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Finding A Rental In France

“Kathleen, we are interested in a one- to two-year rental in the south of France for a family of six. Thoughts?”

— Jeremiah Y., United States

France Correspondent Lucy Culpepper responds:

“First, three questions, the answers to which will help you define what you are looking for and so help you find a home. Then I’ll note some general points about renting in France.

“Here are my questions:

1. Do you know which part of the ‘south of France’ you are interested in? There is the typical South of France (Provence and the Cote d’Azur) and then there is ‘The Other’ south of France that hugs the Pyrenees Mountains and includes Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees, and Languedoc-Roussillon.

2. Are your children of school age? If they are, will they attend English-speaking, international, or local schools? I ask, because if you interested in sending your children to an international school, your choices are limited outside Paris. There are international schools in Nice, Aix en Provence, and Marseille. In the ‘other’ south of France, there are schools in Montpellier (bilingual), Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Pau. This is probably not a complete list, but these are the ones that I have found online.

3. Will you be coming to France with a work contract? If you have a written contract from an employer (even for your own business), it will increase your chances of finding a rental property from a French owner. More on this in a minute.

“To rent from a French owner (and from some expats, too), you will almost certainly need:

— Proof of identity (for example, a passport or residence permit)…

— Pay slips for the previous three months or proof of income (such as a pension)…

— If you are self-employed, you will need to provide your previous year’s tax returns and up to two letters from financial guarantors…

— If you have neither French pay slips nor French tax return statements, you may be asked to open a bank account with enough cash to cover your rent for a number of months…

— Bank account slips showing your bank account details. You will be asked to have your rent automatically withdrawn each month from this account…

“It may seem intrusive, but it’s quite normal. The reason for the difficulty with French owners (and some expats) dates back to Napoleonic times and laws (which are still in use). For example, an owner cannot ask a renter to leave during the winter months, no matter how far behind he is in paying the rent (!), and, generally speaking, renters have more rights than owners once a certain amount of time has passed. This makes owners, understandably, anxious and cautious. They would rather wait months for a safe bet than risk renting to an unknown entity.

“The Top Annonces website, www.topannonces.fr, is a catchall for selling and renting many items. When searching for a rental in this country, this is a good starting point. Go to the home page and choose your region, then from the drop-down menu titled ‘Toutes Les Categories,’ select ‘Location Immobiliers’ (property rentals). Then choose how many rooms you want, etc.

“If you are coming to France independently (that is, if you don’t have a work contract), you may find the rental market difficult to break into. Fear not. There are ways to make this work. I’ll detail them in full during my presentation at the Live & Invest in France Conference in Paris this July.

“Meantime, you can read more about the ‘other’ south of France (the Pyrenees-Atlantic department in Aquitaine and the Hérault department of the Languedoc) in my special Country Reports. Details here.

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