The Admin


The Deposit

The deposit serves two purposes: 1) to demonstrate your commitment to take the apartment, and 2) to give the landlord a base sum from which to deduct any damages incurred throughout the course of your rental. Red wine stains on the white shag rug? Broke too many glasses? A landlord has the right to ask you for one or two months of rent deposit before you move in depending on whether or not you are renting your flat empty or furnished, respectively. Often times you might be asked for more as a foreigner – though this is not legal and they will cite another reason for turning you down if you refuse to pay it. Depending on the strictness of your landlord and the “quality” of your dossier, six months or even a year of rent might be asked in advance. Again, this is not technically allowed, but there are people who are willing to do this for the right apartment. You will get this deposit back upon moving out given you’ve left the flat in the same state in which you’d found it. A nice landlord might give this to you in advance so you could apply it as the deposit for the next flat you take or towards the last month or two of rent. Count yourself lucky if this happens!

The Contract

When presented with your rental contract, make sure to read it attentively (or to have someone on-hand to help you read it, as it will likely be in French). Normally, you will sign and date two copies, one for yourself and one for the landlord. As with everything related to papers, be sure to keep the contract with you, and make some photocopies once it’s signed.

Generally, your contact will include the rental period, the rent, the deposit and any extra fees known as charges, you may pay. Usually, there will be a stipulation stating that if you wish to leave the rental, you must give the landlord one to three months notice through a registered letter (courier recommandé avec accusé de reception).

The Etat des Lieux

The état des lieux is the inspection of the apartment. This is done twice, first when you sign the contract, and then right before you move out. The first part of the état des lieux is an inventory of everything in the apartment. Renter and landlord agree upon the respective quality of these items. At the end of the rental period, the renter and landlord get out the inventory and compare the quality of each item. If the quality has been considerably degraded, expect the landlord to withhold some money from your initial deposit. However, landlords cannot hold the renter responsible for deterioration of paint, wall-paper or carpet, simply due to aging. Depending upon your relationship with your landlord, the état de lieux can be a point of contention. We suggest you take pictures of the apartment when you first move in.

The Caution Bancaire

The cautionnement bancaire is a one-year deposit of your rent put aside by the renter’s bank on a separate account. Normally, the renter pays the bank a 2% interest.

Housing Insurance

Usually your landlord will require you to purchase Renter’s Insurance before moving in. This protects all things within the walls that you’ve brought into the flat…this is a good idea, obligatory or not. Enrollment confirmation, including personalized ID card, Summary of Coverage, and the claim form depends on the type of insurance chosen and can be handled from one day to 1 or 2 weeks (if, for example, details are needed for the best quote and documents are missing). There are many private companies that offer this service. Get the basics and it will cost you between 200-300 Euros for a year of coverage. You can opt to pay this monthly over the course of the year (mensuel). For more on housing insurance and a few recommendations, visit our Insurance Page. Check out It is a great comparison site for any kind of insurance in France.


As students, both Brenna and Sam qualified to receive a housing stipend. In France, this is done through the CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales). This amount will vary on the amount you are supplemented by, say, your parents, the cost of your rent, and a few other factors. Visit the CAF website to see what you might qualify for as a student, or even based on your salary and rent.

Ways to pay rent

How you pay your rent is a decision you make with your landlord. Sometimes you will suppose that your dear landlord does not “declare” their apartment as they have asked you to pay in liquid cash or check. For these owners, direct deposits are highly suspicious and are often discouraged. A proper landlord will encourage this efficient method of payment in which you set up a monthly direct transfer between your bank and theirs. With their account information in the hands of your bank, they can make the transfer for you automatically, or you can manage this online or in person and make the transfer yourself each month.

Charges broken down (what exactly are you paying for??)

Les Charges. When the landlord says it’s “20 euros on top of the rent for the charges of the apartment” – what does that mean exactly? Sounds like an easy way to increase the rent above that which was advertised…but often this money goes towards the building’s communal pot to pay the concierge, the cleaning fees, sometimes water, the trash and recycling…

Need something fixed in your flat?

Patience is a virtue, and one you will need if you need something fixed in your flat. Your landlord might have someone on hand that they call if something needs a fixing so always contact them first, otherwise you might be on your own. In this instance, you can try to hire a handyman on your own, or visit your local bricolage store for do-it-yourself items. Read more on our commerce page…

Word to the wise: some handymen can charge criminally high rates, especially if you call on evenings or weekends, or if you happen to be a woman. If your landlord has no one on hand, then ask your next door neighbors who they use. A trustworthy repairman is worth a little extra legwork.


About Author


I've lived in France since August 2006 with a stint back in Washington, DC for a year. Ten months of my time in France were spent in Rouen - the Normandy town known for, among other things, Joan of Arc's death and Monet's study of light. With the years that pass, Paris is constantly transformed by the interesting people I meet who open up new doors in this amazing city.

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