Finding accommodation in Paris: Part 3
Last month I started a new blog series about the ins and outs of finding an apartment in Paris. So far we've covered the different types of accommodation Paris has to offer and how to apply, but how do you find your dream apartment in the first place? Please note that this is in no way 'official' information, it's just advice sourced from our experience (and that of our friends in Paris).
Everything you're about to read was written by my friend and astronomy Post Doc Ricarda. She and her partner arrived in Paris not long after us, and they came up against the same set of problems. There's no real resource (that any of us could find, anyway!) that gives an in-depth account of all the hoops you have to jump to when you're an academic moving to Paris. So here it is! Ricarda is a spectacular astronomer, but I think she may also have missed her calling as a writer. Of course we want this resource to be free to everyone which is why I'm hosting it here on my blog, but if you find it helpful and you want to support us in any way, I'm sure Ricarda wouldn't say no to her own cluster or an immediate tenured position (here's her publication record). And if it's astronomically accurate jewellery you're after, I've got you sorted with my Becky, Queen of Frocks shop....
Over to you, Ricarda!
WHERE TO FIND A FLAT
- Via someone that is moving out: if you know someone who has a nice place and is leaving, you might just be able to take over. Consider asking your future boss which Postdocs are leaving soon and getting in touch.
- Directly form the landlord, via listings online. The two best website for this are http://pap.fr/, which specialises in properties, and http://leboncoin.fr/, which is a general classifieds site. Renting directly from the landlords has the advantage that you won't have to pay an agency fee, and they can be more flexible if your dossier isn't perfect but they like you personally. However, beware of scams. Never pay to view a place, and trust your intuition about a situation. There have been stories online of people renting AirBnB flats for the weekend, showing people round and then pocketing the deposits before disappearing forever, and other such fun occurrences. Finding housing in France can be difficult but it is certainly not impossible so don’t panic and sign up for something that does not feel right to you.
- Via an agency. Many agencies list available flats on http://seloger.fr/, or you could contact an agency in your preferred area directly. If you rent a flat via an agency, they will charge you a fee for the service. The fee they are allowed to charge is legally capped at around 15 € per square meter of the property, and usually runs around half a months rent, or so.
- Putting up a profile online: I've heard from people who listed a "Looking for a flat" listing on leboncoin and got some useful responses that way.
- The (physical) noticeboard of the American Church in Paris. The flats listed here have the advantage that their landlords expect foreign renters, and most likely speak English as well.
WHERE TO FIND A ROOM
Living in a flatshare can be a good way to cope with the high rent prices in Paris. There are a few websites that offer rooms in flatshares:
TIMEFRAMES FOR FINDING A FLAT
Flats are usually only rented when already empty. That means is that if you are offered it, you are going to have to take it immediately, or it will be offered to someone else. We viewed our flat on Monday, signed the contract on Tuesday and had the keys by Saturday, ready to move in.
That being said, actually finding a flat can take a bit of time so don’t give yourself too narrow a timeframe in which to search. Searching for a few weeks to a month is normal. In reality this means it can be tricky to minimise overlap between rental contracts and unfortunately it is not uncommon to pay rent in two places for a month or so.
WHEN YOU'VE FOUND A FLAT
When you are offered a flat, it’s not uncommon sign rental contracts within a couple of days, to start pretty much immediately. Upon signing, make sure you get the following from your landlord:
- An original copy of the rental contract
- The keys, including things like mailbox and cellar, if there are any
- An “Etat de Lieux”, i.e. an inventory. You and your landlord should carefully go through the flat together, filling in the etat the lieux as you go. Make sure any damage is listed, so you don’t get charged for things you didn’t do when you moved out. Both parties keep an original as well
- If possible, a copy of the previous tenants utility bill. Each flat has a number, and it’s a lot easier to sign up for electricity when you have it. (Don’t worry if you don’t, there are other ways. Also, Energie de France (EDF) has a very helpful english speaking helpline).
- Technically, you should also get proof that the owner actually owns the place, and a copy of the flat's energy certificate. Our landlords provided them without being prompted but I don’t know if this is normal.
- Make sure you get a receipt for your deposit, as well as for any rent payments you make!
TIPS AND TRICKS:
- Be fast. Many people give the flat to the first person with sufficient paperwork who wants it. “The first” can mean either the first person to view it, or the first person to contact them about viewing it. Either way, the faster the better.
- The phone is better than an email. There are so many people looking, most landlords don’t even bother with messages sent by email and only show the flat to those who bother to call or at least text.
- Do as much in French as possible. Even if you don’t speak much yourself, make sure at least your dossier is in French and get someone to check it over for you.
- Try to get a French phone number before you go through the process. There will be a lot of calling back and forth, and some people don't like to call foreign numbers.
- Texting potential landlords can be a good way to get in contact if your French is a little shaky. Some simply text back with the times and place of the viewing, others respond by calling.
- If you do want to move out, make sure you leave as much of a paper trail as possible. Sending a tracked, dated letter to your landlords is the easiest way to make sure there is no disagreement on when you are going to stop paying your rent by.