Renting properties, the pitfalls

I would like to advise anybody intending to rent out property in France, either houses or apartments, for long term habitation of serious problems that have arisen for us over the years.
We moved to France almost eleven years ago having sold our house in Ireland. At that time prices were good and we came away with a reasonable amount from the sale. Instead of investing all of it in a new home for us we decided to purchase property for investment using other monies as well. Over the years we have done reasonably well, renting out two sets of three apartments in different towns, for long term rentals. This was a deliberate decision not to look for holiday rentals as we didn’t want to be tied to our region in summer (doing changeovers) and having empty buildings in winter. Our apartments are not luxurious, basic but not the cheapest around. We have tried to do them up well and keep them maintained.
Our worst problem is tenants who do not pay the rent. You get a deposit and if lucky a committment from a state agency, such as CAF or MSA to pay a percentage, often the greater part of the monthly rent and the tenant makes up the difference. However every year this can be reviewed, payments from the agencies decrease or even cease. Maybe the tenant loses what income they had or just decide not to pay. At the moment we have an apartment empty with no income for over a year because the tenant refused to pay, pleading inability; the agency transferred the payments to another landlord because they had been told the tenant had left. We have no rights to enter, repossess or empty the apartment because the tenant has not annulled the lease. We have lost over €3000 in rent, had to pay hundreds of Euros to go to court and still wait for an eviction order, after 14 months. The state is very much on the side of the tenant and as landlord you are regarded as the rich capitalist milking the poor renter. We have had problems in other ways before with management fees in another building, tenants who trash the rooms and leave you with a deposit of a few hundred Euros for refurbishment and so on. At this stage I have had it with trying to be a decent landlord and just want to sell my properties and use the money for my enjoyment not to be a slave to the system in France. I write this just as a warning to others. You have very few rights as a landlord in France!!


Interesting Michael.

We are considering maybe to go down the route re long term rentals, as you have.

Other half who is French, has repaeated similar horror stories. So, I will now pause for thought.



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Martin… I have posted my own horror story… somewhere on this Forum recently…

Briefly… we had an unused property… lovely neighbours asked if their daughter (and family) could use while looking for something…
An Estate-Agent friend advised us NOT to allow more than 12 months absolute tops…
We wanted to be good landlords and good friends to our neighbours…so allowed the daughter to stay longer than 12 months…
Once that happened… everything turned sour… unpaid rent, rubbish everywhere outside the property…(shades of Steptoe & son)
The parents and other neighbbours were aghast and tried to help us get things sorted… no good…the daughter and her husband understood every minute detail of the French Laws and their Rights etc etc…

When the matter was finally sorted and they were sent packing… we had lost a lot of money and we vowed “never again”.


It’s a very good idea to take out professional landlord insurance.
It limits the tenants you can accept because the insurance will insist on specific criteria and paperwork before it will agree to cover that particular tenant, such as a permanent job contract etc etc, etc. Which is no bad thing at all - better leave the property empty while you wait for an acceptable tenant to come along, than take a bad tenant who will end up costing you more than you got.
If you use a rental agency they will normally insist on you having landlord insurance.
Of course there is still a risk, but smaller because firstly your tenants have been properly vetted, and secondly the insurance will offset some if not most of any losses.


Good reply Anna. However in practise it is very difficult to follow such criteria. Where we have apartments there are not many people who arrive to permanent jobs or CDIs. Sometimes you take risks and pay the price. We would never use a rental agency, too much money charged. Okay if you are living in another region or country. Landlord insurance for unpaid rent has many drawbacks and very strict conditions it puts renters off. The problem is with the system in France which is too bureaucratic and weighed too much in favour of the tenant.


I know what you’re saying and in the UK I would agree, but in France the law is so skewed towards the tenant that IMHO it completely changes the equation. Better to get less profit in your bank every month but at least get something, than risk getting nothing at all. Better to let the property stand empty than have a tenant living there for free.
If you’re a would-be tenant then you discover the other side of the coin, which is that without a CDI it’s nigh impossible to find a good rental because landlords won’t look at you. Been there done that and most landlords don’t seem to find it at all difficult to follow the criteria to the letter, no matter what you try, without a CDI you can’t normally even get to view anywhere. It was very much a case of, any place I want to live won’t want me as a tenant, and any place that will accept me as a tenant isn’t a place I want to live. Made me want to scream at the time, but I understand now why it was like that. The system in France is what it is.

