We are all moved in, and, after a long, exhausting process, we are comfortable in a spacious and airy apartment. Our shipment from the US is out of the 250-euro per month storage and we are again among our favorite familiar things.
But first, a few words about the rental process in France. Perhaps not surprisingly it is exasperating.
The apartment seeker does all the work of finding a place. You will never get a phone call from an agency telling you about new listings. So hunting them down is a full-time job. Agents are also quick to tell you why you won’t like a place and maybe don’t really want to view it. Often, they seem quite perturbed that you showed up at their office to make inquiries, but since calls and emails are not answered it is what a searcher must do.
The “good” apartments are taken quickly, often even before they are listed, so one is forced to make periodic visits to agencies, an unnecessarily unpleasant task when agents are so reluctant to engage.
There is no such thing as a multiple listing. Even branches of the same real estate company can’t cross sell from one to the other.
We have heard that the reason for agents’ lack of enthusiasm for finding renters for their clients is that apartment rentals require a lot of paperwork, and return very meager commissions compared to those from sales. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around that one.
Because Nice is an expensive and in-demand rental market, not all landlords feel the necessity to keep their properties in good condition. Sadly, that was true in our case, requiring an investment in painting and sanding that we had not anticipated.
It is perfectly normal for appliances to be missing from an unfurnished rental. So we now own an oven, washing machine and refrigerator that we’ll take with us when we leave. Air conditioning is more prevalent than before, but not routine. Nevertheless, it is indispensable in the Cote d’Azur summer. We asked our landlord to share in the installation of it for two rooms, but he declined and suggested we proceed anyway. Instead, we bought two mobile units that we will sell later or take with us as needed.
We did see quite a few gorgeous, newly renovated places amid a lot of dross, and in a few cases were eager to sign a rental contract. Repeatedly, we were rejected. The reason was the biggest obstacle standing between us and a home.
Renters have enormous legal leverage in France. They are seen as the common folk who are getting screwed by greedy capitalistic landlords. The laws reflect this. It is notoriously difficult to evict a renter, even one who has not paid rent for years. Plus, it is illegal to evict in winter and anyone more than 70 years of age. Even squatters have tenancy rights, only weakened a bit this summer after the trial of a family who had broken into someone’s second home on the Riviera, changed the locks and settled in.
This is all to say that landlords are very nervous. So they take out a newly popular insurance policy that pays out for unpaid rent for up to three years, the time it usually takes to evict a derelict tenant. The insurance company requires that the tenant have a French income, to eventually garnish against it. Therefore, we do not qualify. And, as we dismayingly discovered, virtually all landlords have bought this insurance, the Assurance Loyer Impayé.
Which is why, when an unfurnished apartment opened up in the building where we were already renting, with a nice view on Belle Epoque buildings and palm trees, managed by a hard working concierge, on a quiet dead-end street, with no requirement of French income, we went for it. And seriously, we now love it. As we await President Macron’s announcement this evening on new anti-Covid restrictions, which rumor has it includes a one-month national lockdown, we are grateful to have such a lovely place in which to shelter.