“The” Dossier


Typically, when you visit an apartment in France, the landlord will want to see your dossier (application paperwork).  A dossier serves as proof that you are making (or have) money, will continue to make (or have) money and are who you say you are.  A typical dossier will contain the following documents:

Your information

  • A photocopy of your ID (passport, carte de séjour, driver’s license, etc.)
  • A photocopy of your job contract
  • Your last 3 pay stubs (they’re looking to see that you make three times the rent per month)
  • Last year’s tax filings (from France or the country from which you’re coming)
  • Sometimes they will ask you for a guarantor (see below)
  • You might need the last three “quittances de loyer” from the last place you rented.  This is the receipt of rent payment from your last landlord, even if it’s not from within France.
  • Sometimes they will ask you for a RIB (your bank account info), but we don’t really see the point in having to provide this…so always wait until they insist…

Note: If you are a student and your parents are paying your rent, you will need a signed letter from them (in French) saying they will supply you with an allowance of XX Euros per month (often what you brought to the French embassy in your city to get your student visa), as well as the Guarantor’s information found below.

Guarantor’s information

  • If you are gainfully employed but say, in your 20s, you might still be asked for a guarantor. If you are a student, you will almost certainly be asked for one. Any older, and they might ask for a caution bancaire.
  • A photocopy of their ID
  • A photocopy of their job contract
  • Last 3 pay stubs
  • Last year’s tax filings
  • A handwritten letter by the guarantor (acte de cautionnement) pledging to pay your rent if you are not in the position to do so. They might provide you one for them to fill out and sign.

Note: Very few French landlords accept a guarantor who does not reside in France.  Even if your guarantor is raking in mad dollars, reals or yuan – this will matter little to the landlord who wants someone nearby who will be legally beholden to him.  Also, they may be required to make, say, three times the future rent per month (or in case of one agency, TEN times the future rent)…

The Perfect Dossier: A cautionary tale

Many moons ago, an ex-boyfriend and I were searching for an apartment together.  We were both young, in love, and had middle class parents. Perfect equation?  Not quite. We were students. And my guarantors were thousands of miles away in California.  Right off the bat, landlords were asking me to fly my parents out or demanding we pay a five-month deposit.  We realized that we needed to sell ourselves.  And sell ourselves we did.

To mask our financial and geographical insecurities, we embarked upon creating the most attractive dossier on the real estate market.  In our spiral-bound, glossy page dossier, we created a cover that had a “darling couple” picture of the two of us.  Below it, we added trumped-up CVs.  Did I mention that I was enrolled in the prestigious Sciences-Po? How about my sweetie, working on his PhD in philosophy?  We even created a grid that added the monthly revenue of our parents showing that our guarantors were well equipped to take into account a measly Parisian apartment.  We printed out a dozen or so of these beautiful documents and set off to conquer the real estate market.

Alas, our beautiful dossier was met with indifference by the landlords who still smelled our desperation.  Often, the first thing they said when seeing the dossier was “I won’t need the cover, please let me see the pay stubs.”  In the end, we ended up finding a place via Craigslist from a woman who didn’t even care about the dossier and paid the price…



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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