“Will it be hard to find a room or a place?” This question is at the top of the list for anyone travelling to France on a Working Holiday visa, and it can cause a great deal of stress before jumping into the unknown.
These days, finding housing is never straightforward—rentals are scarce and demand is high in big cities worldwide. The market is tight in France, and one of the main challenges is the notoriously complicated rental application process. However, every landlord operates differently, and some are more understanding than others about the status of Working Holiday visa holders.
Read on for a complete overview of short- and long-term accommodation options in France, with plenty of tips to make your life easier!
Short-term housing options
Renting a place through Airbnb is a good option to take time to settle in and adapt to your new city. Many hosts offer long-term stay options, sometimes with a discount when you stay for a week or longer—do the math, booking a place for four weeks could be cheaper than booking it for three weeks.
You can either rent a room and share other areas with the host or other guests or rent an entire apartment for yourself. The first option is typically cheaper and it can also give you a chance to meet new people and build a network. Some hosts also go above and beyond, like showing you around the city and introducing you to local hidden gems!
Before renting a place on Airbnb:
- Research the neighbourhood to make sure it’s safe and convenient (don’t pick a place without public transportation or supermarkets nearby if you don’t drive!)
- Read the reviews. Are you okay with any of the negative points mentioned by other guests? A one-time check-in issue is probably not a big deal, but it can be a red flag if many guests complain about spotty WiFi signal and cleanliness issues.
- Contact the host to make sure they’re responsive. It’s also important to clarify expectations if you’re renting a room in a shared apartment—ask what you have access to, if there’s a lock on your room, etc.
- Check what amenities are included (wifi, washing machine, kitchen, etc.).
- Compare prices with other options. A too-good-to-be-true price may hide some serious issues, and high prices may not be a good value.
Hostels can be a cheap and convenient option if you don’t yet know where exactly in France you’d like to spend most of your Working Holiday. You can hop from hostel to hostel to test a few neighbourhoods and cities before committing to a rental.
Hostels are also a great way to meet people from all over the world and get tips from seasoned travellers. Cooking your dinner in the communal kitchen is often both a chance to save money on food and make new friends!
The whole hostel life may feel daunting at first but they are safer than you’d think. Many hostels offer four- or six-bed mixed or women-only dorms. Nearly all rooms have lockers for personal belongings (remember to bring a padlock!)
A hotel room can be a good option if you don’t want to share your living space with strangers. If you only need a place for a few nights, hotels can be cheaper than Airbnb apartments, especially if you’re not looking for conveniences like a full kitchen or a washing machine.
How to find long-term housing in France
Tips for solo renting in France
It’s no myth that securing a rental in France is a pretty daunting task. It can take weeks, even months, to find the right place for the right price. The fun part starts with deciphering the ads and getting your application ready… Read on for tips!
What’s an “apartment meublé” in France?
A “meublé” is a furnished apartment in France that comes with all the basic furniture (couch, bed, fridge and stove, etc.). Furnished apartments are pretty common in France. Pay attention to what’s included and what’s not and check the condition of everything.
You can also rent an unfurnished apartment, i.e. a “non meublé.”
What does “charges incluses” mean?
Rent prices may or may not include utilities—if they are included, the apartment is “charges incluses.”
You’ll need to budget extra per month for utilities if they aren’t included, especially in winter. French winters aren’t as cold as in Canada or Northern Europe but many apartments are old and poorly insulated, so heating bills can be a lot higher than expected.
What on earth is a T1, a T2, or a T3?
We’re talking apartment size here!
- T1: one room (living room/bedroom) with a separate kitchen and a bathroom. Approx. 32m2.
- T2: two rooms, i.e. one bedroom plus a living room. Approx. 45m2.
- T3: three rooms. i.e. two bedrooms plus a living room, kitchen and bathroom. Approx. 65m2.
- T4: three bedrooms with a living room or four bedrooms without a living room. Approx. 80m2.
- T5: four bedrooms. Approx. 95m2.
Testimonial #1 from a Working Holiday traveller in France
“I visited three apartments in Lyon before finding the right place and I increased my budget each time because the higher the rent, the less competition there was. I had to leave a deposit and provide all my paperwork from Canada (yes, it’s completely ridiculous). But I think it helped that my manager knew the rental agency. If I had to do it all over again, I’d go for shared housing. It’s a more practical option for the first few months, it’s less restrictive and definitely less expensive.”
How to find an apartment
- Word-of-mouth: this is the best way to find housing in France, especially when your network understands your status as a Working Holiday program participant.
- Online: check ads on websites like SeLoger and Leboncoin (watch out for scams!)
- Rental agencies (e.g. Nexity): keep in mind the service comes with an agency fee, for instance, €12 per sqm for an apartment in a very tight market.
- Facebook groups: search by city + apartment rental/room for rent.
The market will invariably be tighter in Paris, in other major French cities and places with a big student population.
Testimonial #2 from a Working Holiday traveller in France
“I used the pap.fr website and I eventually found an empathic soul who took the time to review my situation instead of turning me down because I didn’t have a rental history in France. I submitted many, many applications before getting a reply. Meeting the landlord and explaining your situation are key. I asked my employer to be my guarantor and that helped too.”
