Destinations Magazine

Warning: Don’t Sign a Lease Without Getting These 7 Things From Your Landlord

By Allisonlounes @parisunraveled

When you move into an apartment in Paris, you want to be sure that you’re avoiding scams and renting from someone trustworthy. You also want to be fully informed of all of the costs of your future apartment, so you don’t end up paying more than you expect or end up ineligible for CAF due to your lease.

Here are 7 things you should make sure to get when signing a lease with your new landlord:

1) The Keys

It may seem obvious, but before you sign any lease or hand over any money, make sure you get a copy of the key to the building, to your apartment, and to your mailbox. Check all of the keys to make sure they work, and get any and all door codes for the building.

Sophisticated scammers may try to get you to sign a lease or hand over the security deposit to an apartment that they don’t own – which you want to avoid at all costs!

2) Original copy of the lease.

Whenever you sign a lease, it should be done in two originals – one for you, one for the landlord. Before you sign, read it over, make sure it includes everything it should – the correct cost of rent, the size of the apartment, and which utilities are included.

Also check to make sure there are no “clauses abusives,” such as those allowing the landlord to charge you more rent if you have friends stay overnight, or those prohibiting pets (not allowed).

3) An original copy of the état des lieux.

Completing an état des lieux, or walk-through, of the apartment protects both you and the landlord in case of a dispute over who caused certain damages. You’ll want to make sure to note any marks or scrapes on the wall and the floors, any broken lights or furniture, and any appliances that aren’t working.

Make sure you know how to work the fuse box and turn on the hot water, and you understand how to turn on the heat and where the radiators are located.

This document should also be completed in two originals and signed by both you and the landlord the day you move in. A second one will be completed when you move out of the apartment.

4) Receipts for your rent and security deposit payments.

You’ll need quittances de loyer, or receipts for any payments you made, especially if they’re made in cash. Keep these original documents along with your lease and état des lieux, and scan them just to be safe, so you can prove any rent payments you made in the future.

5) CAF Attestation de Loyer

If you’re renting an apartment eligible for CAF, you should get the landlord to fill out and sign the Attestation de Loyer at the same time as your lease. This ensures that you’ll be able to apply for it as soon as you go to your OFII visit and become eligible to receive back CAF.

Making sure you get the form signed up front also prevents you from taking an apartment that’s too expensive without CAF if the landlord refuses to sign the form later.

You can download the form here: CAF_form

6) Copy of a recent utility bill in the landlord’s name.

In France, you need a “justificatif de domicile,” or proof of residence, in order to open a bank account. And in many cases, you need a bank account in order to open a utility account to get a “justificatif de domicile.”

It’s a classic France catch-22.

And many banks – as I recently discovered with a student – won’t accept a handwritten lease that doesn’t come from an agency as proof of residence. “Anyone can write out one of these,” they say.

So when you sign your lease, ask for a utility bill – electricity, gas, or water – in the landlord’s name, which you can use to prove that the lease is legitimate and that you really do live where you say you do.

This also helps protect you from scams and sublets, or any situation in which people are renting out apartments they don’t own.

If you need to set up utilities in your name, you’ll need account information for the previous renters so that the utilities providers can easily open accounts for you.

Phone and Internet:

If phone and internet are not provided, you’ll need the France Télécom phone number of the apartment in order to set up an account, which you can do with any provider. The France Télécom number identifies the apartment and the previous account that may have been set up there, but it does not necessarily become your phone number once the account is opened.

To set up electricity and gas in your name, you’ll need the account number of the previous occupant, which usually takes the form of a phone number. It helps to have the location of the apartment in the building (bâtiment cour, floor number, gauche ou droit), and the previous occupant’s name.

For electricity, you’ll also need the total consumption through the day you moved into the apartment, which ensures that you don’t pay for electricity consumed by the previous occupant. There should be two different counters. One is for “HC” or “heures creuses,” which are normally from 6 AM to 12 AM and considered premium energy consumption time. The other is for “HP,” or “heures pleines,” or low-consumption time, from 12 AM – 6 AM.

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