5 important things to do before signing a lease

1/ Check the condition of the building

You have made an appointment to view an apartment with an agency or the owner: this is the time to check that the apartment you have seen pictures of online meets the description. But first, check that the common areas in the building are in good condition and that the property is well-maintained. Do not hesitate to arrive ahead of time when meeting with the real estate agency to see the condition of the building for yourself. In Paris, buildings are mostly old. If the façade was renovated, it means that the building is well maintained by the owners. You can have a quick look around in the neighbourhood to check whether there are nice local shops, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, pharmacies or easy access to public transport such as a metro station, a bus stop or a taxi stand. Once you enter the building, check the entrance hall, make sure lights are working and mailboxes are in good condition. You may also check other tenants’ names on their mailboxes! Check if there is a secure, double entrance with intercom or a Vigik pass because it improves security for tenants from intrusions and burglary, a scourge in Paris. If the rental agency shows you the way to a lift to view the apartment, suggest taking the stairs as it is a good way to get an idea of the condition of the staircase. When the paint and floor are in good condition, it means that the joint-ownership property is in good condition and that the common areas are well-maintained and renovated. Do not hesitate to try the lift when leaving the apartment to make sure it works well and there is enough room for two or three people or a stroller if you have a baby. In Paris, buildings are often narrow, so lifts are placed in very small spaces. You can also check whether there is a superintendent, and if that’s the case, ring their bell to ask them questions about the building. Superintendents often are in the best position to provide you with information on the pros and cons of living in the building.

Check condition of furnished apartment Paris

2/ Check the overall condition of the apartment

Whether you are dealing with a rental agency or the owner, you must absolutely check that the apartment is in good condition and fit for purpose and meets your expectations. It is essential that you make up your own mind and detect potential defects that you don’t always see at first. Firstly, check that the apartment was renovated and fit for purpose. Paint on the walls and ceilings must be brand new or at least in good condition. If you have any doubts, ask the agency whether the apartment has recently been renovated. Check that the bathroom has been renovated and does not show moisture, which would suggest poor ventilation. Check that the water heater is in good condition and recent. In Paris, most claims are due to water damage because of leaks in a water heater failing or poorly connected to the apartment pipes. Moreover, it is often expensive and complicated to call a plumber. You should check ahead of time whether your bathroom is in good condition. When there is a shower, check the seals. If they look yellowing or blackened, you can ask the agency to call a handyman before signing the lease. Also check the kitchen area thoroughly if it’s already assembled: open the cabinets, the fridge, the washing machine and check that everything is functioning correctly. In a furnished apartment, the owner must provide you with utensils for your meals. Make sure that the appliances are new and that there is no smell or moisture in invisible or hidden corners.
Lastly, if you are sensitive to noise, keep in mind that Parisian apartments are old and often poorly insulated from noise. Try to plan for a viewing at a time when there are people above and under the apartment. For example, if you can hear heels above your head, it means that the level of sound insulation is poor and that you risk suffering from the noise when living in the apartment. If it’s a deal-breaker for you, we recommend that you rent an apartment on the last floor to avoid noisy neighbours above you. Apartments located on the top floor are often a little more expensive to rent but it is worth trying for some peace and quiet, with a stunning view of a monument as a bonus.
Finally, make sure that doors and windows are well insulated too and that you are not going to lose all your heat out the window to Paris! To do so, you must absolutely see the apartment energy efficiency scorecards. You can request them from the agency. Since July 2021, a new energy efficiency scorecard (DPE in French) has been put in place to better protect tenants and avoid excessive gas and electricity use in winter.

