Landlord selling up - we will need to move

We have rented our apartment in Caen for almost five years since we retired and moved from London. But now the owner is selling up; she lost her job a while back and the syndic has spent a fortune on building renovation, leaving her with a hefty bill.

She has a business partner [the relationship has never been fully explained] who told us only a couple of months ago that they would issue a new lease at the €1000 figure covering the three years to August 2022. But yesterday Mme tells us she has to sell up now, and brought a notaire to measure up and give her a valuation for sale (approx €220,000, we think we overheard him say).

What, if any, are our rights?

When the initial three-year lease ran out she promised a new one, but never delivered. Meanwhile she has increased the rent from €813 in year 3 to a current figure of €1000. But we have nothing in writing – not even receipts for the rent since she stopped using the notaires after the lease expired.

Now we will have all the expense of moving – an expense which we as pensioners were not expecting and can ill afford. Even if there are no agency fees, there will be upfront and consequential costs.
Our initial thoughts are:

  1. Demand an immediate, itemised account of all rentals received over the years. [Yes, we have bank statements but some agents insist on reports from owners / agents].
  2. Once we have her account in hand, revert the payment to the level of year 3, maybe adjusting for inflation; that would contribute over €100 a month to the “removal fund”
  3. The nuclear option – again once we have her report in hand, simply stop paying her.

Any suggestions?

Whatever you do, don’t stop paying!! That immediately puts you in the wrong and makes you vulnerable.

Is this a furnished or unfurnished flat? Are there other flats in the block that would be part of the sale? And what were the renewal condition on the previous lease? These things make a big difference in French law.

The sale of an apartment is a justifiable reason to ask a tenant to leave. And that is the vulnerability of being a tenant. But you should be given six months notice by registered post.

Unless are you by any chance over 70 and with an annual income of less than 28,000€? If so French law gives you extra protection, and allows you to demand a lease renewal. Although I don’t quite know whether that would work with no written lease…

Contracts don’t have to be written, and the likelihood is that a judge could take the terms of the previous lease to have been carried forward. Although agreeing to such a big increase in rent is a bit odd, as that’ way above the norm so could be considered to be a very different lease. And not having any papers to back this up also leaves a lot open to argument so makes things much less watertight.

The bottom line is that the flat belongs to someone else, and eventually if they want you out they will get you out. Either by an amicable agreement or by a war of attrition. And in France the protections for tenants mean that this war of attrition can be long and unpleasant.

Take professional advice, but if I were in your position I would probably be wanting to negotiate the terms of leaving the flat amicably and preferably with them paying all my expenses to do so.


Thanks v much, Jane

The apartment is unfurnished, and Mme is one of three or four proprietaires in the building who rent their properties. The rest [out of 36] are all owner-occupied.

When the lease expired, she told us that she had made a mistake and thought that the asking rent was exclusive, rather than charges compris as stated clearly in the documents which she signed! So she initially increased our monthly payments from €813 to €913 to recover some of the shortfall.

Subsequently her partner claimed [contrary to our research] that an appropriate figure would be €1000 – which would apply until August next year when they would sell up.

So I think that we will write to her saying

  1. that we are taking legal advice and meanwhile
  2. that we presume our conversation yesterday is the start of a formal six-month notice period
  3. that we look forward to receiving her proposal for compensation ahead of the previously agreed date

Thanks again

I thought you were entitled to first refusal on the sale? Assuming you want, can afford it of course.

+1 everything @JaneJones said.

I am not sure I would do 2 @Ken_Welsby. Why would a turkey voluntarily confirm the existence of Christmas sooner than receiving legal notice of it?

I would do your 1. right now as @JaneJones suggests.

  1. if approached, or at least only verbally, I would ask for a proposal. I wouldn’t do in writing.

It would seem best to keep everything verbal and to get professional advice quietly as quickly as possible whilst acknowledging nothing in writing.

Does anyone know if there are housing advice organisations or tenants’ advice organisations in Normandy / France as there are in England (in England it would be Shelter or the Citizens’ Advice Bureau), or any public service that could help? The Assistante Sociale at the mairie might know?

