Help and Advice For Renting and Buying in France

I get a lot of mail asking for information about life and property in France. When relevant, I try to publish these notes on blogs for others.

This is an exchange about a renters rights for an apartment rental in Paris.

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Hello Tony,
We are finally back in Los Angeles and we must have brought a few clouds with us because it is now raining this week.

I want to thank you for taking the time to visit with us, chat about living in France and guide us through Pezenas. It was a very lovely time and gave us much to think and talk about. We had a wonderful time exploring more of the southern villes and wish we did not have to leave so soon. We hope to be back soon to explore more of France and soak up more culture while eating lots of pain au chocolat.:)

I’m hoping we can stay in touch and share thoughts and ideas and hope you are available sometimes to field the many questions I will have concerning living in France, moving to France, working in France, etc.?

On another note, I’ve been reading your new site ParisCharade.com and find it very interesting. I’m not sure you remember, but we did rent an apartment in Paris for 5 days. Unfortunately, while we were staying there a plank under our bed broke and now it seems we will almost be buying a new bed from what the owner is telling me. I wish I would have known about the law concerning vacation rentals in Paris as I most certainly would have chosen a hotel over the apartment. Particularly now that I’m having to forfeit quite a large deposit to pay for a bed. You’re right, I did not take out any trip insurance of any kind, not that it would help me in this case.

Thank you for all of the information you provide on each of your websites. It is very nice to see someone take an active interest in something they believe in and very inspirational to me as well.

Heather

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Hello Heather,

Do keep in touch through my newsletter and blogs , always happy to chat and help if I can in any way.

The way you have been treated in the apartment rental is disgraceful, if  bed breaks then this is the fault of the landlord and it is you who should demand compensation – if one of the slats on the base has broken, these cost a few cents.

Let me know who the landlord or agency is, these people are already breaking the laws by renting privately, I suggest you point this out to them and demand not only your deposit, but a full refund, if you paid by credit card, report them and possibly get a chargeback. Tell them you will report them to the Prefecture for illegally renting an apartment – refer them to my site and demand your money back.

I do feel very strongly that people, mostly overseas visitors, are being abused by this apartment rental racket.

Hope to see you all in France again soon

Best wishes

Tony

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Hello Tony,

Thank you for your information concerning the Paris rental.
I found the apartment through VRBO. The owner  lives in the U.S. We actually met him when we arrived in Paris as he was leaving for the U.S. He has a person who cares for the property in France.

I was thinking since we found the listing on VRBO that he was legal and also there is an antique store on the bottom level of the building so I thought maybe it was commercially zoned as you had talked about.

I don’t know the laws in France and what damages the tenant may be responsible for, but we just figured we had to pay for the bed.

It is actually a larger support beam probably 2 by 4 inches that broke under the bed. We have photos of it, but not sure what good they can do for us. After hearing from the owner I am quite surprised to hear the ensuing trouble the broken beam has caused the rest of the bed, which is being touted as “custom made” and to resolve such trouble the owner is now saying the original makers of the bed must come and see what they can do to fully restore the bed. So, it sounds like lots more money to be paid out.

If you believe I should go ahead and let the owner know that I should not be held liable for the damages I will gladly do so.

I am unfamiliar with chargebacks and am unsure what to say to the credit card company when speaking of this matter. Any ideas would be welcome.

Thank you again for your time. I truly appreciate your insight and information.

Heather

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Hello Heather

You can tell the bank or credit card company that this was a security deposit which the owner is refusing to return as he is making a false claim – any damage to a thing like a bed would be covered by his insurance – beds simply do no break unless they are defective – holes in sheets, broken crockery, stained covers etc is negligence and you should pay, but structural damage, a chair which collapses, a bed which is faulty, a table leg which falls off etc etc is clearly down to the owner as the equipment is faulty

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chargeback

Definitely protest the claim –

Tony

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Hello Tony,

I did let the owner know that I wanted a full refund of the deposit due to the fact that it could have been distressed already by prior tenants.
I have yet to hear back from him. I am proceeding to contact my credit card company as well.

