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Paris is a densely packed city with many neighbourhoods, each with a distinct flavour and personality. Expats searching for accommodation in Paris should take a walk through the city and explore each respective area before securing housing.
The public transport infrastructure in Paris is also one of the densest in the world, so it can be more difficult finding a place off the grid than on it. Choice of location is therefore generally a matter of price and taste more than transit convenience.
Types of accommodation in Paris
The kind of accommodation available in Paris largely depends on its location. In and around the city centre expats will mostly find apartments and studios, while further into the suburbs there are more houses and cottages.
The main types of accommodation in Paris include:
Chambre de Bonne
A chambre de bonne is the smallest and cheapest type of accommodation in Paris. Former maids’ quarters, these charming abodes are usually fully equipped with modern amenities and are often occupied by students or young professionals. It is not uncommon for a chambre de bonne to share bathroom facilities with its neighbouring apartment.
By far the most common form of accommodation in Paris, apartments are available at a wide range of prices which depend on size, quality and location. It is not unusual for people to share a multi-bedroom apartment, not only to dilute expenses but also to account for the incredibly high housing demand. Expats looking to rent an apartment in Paris can expect all of the amenities associated with modern living, but older units may not include parking or central heating.
Facilities are one of the most important measures of an apartment’s quality. It's usually worth paying extra for an apartment that is individually heated as some landlords turn off a building's heating when they go to bed.
Houses are a common choice of accommodation for expats living in the suburbs of Paris. They are frequently multi-storey and often include a garden, but can be considerably more expensive than apartments. Houses in Paris are more commonly bought than rented, but an experienced house hunter shouldn't have too much difficulty finding both options available.
Finding accommodation in Paris
Finding accommodation in Paris is no different from finding a place to stay elsewhere in France. However, prices are inevitably more expensive and the competition more fierce.
Expats looking for accommodation in the city will most likely have to deal with smaller-than-average living quarters in spite of particularly high costs. Those on a budget are advised to either look outside of the city or consider sharing an apartment.
It can be invaluable for expats searching for accommodation in Paris to connect with people over social-networking sites. High demand and the unpredictable nature of classifieds lead to many property owners only advertising through their social network, so expats using their contacts or making new connections through online groups will have an edge over their competition.
Renting accommodation in Paris
Expats living in Paris will most likely rent their accommodation and there are a number of things to keep in mind while deciding whether or not to sign a lease.
Furnished vs unfurnished properties
Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Paris. Furnished options are inevitably more expensive and more likely to be available for short-term rental. Unfurnished accommodation rarely includes appliances such as a fridge or stove. It is always important to take a full inventory of the apartment's condition on arrival. This not only simplifies matters for both tenant and landlord, but also demonstrates responsibility.
Making an application
Expats seeking accommodation in Paris will need to act swiftly once they find a place because of the intense competition and demand in the city, with listings commonly being taken down minutes after going up.
A good impression with a prospective landlord can be the difference between signing a lease and having to continue the search, especially when there are dozens of other eager candidates. Expats should come prepared with all the necessary documents so they can get the ball rolling as swiftly as possible.
Standard leases in France are generally for 12 months. It is possible to negotiate shorter leases directly with the landlord but most property owners are reluctant to do so.
The law in France mostly favours the tenant, meaning that eviction or raising the rent can be a difficult task for a landlord. A letter must be sent to the tenant at least six months prior to a rental increase, informing them of the landlord’s intentions. The landlord also has to show that the rental increase is in line with the market value of the property.
When signing a lease, expats should be sure to read the paperwork carefully in order to understand what is included in the rental price. Tenants are usually responsible for paying their own utility bills, but in the case of short-term rentals, these could be included.
French law also requires tenants living in apartment buildings to take out inexpensive rental insurance to protect against theft, fire and damage to the communal areas. The local town hall can provide more information on what this involves.
The deposit for an apartment is usually one month's rent, with the expectation that the tenants will provide two months' rent in advance in addition to this. Tenants wanting to move out must provide at least three months’ notice to the landlord, but a clause can be added to the lease to shorten this requirement. If the inventory upon the departure of the tenant shows no damage, the full deposit should be returned.
►To learn about the different arrondissements of the city, see areas and suburbs in Paris
"Housing is hard to come by. It’s a fast market, and you often have to respond to ads within hours of them being posted. There are a lot of options to fit budget, taste and needs. I recommend using an agency. It costs, but it’s a more secure route. I opted not to, and I had property owners cancel contracts on me last-minute. One apartment in particular, I had even started moving my books into the room when the owner changed his mind! I was stuck with two days to find an apartment, and had to choose one far from central Paris. There are a lot of ways to save money while living abroad; finding your perfect home is not one of them."
Read more about Canadian expat Dorian's experiences in Paris.
Are you an expat living in Paris?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Paris. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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