How to Rent an Apartment in Paris

Have you always dreamed of living in your own Parisian flat but aren’t quite sure how to rent an apartment in Paris? Perhaps you imagine something glamorous, in a traditional Belle-Epoque style with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Or maybe you prefer a cozy artist’s loft in le Marais or Montmartre. Whatever your style, it’s no secret that living in Paris is a dream for many.

But as with so many other dreams, it takes perseverance and hard work to make them a reality. You’ve undoubtedly heard about the sky-high prices, mountains of paperwork and seemingly endless red tape that seem to accompany every Parisian apartment hunt. I won’t tell you that renting an apartment in Paris is a simple task or an easy feat – I’d be lying. You will feel like a true hero once you’ve secured that lease! But what I will tell you is that it’s not as daunting as people often make it out to be.

I created this simple guide to answer all your questions about how to rent an apartment in Paris. The whole process can be long and complicated, but don’t worry! I’ll walk you through the process step-by-step, and make it really simple for you. After reading this guide, you’ll know all about how to rent an apartment in Paris, and have some insider tips as well.

Overview of How to Rent an Apartment in Paris

Before we even get started on the how-to’s of renting an apartment in Paris, there’s quite a few things you can start thinking about and researching NOW to make your transition smoother.

First off, are you legally allowed to live in Paris? If you’re not a resident of the E.U., you’ll have to obtain a visa, or residency card in order to be eligible to rent an apartment in Paris. If you’re from a number of countries including the U.S. and Australia, you’re allowed to remain in France for up to 90 days without any visa. Check out this website for a full list of visa requirements.

Secondly, why do you want to live in Paris? Are you here for a job, for your studies, are you single, a young family, or maybe a professional couple?

The answer to these questions will help determine what kind of apartment you’re looking for. And in turn, how big your budget needs to be.

Determining your Budget

Now, we have to talk money. Figuring out your budget is one of the most important steps to rent an apartment in Paris. And it’s no surprise that an apartment in Paris doesn’t come cheap. Landlords here are known to be stingy, and you’ll be lucky to get a 10 square meter studio for €700 or less per month. Yikes!

Every year, Paris seems to make the list of the world’s most expensive cities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something in your price range. Like so many other big cities, you can find something at almost any price if you’re patient and flexible.

There are lots of ways to save money when you rent an apartment in Paris, it all depends on your preferences. Generally, taking an individual rental contract will save you a lot of money compared to going through an agency (more on this later). In Paris, the price all comes down to the location, and the size of your flat. The center (arrondissements 1-7) is most desirable, and rents in these areas can be double what you would pay elsewhere in the city.

To give you a general idea, an average 20sq meter studio in Paris costs €900 a month and a one bedroom apartment goes for €1,300 or more. This is an overall average, and it’s not unusual for studios in the center to go for €1,300 per month. Or more! Then again, the further you go from the center, the quicker prices drop.

 

Where to Rent an Apartment in Paris

Now that you’ve figured out your visa situation, got a better idea of your budget and what kind of apartment you need, it’s time to focus on location.

Deciding where to rent an apartment in Paris can be one of the hardest things to decide. But it’s important to narrow your search early on, While it’s relatively small in area, Paris is very densely populated and the neighborhoods differ drastically. In some areas, you’ll notice a huge difference in just a couple of city blocks!

The city of Paris is separated into 20 districts, called arrondissements. The Seine river snakes through the middle of the city, separating Paris into its famous left and right banks. The number system for the arrondissements is simple. It starts with number one in the middle of the city, where you’ll find the Louvre. From there it spirals out in the shape of a snail shell, or escargot.

Depending on which area you choose to stay in will affect your budget. A LOT. As I mentioned earlier, generally the further away from the center you are, the less expensive rent is. Some areas like le Marais, Saint-Germain and Montmartre are known for being stylish, artistic and lively. Others such as the 7th and the 16th arrondissements are more calm and residential.

To get a better idea about which neighborhood you like best, I would recommend trying some of our guided walking tours. Not only will you learn about the history of different Parisian neighborhoods, you’ll get a chance to explore with a local guide!

 

What’s in a Parisian Apartment?

So there are two main things to take into consideration regarding the interior of your flat. The first one is the size, the second one is whether or not it’s furnished.

Size is measured in square meters. And a square meter is about a square yard for those of you using the Imperial system. The number of rooms will also be indicated by the word pièces. A typical 2 pièces, means that the apartment has 2 rooms. In most cases, this means one bedroom and a living area. 3 pièces means two bedrooms, etc.

A Parisian apartment is either rented as meublé which means furnished, or vide which means unfurnished.

Generally, an unfurnished apartment will be cheaper than a furnished one. And sometimes this difference can be more than 20%. Though just be careful, because unfurnished means not only does the apartment come without furniture, but in many cases without appliances like an oven, or washer/dryer. Sometimes this even means there’s no sink or stove top installed!