3/ Check the rent amount

Apartment rents in Paris are controlled by a decree of July 2019. Any owner wishing to rent out an apartment, be it unfurnished or furnished, will have to comply with the rent control scheme in the city, if it’s the tenant’s main home. The reference price per square meter is imposed upon Parisian owners. It varies between €30 and €40 per square meter depending on the area, the type of property and the year of construction. It is possible for the owner to add a rent supplement by highlighting criteria such as a view of a monument, ceilings higher than 3.5 m, a clear view over a garden or any other upscale equipment like air conditioning, a jacuzzi, a custom-made walk-in closet, a kitchen made with marble. If you rent your apartment as your permanent home, you should check that the owner of the property you are interested in complies with the rent control scheme. Usually, rental agencies do this assessment work with the owner to explain a legislation that is difficult to grasp for investors wishing to make their real estate investment profitable. It is very easy for a tenant to check the rent is compliant with the rent control scheme by visiting the reference website.

Renting your apartment with an estate agent

To find an apartment rented at the right price, you should go through a rental agency rather than an owner/tenant rental platform. Private individuals on the latter tend to comply less with rent control than rental and property management agencies. You should also be really careful with fake rental offers posted online by fraudsters and systematically report them to the platform concerned. You will easily spot them offering very attractive prices much lower than the ones on the market. If you have any doubt, copy-paste the content of the offer in your search engine to check whether it appears on other real estate websites and at which price it is advertised. If you have a doubt regarding pictures, copy-paste them in Google images to see their original source.

4/ Check the owner’s profile

Property leases last for five years on average in Paris when the apartment is unfurnished and 18 months when it is furnished. Getting to know the owner beforehand is thus very important because you will have an owner/tenant relationship that will last for months, even years.

If you go through an owner/tenant rental platform, it is very likely that the owner will directly respond and provide you with a tour of the apartment. This is the perfect time to ask questions and determine their profile: have they renovated the apartment? Can they handle a water damage situation with the real estate management company? Can they be reached in case of an emergency? Are they mindful of their tenant’s comfort? Are they hospitable? Do they wish to get the apartment back in the long run to sell it or accommodate one of their children, and if so when? The answers you will get will help you decide whether you wish to sign a lease with them and whether they will be supportive in the event of a mishap. Some owners are too invasive and you also need to set reasonable limits between you and them, so that they aren’t too intrusive. For example, make sure that they hand over all the keys of the apartment when drawing up the entry inventory. Finally, make sure that you feel at ease and safe with them when you leave. Owners who directly rent out to private individuals have very different profiles. Be wary of profiles that are too procedural who might be indicative of future conflicts, especially when handing back the apartment and retrieving the deposit.

If you go through a rental and property management agency, you will not be directly in touch with the owner. Your contact point will be your property manager. Most property management agencies have improved their relationship with tenants a lot over the past few years and they have digitalised their communication channels which makes it easier to reach a property manager directly and get a swifter answer in case of an incident in the apartment you are renting.

Furnished rental owner-tenant relationship

In Paris, many property owners are large institutional companies such as GENERALI or AXA. If you rent your apartment from such a property owner, you can rest assured that your apartment will be rented at the right price and for as long as you wish. Institutional investors invest in the long run and fully abide by the ALUR law. They usually maintain common areas well and make themselves available quickly in the event of any water damage or technical issue arising in the apartment. Nevertheless, there isn’t any human relationship since they are large companies with staff constantly changing. But if your goal is to rent an apartment in Paris for years, this type of property owner is ideal for you.

5/ Check the lease

In France, and in Paris in particular, rental laws have become stricter and more complex since 2015 and the entry into force of the ALUR law. Permanent home leases are now subject to the ALUR law and rent controls. As a tenant, you should check that the lease complies with rent controls, and in the event of a rent supplement, that it is justified. Building maintenance charges which are your responsibility should also appear on the lease and scorecards attached as appendixes. If you have no experience in terms of leases, you should go through a rental agency or private law practice specializing in real estate law. This may add to your costs but it will spare you from any dispute when carrying out the exit inventory or while you are renting the apartment. Although tenants are legally well protected in Paris, proceedings in case of a dispute can last for several years. It is better to avoid any type of dispute by drawing up a lease that has been well worked out!