Expat Advice

How to Rent an Apartment in Paris


I almost couldn’t believe it when I put pen to paper and signed for our apartment, it was such a relief! This was my first time really looking for an apartment and finding a flat in or around Paris isn’t easy. You need to be prepared for a) a lot of red tape and b) cut-throat competition. I thought I’d tell you about my own experience so you can benefit from what I learnt along the way.

First things first – you should know that, much like in every situation, the French are late for everything. I thought we would be able to start looking for a flat at least 4 months in advance. However, it turns out that one month before is about the earliest you can start looking.

Why? Because people don’t give their notice until one month before. Therefore the landlord or agency can’t know when the apartment will be empty.

In saying that, our apartment was supposed to be available on the 1st of June. I wanted to push it back because we didn’t want to move in until the 1st of July. In the end, the shower had to be redone so we could only move in at the end of June. It worked out perfectly for us, so don’t be afraid to try and push the move in date back.

Now, back to the one month deadline. I’m a real planner, so this was a very stressful aspect of moving for me. Having only one month to find and rent an apartment seemed impossible. I honestly never thought we’d be able to do it, but we managed, and here’s how you can too:

Prepare your dossier in advance

Landlords or agencies will ask for a dossier. If it’s not complete when you visit the apartment you most likely won’t be considered as a rental candidate. There are so many people searching for apartments that if you’re not ready someone else will be. For our apartment we had to provide:

  • Copies of our identity cards/passports
  • Our work contracts (we both needed a CDI)
  • An attestation d’emploi (a document provided by your job proving you are still employed there and that you are not in your trial period)
  • Our last three payslips
  • Our last three quittance de loyer (a document from our current landlords proving we paid our rent on time)
  • Our last tax declaration

We also had to provide July’s rent in advance, as well as pay a deposit and the agency fees. So make sure you have put some money aside before trying to rent an apartment.

And…Let Century 21 help you!

Century 21 have a great guide (in French) on how to prepare your dossier and what documents you might need to rent an apartment. It also tells you what documents your landlord or agency is legally allowed to ask for. So you’ll soon know if they’re asking you to provide unnecessary paperwork. Make sure you have all these ready about a month before you are going to start looking so you can try to secure an apartment.

Call, call and call some more

I used a number of different sites to find flats to visit but had the same experience with all of them – they don’t reply to your emails. Even if you say you want to visit a flat. If you see a flat and you like it, call immediately and try to book a visit. Calling also helps you to narrow down your options as often the flat is already gone. If you know that quickly then you can move on to the next one!

Just to give you an example – I called about our flat the minute it was posted online. In the time that it took me to call my boyfriend to confirm the visit, the lady at the agency had already received calls from 3 other people. You’ve got to be quick in this game!

If you’re interested in an apartment, hand in your dossier immediately and call them regularly for updates. I really wanted the flat we eventually got but it took about a week for us to get an answer as the owner lives abroad. During that time I called every other day just to check in and reiterate how interested we were. It paid off and we got the flat!

Be on time for apartment visits

This might seem obvious to some people but when you have to leave work to visit a flat, it’s not always easy to be on time. However, being on time shows the landlord or agency that you’re serious about renting and ensures you don’t get off to a bad start!

Make your dossier stand out

When people rent out their apartment they can often have a huge number of people applying at the same time, especially in central Paris! Make your dossier stand out by binding it, and if you can’t get it binded just make sure it’s presented neatly and clearly for the landlord. Messy, confusing dossiers will be thrown out straight away.

Install Se Loger and PAP on your phone!

Se Loger was by far the best and simplest app to use for finding a flat . The app collects ads from all different agencies so you can see exactly what is on the rental market. However, se loger only shows apartments that are for rent via agencies so you will have to pay agency fees if you choose a flat on their site.

PAP which stands for de particulier à particulier is a website where people can rent to other people. It is probably the most respectable place to find a flat to rent as the people who use it are usually very professional, unlike Craigs List which you should avoid because there are a lot of scams!

Related image
Photo credit: Paris perfect.com

So, after months worrying but just a few weeks of searching, we finally found a flat we loved and our “dossier” was accepted. The process wasn’t very difficult but putting together our dossier took a lot of time and a great deal of patience! But, our success story is just a reminder to all other expats out there that it is possible to rent a flat.

Good luck on your search for a home in Paris. I hope these tips will help you to stay sane during the process!

See also : How to Avoid Apartment Scams


  • Megan James

    Thanks for this! It’s really helpful and comforting to read that it’s possible. I, too, am anxious about how last-minute everything seems to be in Paris. I’m starting a Master’s in september and am searching for somewhere for my partner, myself and my small dog to live, when we move from the uk. Do you know what the options are if you have pets? Will it make it more difficult to find an appropriate property? Equally, if we’re coming from the UK, will the contents of our dossier differ? We obviously won’t have proof of payslips in France etc. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Megan, so glad you enjoyed the post. Having a pet won’t really change things as most renters aren’t too fussy about that. You’ll just have to be upfront about it. In terms of your dossier, it’s very different to the UK and if yoU won’t have French payslips you’ll have to go through an agency, if not you’ll have a hard time finding something. However, an agency should be able to help you find an apartment 🙂

  • Maria

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I am here with my daughter who is about to start her junior year of college in Paris. We spent four days visiting neighborhoods and traveling the metro to and from the university to see what the commute will be like. Once we nailed down the neighborhood panic set in about finding an actual apartment-especially now in August when it seems that everything and everyone beyond the Champs Elysee is closed or gone! All of your advice is spot on and a big relief. I quickly put together a “dossier” as you suggested and feel so much more prepared!

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Maria! I’m so glad that my blog could be of use to you and that it helped you feel more prepared. The French rely heavily on paperwork so having a dossier will be a big help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need any further advice! Good luck apartment hunting! Chloe

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