Should he respond negatively, is it safe to let him know he is breaking the law by renting to me? I would hate to find out he is the one apartment building that is able to legally rent to vacationers such as myself. Your information has helped me so much and I will be directing him to your website as well to further validate my position.

I hope you don’t mind if I email you updates as they occur?

Thanks again,
Heather

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Hello Heather

I doubt in that street it can be commercial apart from the ground floor – ask him for proof that his apartment is correctly rated as commercial and therefore can be rented for vacationers, if not then demand a full refund as he has put you at risk by having no insurance cover for you – tell him if it not correctly zoned and classified as commercial he is breaking at least three laws and you will report him to the Mairie and prefecture – your statement that he rented on a weekly basis, will guarantee they make a prosecution as they are currently looking for owners they can make an example of to stop illegal rentals.

Let me know how it develops – I would like to blog this, keeping your name out of it, to help others

Tony

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Hello Tony,

Another question has come to my mind – what if the apartment owner tells me that he actually lives in the apartment full time, but rents it out a few times a year when he is not there? Is there a law against apartment owners doing this? I’m thinking again that there would still be no insurance cover for me. Am I correct or am I overthinking this? Are owners on VRBO where I found this listing also breaking the laws?

I’ve sent him an email demanding proof that the apartment is zoned commercial as you suggested. I also demanded a refund for the full amount plus deposit.
I plan to give him 24 hours to return the funds or I am proceeding with my credit card company.

I will forward more information as I receive it.

Thanks again,
Heather

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Hello Heather

Unless it is an established commercial property, it is illegal to rent out an apartment in Paris for a period of less than a year – most of the apartments advertised on VRBO are illegal offers and the owners will be breaking the law if they rent for less than one year (or nine months in the case of a student).

Most owners are not aware of this law and the aim of the City authorities is now to make this known and to enforce the law. Penalties are high – 25,000 euro plus 1,000 euro a day (up to a maximum of 80,00 euro) fine plus up to 5 years in prison.

VRBO is a very reputable company and I doubt they know about this law yet.

Hope this helps

Tony

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Hello Tony,

Interesting development, the owner of the apartment emailed back quite a long email and has stated I am responsible for all damages to the bed particularly since I admitted in an email that after I “fell” into bed from exhaustion the bed broke. He also stated there were scratches to a table that now needs to be repainted and that brochures were missing that will cost money to replace. I did take a map of Paris, but the table we do not remember having any damage or doing any damage to.

He says he has a friend in Paris who is a lawyer and verified that all of his contracts between us are legal and will hold up on the French courts. The following is an excerpt from his email concerning this: “Additionally, I do not rent to third party agencies which is the subject of the article or blog that you sent- I can assure you that I rent this apartment legally as everything that I do including the contracts you signed are legal and enforceable under French law-I have a friend that is a Paris lawyer and she oversees the entire process for me.”

At this point, I’m not quite sure if I should proceed with the contacting my credit card for a chargeback or not. I’d hate to think I needed to return to Paris for a court hearing concerning this matter.

Any ideas are much appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

Heather

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Hello Heather ,

He sounds a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Most lawyers I have spoken to are ignorant of the laws relating to the prohibition of short term rentals of private apartments in the centre of Paris, there are thousands of laws in the books and no lawyer can know them all, the simply look them up when the are needed. The contract he has may appear to be legal, but, if the rental is illegal in the first place the the ‘contract is worthless.

It depends how much ‘hassle’ you want, whether you write off the deposit, or fight a little. I cannot advise you, I know I would try to enforce a chargeback, I would also report him to the City of paris, the addresses are on http://ParisCharade.com in the downloads.

My blog is not about third party agencies, it is aimed at owners and renters, it is they who are breaking the laws or who are at risk. Most of the comments on my blog though is from agencies who seem to be blaming me for upsetting their business model – if they base a business on a criminal activity then the risk of action against them is theirs.

