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The ABC of housing in France

To help you with your housing search, we’ve composed a glossary of French terms you’re likely to come across when looking for and renting accommodation.

Aide personnalisée au logement (APL)

The Aide personnalisée au logement (APL) or personal housing benefit is financial aid that contributes to your rent. To benefit from APL, you must be a tenant of government-approved housing, that is, a flat/residence whose landlord or lessor has signed an agreement with the state undertaking to rent under certain conditions.

As a rule, APL is paid directly to your landlord (if you are renting) or to the manager of your accommodation. The amount of your APL is then deducted from your rent.

Allocation de logement sociale (ALS)

The allocation de logement sociale (APS) or social housing benefit is financial aid that contributes to your rent. It is granted if you are ineligible for aide personnalisée au logement (APL).

Assurance habitation

In France it is mandatory for tenants to take out multi-risk home insurance. An assurance habitation policy insures you for rental risks, fire, water damage, natural disasters and theft.

The lessor will ask for proof of insurance coverage when you take possession of the rental. Not having insurance coverage is grounds for immediate cancellation of your lease.

Bail or contrat de location

The lease (bail) or tenancy agreement (contrat de location) is a compulsory contractual document establishing the rights and obligations of the landlord and tenant.

Bail de location vide

There are different rules depending on whether the flat is unfurnished or furnished in particular concerning the length of the lease, the amount of the security deposit and the amount of notice required when you leave.

For an unfurnished flat, the length of the lease is 3 years minimum, the security deposit amounts to 2 months maximum and the the amount of notice is 3 months minimum. 

Bail de location meublé

There are different rules depending on whether the flat is unfurnished or furnished in particular concerning the length of the lease, the amount of the security deposit and the amount of notice required when you leave.

For an furnished flat, the length of the lease is 1 year minimum (9 months if the tenant is a student), the security deposit amounts to 2 months maximum and the the amount of notice is 1 month minimum. 

Bail meublé étudiant

The student tenancy agreement for a furnished flat is for a nine-month period and is not tacitly renewed. You need to think about renewing it each year.


The lessor of a rented housing unit.

Caisse d’allocations familiales (CAF)

The CAF (Caisse d’Allocation Familiales) is the state agency in France responsible for distributing social benefits. This includes housing benefits, in particular APL (Aide Personnalisée au Logement) and ALS (Allocation Logement Social). Benefits are based on your resources, your rent, and the type and location of your residence.

Charges locatives

Charge locatives or service charges refer to all housing-related costs in addition to the rent paid initially be the landlord but which may be passed onto the tenant for payment.

The service charges are specifically listed and apply to all furnished rentals where a lease is signed since the 27th March 2014 as well as to unfurnished rentals in the private sector.


Charges Comprises or including charges.

Dépôt de garantie or caution

This is the security deposit, usually representing one or two months of rent (excluding charges), paid by the tenant to the landlord when signing the lease. It serves as security and will be paid back to you within two months of your departure, minus any repairs or damage for which you are liable.

Dossier pour la signature du bail

Several supporting documents are required when you sign the lease or tenancy agreement. Remember to prepare them in advance; it will save you precious time.

  • Photocopy of both sides of your ID and the ID of the person acting as your guarantor
  • Photocopy of your last three pay slips and/or those of your guarantor (if you do not have any, those of your guarantor will suffice if he or she is your parent)
  • Photocopy of your last notice of tax assessment and/or that of your guarantor.
  • Grant or scholarship certificate
  • Proof of the guarantor’s residence (latest rent receipt, latest electricity or telephone bill)
  • Bank account details (RIB) for you and the guarantor.

État des lieux

Document which specifies the state of the property being let on the day of entry, which will be used for the inventory of fixtures when the tenant leaves. It must be drawn up in writing with the landlord when the tenant takes possession of the property.

Make sure you get a copy of the document. It will be used to compare the condition of the rental at the beginning and end of the tenancy when you do the inventory of fixtures before you leave. This will determine which repairs are the tenant’s responsibility and which are the landlord’s.

Frais de dossier

Administrative fees for reserving a room in a student residence.

Garant or caution solidaire

This is the guarantor, the natural or legal person who agrees to pay the rent if the tenant defaults. The guarantor’s agreement must be handwritten and include the amount of rent and charges, and the duration of their commitment.


The Garantie des Risques Locatifs or tenancy guarantee scheme allows landlords to obtain insurance against unpaid rent when tenants do not have sufficient guarantees.


Letting agent fees (real estate agents only)


Maximum rent increase authorised by law according to an official index.


This is an inventory specific to furnished rentals that lists the furniture and fittings provided to the tenant and describes their state. It must be as precise as possible.


In then event of litige or dispute, the best course is to try to negotiate an amicable solution with your landlord or flatmate(s).

To help you find a solution, you can contact the Associations Départementales d’Information sur le Logement (ADIL) or Departmental Housing Information Associations. They give free information by telephone, provide on-site consultations by appointment, and offer advice at certain times at town halls. They provide information on all legal issues related to housing.

Free consultation:

Logement décent (decree n°2002-120 of 30 january 2002)

For a housing unit to be legally “decent”, the surface area must be at least 9 m2 and the ceiling must be at least 2.2 m high. The rental must be equipped with heating, electricity and gas compliant with safety standards. If there is only one room, sanitation may be limited to a toilet outside the housing unit.


The monthly rent a tenant must pay to occupy the housing unit. The rent amount may be given excluding charges or including charges.

Obligations of the tenant

  • Pay the rent and charges
  • Use the premises peacefully and avoid any behaviour that could disturb the peace of the neighbourhood, including noise.
  • Pay for damages that are not attributable to force majeure or the landlord.
  • Take out housing insurance (including coverage for fire and water damage.

Obligations of the landlord

  • Make the property available to the tenant and maintain it in a good state of repair
  • Keep the premises fit for habitation in accordance to the tenancy agreement
  • Ensure the tenant has unfettered enjoyment of the property
  • Guarantee the tenant against defects that could prevent him or her from using the property as intended


Another word for locataire or tenant.

Préavis ou congé

The notice a tenant must give before leaving their rental. It is one month for a furnished rental and three months for an unfurnished rental. You must give your landlord notice by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt.

Quittance de loyer

A receipt for rent paid that the landlord provides to the tenant. The rent and charges must be indicated separately.

Résiliation du bail

Termination of lease or tenancy agreement initiated by one or other party, subject to notice being given. May or may not have to be justified depending on whether notice is given by the lessor or by the tenant.


Relevé d’Identité Bancaire or bank account details.

T1, T2, T3

The number indicates the number of rooms in the flat, not including the kitchen and bathroom. Unlike a studio flat, a T1 has a kitchen separate from the main room. A T2 has two rooms, i.e., a living room, a bedroom and a separate kitchen.

Taxe d'habitation

Local tax owed for the entire year by whoever occupies the property on 1 January of that year. It is important to ask the lessor whether it is included in the charges or not. The amount due depends on the flat’s location and its surface area.


Toutes Taxes Comprises or all taxes included.

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