For the stay while you look for a rental:
You write about Hotels apartments like Adagio. Can I suggest another solution that can be cheaper, but without hotels services ? http://www.gites-de-france.com/ . Casamundo and Airbnb can help too maybe.
How long will it take ?
If the rental is free, you can have the keys within a few days to max 10 days, when you submit your complete file. It depends on each agency rules and speed.
3 to 4 weeks to find the best rental of your choice among various visits, and to submit a complete file, sounds really fair to me. It lets you enough time to achieve all of it and even to take your time to visit different places and to be able to decide without hurry.
What do we include in the dossier?
There's an official page in French that lists the documents that may be required : https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1169 in its section "Documents pouvant être réclamés au locataire" Documents that can be claimed to the resident. Officially, it's prohibited to ask you another document that is not in this list. Actually, agencies may ask more requirements in regions with plenty of people for a few free apartments like Paris. In Caen, you should not meet such problem.
- ID card
- 3 last rental monthly forms or otther property certification
- 3 last pension monthly payments forms
- last tax yearly report
- property income or investment income justification
In all cases, you only submit simple copies of these documents. You may show the original of course.
In most cases, you don't have to make certify the copies. If required, the Town Hall agents may stamp the copies as "Certificied faithful to the originals"... but I've not been asked to do so for decades !
Because you have English documents, maybe they will ask such copy certification... or they may ask a certified translation into French of a few documents.
In this last case, although I don't think you will go through such process, here's the information on that point.
Only the people registered in the Justice Department can produce official translations of foreign language papers in order to be submitted to administrations, agencies and so on.
Make 1 official translation of each document you are required, and then copy the official translation. Don't ask as many copies as you need, they will invoice each copy like 1 translation.
In Caen, these official translators are listed in this document, page 189 : http://www.ca-caen.justice.fr/art_pix/ANNUEJ%2009052016.pdf
Note that if you want the rental contract for two people, those two people will have to submit their documents. But you are free to choose that the rental contrat will be made in the name of only one of you.
The difference is, that in case the one who signed the contract is not here anymore, the other one is not protected by the rental contract.. quite logical.
Other useful information to know about, before you confirm your rental choice, check the following points :
- availability of mobile networks
- speed and availability of LAN networks. Try to catch the last resident home phone number, it will make your subscription faster and easier than with just the postal address. And susbcribe as soon as you choose the rental, even if you don't have the keys, 2 or 3 weeks are common delay to get it working.
- electricity and water reds may be contacted by yourself, check with them before that you will actually get it available on the date you have the keys. Sometimes, the elec company needs 1 up to 2 weeks to plan, especially when there hasn't been a resident in the rental for months.
- you need a mandatory personal insurance for the house/apartment rental, that will also protect your personal objects in case of fire / water / natural environment damage. This kind of insurance must include "Civilian Responsability", another mandatory insurance for any resident in France. It protects you in case you injure someone or damage someone's involuntarily.
Tax information as resident in a rental in France :
- Taxe d'Habitation : any resident with an address in France pays. The most common is about 500 to 1000 EUR per year, calculated on the surface and quality level of the rental, your income is taken in account too.
- Taxe d'enlèvement des ordures ménagères : Around 150 to 200 EUR per year. Tax for garbage, only calculated on your type, surface of rental, (and number of living people here too I think). The owner of the rental receives this tax notification on his Property tax form (Taxe Foncière) and he has to justify it to you, as YOU pay it.
- Taxe redevance TV : public radio / television tax for any owner of a TV screen. 137 EUR in 2016, raises each year by 2 or 5 EUR since 2012.
- Sanitation cost : ask the water service if the sanitation costs are included in their bills. If not, think you will almost double their bill with a sanitation cost that will be delivered directly by the Town Hall or other Department service.
Resident possible costs in the rental :
Only little maintenance may be required on your charge : mow the lawn, prevent tartar from the faucet, maintain operation of the flush (change the flush if damaged after your entry), annual maintenance gas boiler or heat pump... The official and exhaustive list in French is here : https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F31697 . Out of here, other requirements from the owner on your charge are illegal.