Best wishes

Tony

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Hello Tony,

I was writing to give you a quick update and ask if by chance I could forward the latest letter from Francois Plottin, Chef du Bureau de la Protection des Locaux d’Habitation in Paris.

It is written in French and while I have used an online translator to decipher the message I am still unclear as to what they would like from me or are directing me to do.
I understand I need to forward them the specific location of the apartment, but am not sure if they are going to help me or just letting me know the rules of the apartment rentals in Paris.

I had initially written to Sylvie Dardenne and received a reply from Damien Blaise Administrateur de la ville de Paris, Chef du bureau des affaires juridiques, Direction du logement et de l’habitat to which I forwarded copies of the rental contract. This led to the latest email from Plottin.

My last email correspondence with the owner of the apartment was me telling him is was going to contact the authorities since he was being unfair about returning the deposit. Needless to say I have not heard from him since and don’t expect to.

I phoned me credit card and they said I basically do not have a case since the contract I signed specifically states that all damages will be deducted from the deposit.

So, I guess I have spent a rather large amount on a Paris vacation. If I had known I would be spending this amount, I would have stayed in nicer accomodations. :)

Thank you again for your time and I do wish you and your family a wonderful New Year!

Heather

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Hello Heather,

Yes, please send me a copy of the letter from Mr Plottin;

As the rental is certain to be illegal, there is also the matter of fraud by the owner. You can report this to the French Consumer Protection authorities, DGCCRF, at http://www.dgccrf.bercy.gouv.fr/anglais.htm (this part of the site is in English) – they have a leaflet, in English, with more contact points and an outline of your consumer rights – you can download this from my site at http://ParisCharade.com/welcome_to_france.pdf

The laws relating to the rentals of vacation properties have been mainly ignored by owners and the authorities. But the massive growth of this business in the last ten years, due to the Internet, is forcing the government to tighten up the application of the laws and the rights of consumers.

Your experience of an owner flouting the laws and abusing your rights is one reason why the local authorities and the government is concerned and are planning to take action to correct this.

Unfortunately it is often overseas owners who cause these problems through greed and ignorance.

Keep me posted please

Best wishes

Tony

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Hi Tony,
I hope you’re doing well. It’s been a while since I’ve written, so thought I would send an update on the Paris apartment rental.
After sending the requested information to the French officials I never heard anything back from them. I did send an additional email last month stating I had receipts for the apartment rental should they like to see that I was actually charged for the rental.
I have never received a response so am assuming they’re finished with me.

I did initiate a dispute with my credit card for the deposit amount of $900. After a lengthy exchange of paperwork they have credited my account for the deposit, however, the owner/merchant has 45 days to dispute this, which, if my credit card agrees with him, could result in a chargeback on me for the deposit amount. I don’t see this as a “win” and am holding my breath as there are 30 more days to go in the 45 day count down. Of course, if he does not respond within 45 days he loses his chance to dispute the chargeback.

Anyway, lesson learned. Thank you again for all of your help and assistance over the past months. I really appreciate your time and insight.

On another note, we’re still seriously considering moving to France in the next 2 years.
I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I write every now and then with questions? I need to read more of your blog and archives, which will probably answer most of them, however, I have random questions pop in my head occasionally, and my husband is full of them, and we would love to hear your opinion.

Hope all is well!
Thanks again,
Heather

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Hi Tony!

I hope you are doing well and have a full house this summer! I thought I would write a final note on the outcome of the Paris apartment rental. As I had mentioned in a previous email, I opened a dispute with my credit card and they did credit my account for the deposit, however, the apartment owner told his side of the story providing them the email in which I did indeed admit to breaking the bed, therefore, they sided with him and charged me again for the deposit. Anyhow, I have learned a lot and am now in a better position to make future decisions when visiting Paris or recommending to friends my experience.

I have read your blog and you sound very busy, but in a good way! Villa Roquette sounds and looks so beautiful!
I will try to find you on Facebook and send a note.
I hope you don’t mind if I write you in the future for tips and advice on moving to France including purchasing property as we are dutifully working toward this goal.

Heather


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