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Hi Stella,

Many thanks for recap.

What a horror story for you and also for your good neighbours.

In someways I was thinking going towards paying more money and getting an agent to look after the property.

Also, take the advice from Anna re taking out insurance. Less money overall, but more protection.

We are still a few years away from been able to start this project, but getting great tips from you all.

Many thanks


No rights at all, we had a lovely town property which we bought to rent out. We already had a small farm nearby and this townhouse was to be a long term investment and possibly our retirement home. Our tenants were a young French family who had part of their rent paid for by the CAF. All was fine for a long time, they defaulted then and to cut a long story short, did a flit and the first we knew was when the keys arrived in the post. We by this time had sold out farm and had bought another one in Ireland so were pretty busy. We went to the house to a complete disaster, they had trashed the place, spread human faeces on the carpets resulting in us having to have a professional clean at a cost of 1000€ euros plus the cost of repairs and then the outstanding rent. We took them to the Tribunal, no easy job as we had moved to Ireland, we got a judgement for 5000€ but five years down the line, despite huissier, bailiffs have got nothing. On the up side, we got the house back and sold it for the original price we paid so at least we didn’t have that worry. Moral, don’t rent long term, holiday rental much better.

Thank you for this informative and honest opinion. It certainly gives me lots to think about in order to move forward with my ideas.

We rent out gites on short term holiday rentals and longer term rentals over the low season, and we live next door. It never ceases to amaze me how some people find it acceptable to behave in such truly shocking ways with regards to other peoples property. Sometimes I have to look in the mirror to make sure I haven’t got “mug” tattooed on my forehead.

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Yes, I know people who have had problems with long term tenants too. It’s impossible to properly screen renters, and even “nice” people get into financial difficulty and resort to dishonest behaviour sometimes.

Yes, people can get into difficulties, but there is no excuse for wanton damage.

Always rent or rent out a property in France through an agency.

Sorry, but I don’t agree. What can an agency do that I can’t? I have
friends that had an apartment to rent in the South of France. They lived
here in Lot et Garonne. The agency kept telling them they had no tenants
but they had cheated them out of money. I know that is extreme but it is
true. We don’t make huge money to afford to pay an agency.

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It is a long and difficult debate.

I have rented a lot in France. I would not rent direct from a landlord. In that respect (with experience) I would only rent my flat/house out through an agency.

Most complaints in rental situations comes from those renting direct from a landlord and vice versa.


Do you have any landlord insurance policy?

Hi Rolf. It depends what you mean by landlord insurance. Yes we have the properties insured as owners but not occupiers. No we do not have insurance for unpaid rents. As I have said in earlier posts “assurance loyer impayé” is not straightforward. Normally the tenant must have full time permanent work, a salary of various multiples of the rent or be pensioned on the same terms. Our tenants are normally dependant for some of their rent on state agencies such as CAF or MSA. This is the hard facts in a lot of rural France. Even with full time work very few are permanent and do not earn more than the basic rate of SMIC which is €9.76 per hour. The problem is with the system; tenants can walk away, the CAF is only answerable to the tenant not the landlord, the procedure of recovery of a rented property is too cumbersome and expensive. And so on…

Sorry to read this. I have always done furnished rentals, but there are good years and bad years. The market also changes a lot. My guess is that with unfurnished rentals you would need to have a really good experienced estate agent to find the right tenants. Also go a bit more up market. After all the French manage.

I think that is what it all hinges on. It depends how risk averse you are. Cautious landlords take the view that it’s better to leave the property untenanted for a while than to take the wrong tenant and risk having someone living there not paying rent and potentially trashing the place. The important thing is to be aware of the problems so that if you do decide to take a risk, it’s a calculated risk and you know the dangers. I think this has been a very valuable thread for that reason.

Many French landlords have similar problems to those mentioned on this thread. When we get together at various Club meets or outings… often a topic of conversation will be… the latest situation with the “Tenants from Hell”. When the property is being rented out to pay for Grandmère’s care in the Maison de Retraite…any financial hiccup can have dire consequences for the rest of the family.

Also, (as I understand it) this is why so much property stands empty…after a death…often the family do not want to take risks renting it out… they tend to wait until a member of the family wants to live in it… and that can be some years away.