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Renting a French Apartment

Moving to France: Renting a French Apartment

When the Barefoot Blogger decided to run off to France, I learned the hard way how to do some of the basics: rent a French apartment, open a bank account, and obtain a visa. Here are some expat moving tips.

If you’re contemplating a move to France, hopefully, some of this will help.

If I can do it, anyone can!

Rental contract

Find someone you know who can understand French legal documents. I lucked out that my son has experience reviewing similar paperwork. He served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and worked with French banks that use some of the same legalize.

Google Translate is the second option. The translation may not be the best, but it can help you with the highlights. Then, ask your rental agent in France to review it with you. You should be able to communicate with your agent by email. (Be sure to get an agent who speaks English!)

Be especially mindful of the charges from the rental agency. I was surprised by the cost of an “honorarium”  owed to them by both the owner of the apartment and me — more than the cost of a month’s rent! When I complained about the price, the agent stated it is the customary way to work with rental agencies in France. He moved my closing date to reduce the overall cost to pacify me.

Inspection: Before moving into your apartment, you must make an inspection. You must review every cubbyhole and note any problems on the inspection document. A friend inspected my apartment for me since I was not in France at the time. A crack at the bottom of the toilet wasn’t noted. The bathroom started leaking after I was in the apartment for six months. When I called the rental agency to send a plumber, they found I needed a new toilet. Since it wasn’t noted on the inspection, guess who paid for it? Me!

French bank account

Opening a bank account in France is a requirement for renting an apartment. The agent and apartment owner would like to have monthly payments set up through a draw on the account.

Fortunately, I was told opening an account in person in France was more accessible than in the US. Believe me, it’s really an intelligent thing to do. I opened my account before I left to return to the US to pack for my move. If you speak little or no French, do a little research to find a bank with an English-speaking manager. You’ll be forever glad to have a bank manager in your town to help you with various banking and non-banking issues. (Love Mr. Lamur at LCL in Uzes!)

One item that stopped my account opening was proving that IRS taxes are paid in the US. I contacted my tax man in the States. He emailed the cover page from my most recent tax forms.

You must also show proof of residence in France. Use the paperwork from the rental agency as proof.

Don’t ask me how crooks get away with foreign bank accounts! Guess they know all the angles.

Long stay visaRenting a French Apartment

Assuming you are moving to France to retire, you must have a “long stay” visa to stay in the country longer than 90 days per semester.

Look on the Internet for the French consulate that serves your area. For example, the southeast consulate in Atlanta serves South Carolina. You must have an appointment at the consulate to apply in person for the visa. Appointments are made through an online tool.
When I first checked, no appointments were available for the next 3 months! So I called the consulate (which they advised me NOT to do), and I was lucky enough that someone answered the phone. The lady who answered graciously took my name and promised to call me when there was a cancellation. I got a call for an appointment in three weeks. But don’t trust your luck. Start out in plenty of time to get an appointment.

Several forms on the French consulate website must be filled out to accompany your application. The directions on the forms are pretty straightforward. One significant fact is that they want proof of everything! That includes a rental agreement, a French bank account, your financial statement, and an airline ticket to France.

Yes, you’ll need to buy a “refundable” ticket for your flight to France — just in case you don’t get all your paperwork approved in time.

For example, I messed up on proof of medical insurance. All the information about my coverage was there, but there was no information about services outside the US. I told the interviewer I talked with the insurance company and had travel insurance for part of the year. My current health insurance would cover the first 60 days out of the US. She wanted to see it in writing from the insurance company.

Getting the letter about the insurance meant I had to stay an extra day in Atlanta. Lesson learned: don’t be vague about anything

(Click here for more information on Long stay visas)

Just do it!

All this might sound like a lot of trouble. It’s worth it. Promise!

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Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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