Average monthly rent in France
What to bring when submitting a rental application
Landlords will typically require the following documents:
- Piece of ID
- Proof of address (if you don’t have one, you can bring an “attestation d’hébergement” completed by whoever the main tenant is where you’re currently staying)
- Proof of employment (your work contract)
- At least one proof of income (e.g. last three pay slips, guarantor contact information, etc.)
Testimonial #3 from a Working Holiday traveller in France
“I arrived in Bordeaux last October as a Working Holiday visa holder and finding housing was tricky, even though I had a job. Ultimately, it took me almost 2.5 months to find a place—granted, the market is tight in Bordeaux. My advice would be to focus on ads posted by landlords themselves and meet them to explain your situation. If possible, a French guarantor and a work contract help a lot too.”
Tips to find a room to rent
Sharing a house or an apartment with one or more roommates is a very attractive option when you arrive in a new country where you don’t know anyone. Much like renting a room through Airbnb, it’s a chance to meet new people and start your network. Your roommates could potentially make your new French life much easier because chances are they will be more comfortable than you with local bureaucracy; plus they may have tips on finding a job!
That said, finding a room can be as difficult as getting approved as a tenant, especially in cities with a big student population, and especially if you’re arriving in August or September at the start of the school year.
On the positive side, the application process should be easier than for a sole tenancy. Like Yves mentioned in his testimonial, sharing a place means less responsibility and less hassle for newcomers to France.
Facebook “room for rent” groups are a fairly simple and effective search tool, and they make it easy to get in touch with the main tenant(s) directly. Alternatively, you can find rooms for rent ads on all the websites listed above.
How to choose the right room rentals
Just like with apartment rentals, the apartment or the room can be furnished or unfurnished. Most of the time, you will be offered the opportunity to buy furniture if you’re taking over for a roommate who is leaving.
Note that your rent may or may not include utilities.
There are two types of lease:
- The “bail solidaire” (joint tenancy) guarantees full payment of the rent to the landlord, whatever the circumstances. So if one of the roommates doesn’t pay the rent, the others will have to cover it no matter what.
- The “bail non solidaire” (tenants in common) simply requires each roommate to pay their share. If one of them doesn’t, the others are not affected.
Testimonial #4 from a Working Holiday traveller in France
“I rented a room for a month through Airbnb when I arrived in Lille. I visited a total of four apartments in four weeks. It was hard to get a positive reply because I arrived at the start of the school year and many students were also looking for a place to live. The third visit was a success. My landlady, who is also my roommate, didn’t ask me for any documents. I was quite surprised. I didn’t even have a job at the time. She simply trusted me to pay my share of the rent on time. I had to stay an extra week in my Airbnb until my room was available. My host offered me the extra week for free.”
Tips and advice
Don’t just type “still available?” or “interested” when you reply to an ad. It’s way too generic, you won’t get a reply. Prepare a short presentation and explain why you’re looking for a room, mention a few interests, offer a short bio, etc. Basically, make it personal. This will help your future roommates decide if you’d be a good fit.
Always, always research the neighbourhood!
Your rights and duties as a tenant
As a tenant, you have the right to enjoy a place that is acceptable and in good condition. Your landlord is responsible for major repairs and maintenance work, both in the apartment and in the building’s common areas.
You must be informed of any change made to the rental contract, such as the monthly rent.
Landlords are not allowed to let potential tenants visit the property without informing the current tenants.
The documents provided, such as the lease, must be available to you free of charge.
Finally, you are free to furnish and decorate the property.
You will find more information (in French) about tenants’ and landlords’ rights and obligations on the website of the Agence Nationale pour l’Information sur le Logement (ANIL).
Note that as a Working Holiday visa holder, you’re not eligible for housing subsidies (“APL,” i.e. “aide personnelle au logement”) from the Caisse d’allocations familiales (CAF).
You’ll be required to pay a deposit after signing the rental contract. The amount required may not exceed two months’ rent, excluding utilities. This amount cannot be increased during the lease term or at renewal.
When you move in, the landlord and you will complete a move-in inspection (“état des lieux d’entrée”) to check the condition of the place. Make sure to write down anything broken, in bad condition, etc., otherwise, any preexisting damage will be your responsibility when you move out. At the end of the lease term, the landlord and you will complete a move-out inspection (“état des lieux de sortie”). The deposit will be refunded at most a month later if the place is in good condition.
Notice of leaving
You can terminate your lease at any time. However, the notice period (“préavis”) depends on where you live. For an unfurnished apartment in a designated tight-market area, the notice period is one month. Otherwise, it’s three months. For furnished apartments, the notice period is only one month. This is what the law says, but some landlords will accept 15 days’ notice.
You can give notice simply by sending a registered letter with proof of delivery (“letter recommandée avec accusé de réception”). Once you’ve given notice, you can’t change your mind, unless you’ve reached an agreement with the landlord.
Renter’s home insurance
Renter’s insurance must be bought by either the landlord or the tenant. It’s optional for landlords but mandatory for tenants, so if your landlord opts out then you must get it.
If you’re renting a room in a shared apartment, only one of the roommates has to get renter’s insurance for the entire place to be insured.