Most short-term leases (under one year) and those rented through agencies are rented meublé. Whereas individual contracts and long-term leases tend to be a mix. Unless you have a ton of furniture stashed away somewhere, I would recommend looking for a furnished apartment. Sure, it’s a little more expensive but I promise, it will save you so much hassle in the long-run. Especially if you’re here for less than a year.

Of course, every apartment is different, and so is every ad. Just be sure to read the description carefully and ask the landlord or rental agent if you’re not sure what exactly is included in your rental.

Le Dossier: Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

Perhaps the most common question I get about how to rent an apartment in Paris is “how much paperwork is there, really?” Well, my friend, I’m sorry to say that there’s quite a lot.

This is because in France, renters have a lot of rights, which makes it nearly impossible (and very time-consuming) to kick an undesirable tenant out. The landlord just wants to make sure you’re the real deal. But don’t despair just yet, I’ve laid out all the necessary documents here for you, so just check them off the list one by one. And you’ll be fine!

So on to le dossier or, the file. This is the file you’re going to bring with you to every apartment visit, and every agency meeting. You should make lots of copies, because you’ll most likely be leaving one dossier at every visit. What needs to be in it?

  • A current photocopy of your passport (and if you’re non-E.U., a copy of your residency card or visa)
  • Pay stubs for the last 90 days in your name indicating a salary of at least 3X the monthly rent

OR

  • A job contract indicating your position and salary of 3X monthly rent
  • If you’re a student or not working, you must have a garant , who is basically someone who agrees to pay your rent if you default on the contract (in most cases, this person is REQUIRED to live in France)
  • In the above case, you must include the garant’s official I.D., a letter of guarantee and recent tax returns or bank statements.
  • Optional: Letters or reference from a past landlord, employer, and/or your previous rental contracts

If you don’t have a garant in France, some banks like BNP Paribas, will act as garants for students or young adults. Otherwise, you can always try a flat share. In that case the landlords are usually less strict about the garants’ location.

How to Rent an Apartment in Paris: Agencies

There are two routes to take when you’re considering how to rent an apartment in Paris. Should you go with an agency? Or do you prefer to handle everything on your own?

The advantage of going through an apartment rental agency is that the ads are verified, everything is take care of, and they will often be more lenient abut your garant living in France. If your apartment needs any repairs during your stay or if you have any problems, the agency will usually take care of organizing a solution. Plus, some agencies like Paris Attitude or Barnes cater specially to expats and offer their services in English.

The process of renting an apartment in Paris is fairly simple with an agency. Basically, you make an appointment at the agency, go to meet with an agent and discuss what you’re looking for. Then the agent will get back to you with a list of places that match your wants, and schedule visits. Once you find something you like, you agree on the final price and sign the contract.

The downsides of using agencies are the fees. No, no this great service doesn’t come cheap unfortunately. Most of the time, the agency charges are between one and two month’s rent as a finder’s fee. On top of a hefty security deposit for a similar amount. If you have more capital up front and won’t flinch at the agency fees, I would recommend this option as it’s a lot easier.

How to Rent an Apartment in Paris: Individual Contract

So another solution for how to rent an apartment in Paris is an individual contract. This means it’s an agreement between you and the landlord directly, there’s no middleman, and thus no agency fees. But the downside is, you never know quite what to expect until you go visit. And you have to handle everything yourself, including things like plumbing issues or building construction. Which, admittedly can be a little daunting if you’re a new arrival to the Ville Lumière with limited French.

If you’re in the market for a student apartment, or smaller flat, it can feel like you’re competing in the Parisian Olympics just to schedule a visit. The cheaper the rent, the more competition there is. It’s not unusual for there to be a line out the door to visit a studio apartment – fifty or more eager applicants, dossiers in hand!

In order to land these types of contracts, your dossier  must be flawless. The more documentation and good references you have, the better. And keep in mind that these types of apartments are often snatched up just minutes after the ad is published. So you need to act fast!

Well, where can you find an individual contract apartment? The most popular site is PAP.fr, but there’s also FUSAC which caters to English-speaking expats and leboncoin.com which is like a French Craigslist. In the past I’ve had really good luck finding apartments through message boards in Paris. Places like the American Church and the Swedish Church as well as Shakespeare and Co. bookstore post regularly on notice boards outside the entrances. This is a great resource if you’re an English speaker!

 

Your Security Deposit and Charges

Alright, you almost know everything about how to rent an apartment in Paris! One last thing to consider: the security deposit. Depending on the kind of flat you’re looking for, the deposit can be between one and three month’s rent.

And Parisian landlords are notorious for using every last excuse not to return them to you. Make sure to do an état des lieux  or property inspection with your landlord or rental agent, before you move in. And get this in writing. Note any damages or problems that existed when you moved in. You’ll follow the same process when you move out, to make sure you didn’t damage the flat at all.

Charges include things like heating, water, electricity and internet. Whether you pay charges individually or whether it’s collectif  (paid by the building as a whole) will be specified in your contract.

Well, now you know how to rent an apartment in Paris! I hope this has been a helpful guide for you, and that you’ll take the plunge and rent your dream flat in Paris.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions, we’re always happy to hear from you.

 

See you soon in Paris!

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