You can get advice from ANIL

And as ever in France there are conciliation services, or you raise the issue at an official departmental level

Commission départementale de conciliation - Calvados

Sur place

Préfecture du Calvados - DDCS
1 rue Daniel Huet
14000 Caen

Horaires d’ouverture

Le mardi : de 09h00 à 12h00
(Sur rendez-vous)

Le vendredi : de 09h00 à 12h00
(Sure rendez-vous)

Par correspondance

Commission départementale de conciliation - Calvados
Préfecture du Calvados - DDCS
1 rue Daniel HUET
14000 Caen

En ligne

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Inclined to agree - ask for formal notice in writing. If nothing else it will give you a little more time to get some advice.

I thought the same thing, as my landlady sold her flat to her son way back in '03 and said she had to offer it to us first. But I just Googled it and stumbled upon this page saying that a tenant in most cases doesn’t have the “droit de preemption” after all.

Isn’t that a slightly different thing, in that it is saying that you can sell a flat with a tenant in it, ie your property doesn’t have to be empty. It certainly used to be common to see adverts for this, and if the tenant is elderly it can be a good deal.

But yes most often the tenant gets first refusal…something for Ken to check if interested.

(I think there might tho’ be a legal difference between whether you are selling one flat or the whole building)

Yeah the article mentions that the building being sold is an exception whereby the tenant can have first refusal. However, it says that in most cases:

Le locataire peut acheter le logement, mais il n’est pas prioritaire pour le faire. Il n’a pas de droit de préemption, sauf dans certaines situations (exemple : mise en vente de l’immeuble).

The interesting thing is the bit above that says a flat can be sold with a sitting tenant, but the rental must continue under the existing conditions with the new owner…

If you can find out what sort of rights you have not to be forced to move or only movable under certain more onerous conditions such as hugely longer notice periods… then with the greatest charm your overt willingness to be helpful and understanding will belie a much stronger position.

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The problem Ken might have is with no written lease and no absolute proof that he has paid rent (merely paid money into a bank account) that leaves wiggle room to say he is not a sitting tenant. Far better to try to find an amicable solution.

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Is it even legal for a lease not to be written? tbh I dont buy the bit about them mistakenly having put charges included in the original lease then coming back and using that as an excuse to increase the rent. Then increasing it again to beyond market (it sounds).

In UK if you had just continued after the expiry of a written tenancy agreement then am pretty sure same terms would be taken to apply. Not sure about France though. I do hope @Ken_Welsby gets advice from the source that you mentioned.

I know it’s practical to negotiate but suspect Ken 's position is stronger than he thinks. Hoping if amicably leaving that fabulous references from agent/landlord to any enquiry in future can be written in. If not leaving amicably France has a law that they can’t evict you in winter

Completely legal, but hard to argue the toss about details when little evidence.

Ken is in a fairly strong position as tenant protection is quite strong here. But would one want to spend one’ retirement battling with an irritated landlord, and having things go wrong inside the flat that are not repaired etc etc.

I agree with you that Ken needs to work out how he really stands before opening negotiations…

As far as I know if the tenant is over 70 then the landlord is obliged to find him/her similar lodgings in the same area. However, if the landlord is also elderly (over 60) then this does not apply. But the whole situation appears to me to be highly illegal: the landlord has made a number of arbitrary and illegal moves concerning the renewal of the lease, the increase in rent above and beyond the limit imposed by the law (indice de coût de la construction), the lack of receipts and - up until now - no formal 6-month notice by registered mail.
Get in touch with the ANIL or - if they are slow to react - any avocat specialised in immobilier. You can’t really lose.

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Only if the income is below 1.5 x SMIC as I mentioned in post 2

Ken I’m very sorry to read of your difficulties and the stress it must be causing. I’ve no expertise in this area but many on here do and I’d advise you to make full use of them. In the meantime llegitimi non carborundum. Good luck.

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Check your insurance contract. If it mentions “Protection juridique Habitation” you’re entitled to a free consultation with a lawyer, usually by phone.

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Very good advice, the process was ‘forced’ on me when I enquired for the name of an expert who could report on the safe manufacture of an almost new trailer when it snapped in two.

Even though the trailer was only 3rd party, the outcome was a 30 page report including telling photographs at no cost to me and which, after a year, got me full restitution from the English builders.

why just not buy it if you can afford that rent you can probably afford to buy it with the same ore even lower monthly cost