged by real estate agencies. The most famous websites of classifieds are:

  • Le bon coin (a general classifieds website, much like Kijiji or Craiglist)
  • De particulier à particulier (PAP) (the former real estate newspaper of reference is now operating an online version only)

Beware of rental scams. Never pay any fee before visiting the place you’re hoping to rent and never send money with Western Union. To learn more about scam WHV holders should avoid, in France or around the world, read les arnaques en PVT (in French).

Real estate agencies

There are thousands of rentals listed with real estate agents and many prospective tenants rely on their expertise to access properties, navigate the rental process, communicate with landlords and draft the lease. Dozens of real estate agencies operate in major French cities—walk down any main streets and you’ll see window displays with properties for rent and for sale.

Unlike in many countries, the “agency fee” is often split between the landlord and the tenant. This fee is based on how tight the rental market is, the size of the apartment rented and the city. Before visiting a property listed by an agency, know your legal rights regarding these fees, including fee caps.

The tighter the rental market is (i.e. demand far excess supply), the higher the fee is. The country is divided into three geographical housing markets:

  • A1 and A areas – very tight housing market (Paris, communes in the metropolitan area of Paris, main cities in the Côte d’Azur like Marseille and French cities close to Geneva, in Switzerland). In these cities, legally, agency fees are capped at €12 per sq. m. For instance, if you rent a 20-sq. m. apartment in Paris, agency fees will be at most €240.
  • B1 and B areas – tight housing market (many cities in the greater Paris region, Caen, Arcachon, Orléans, Reims, Biarritz, Bayonne, etc.). In these cities, legally, agency fees are capped at €10 per sq. m. For instance, if you rent a 20-sq. m. apartment in Reims, agency fees will be at most €200.
  • C areas – looser housing market conditions (all cities not listed in the reference tables). In these cities, legally, agency fees are capped at €8 per sq. m. For instance, if you rent a 20-sq. m. apartment in a smaller city, agency fees will be at most €160.

Here are the main websites of reference:

  • Explorimmo
  • Logicimmo
  • Fnaim

Facebook and social media

Social networks like Facebook are a good way to kick off a word-of-mouth apartment hunt. Before you leave, you could post a message stating you are looking for a room or an apartment in XYZ city.

You could also use relevant Facebook groups to find a roommate or short- and long-term leases. If you’re heading for a big city, try using keywords like “Paris,” “Lyon,” “Bordeaux” or “Marseille,” or narrow it down by searching “Mexicanos in Paris,” “Canadians in Lyon” or even “apartment+XYZ city.” Again, watch out for scams but there could be legit opportunities.

Two additional tips

  • Many French universities have a “classifieds” section on their website. It can be a great way to find a place, especially if you’re looking for like-minded roommates!
  • If you need appliances and furniture for your unfurnished apartment, check out Le bon coin (the French equivalent of Kijiji or Craiglist). Emmaüs is a non-profit with second-hand clothing and furniture and is a network of consignment stores.
Chapter 3 of 6

1 Comment

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Hi! Is there a need to validate my working holiday visa? I tried to do it on the website, but the reasons listed for my visa were not listed as mine is the WHV and the reasons were for students, temp workers, etc.

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