Renting a French Apartment

Nice Cours Saleya

The Cours Saleya market proved to be the perfect place to go to forget about the stress of trying to rent an apartment here in Nice.  It is a feast for the senses with bright colours everywhere and wonderful scents from the flowers at one end and from the fruit and spices at the other.  After rambling around there for a bit, I felt rejuvenated and ready to take on the French rental market with all of its unforeseen twists and turns.

We know that things work differently here in France.  Every time we do something there are complications along the way, so why is it that we are always surprised by  them?  We sold our apartment here and have come back to find another one to rent.  We thought that renting would be an easy option.  Surprise!

“We can’t rent to you”
The first agency that we called told us that since we did not have income in France that they could not rent to us at all – under any circumstances.  Later, two more agencies would tell us the same thing.  The first surprise and I started to worry.

“Une garantie bancaire”
The next agency said we needed a bank guaranty (une garantie bancaire).  They explained that we would have to put the equivalent of 1 year’s worth of rent payments into an account which the bank would control.  This money would stay in the bank account as long as we lived in the apartment, only to be paid out to the agency if we would fail to make our rental payments.   Well, that was a surprise.  We would have to tie up quite a bit of money, but if that’s the way it works then what could we do?

Finally we found an apartment that we really wanted with an agency that would deal with us.  We told the estate agent that we definitely would take it and would turn in all of the needed paperwork (there is always lots of paperwork) and we made an appointment with our bank to set up the guaranty.  And guess what – even though the agency asks for a one year rent guaranty, the bank wants 120% of one year’s rent in the account.  Another surprise, but we were relieved that we would have a place to go when our moving date rolled around.

Not one year, but three
Then our estate agent emailed us to say that she was sorry, she thought it was a guarantee of 1 year’s worth of rent, but in fact, her agency required 3 years worth of rent payments as a guaranty.  Well, that was a big surprise and just seemed ridiculous to us, so we went back to looking for agencies that would rent to foreigners not working in France and that would accept a bank guaranty of 1 year’s rent.

Well, fingers crossed, we have found a place and all seems to be going well.  Hopefully there will be no more surprises … at least until moving day.

View along Cours Saleya
View along Cours Saleya
Veggie stall in the market
Veggie stall in the market

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Margo Lestz


  1. And I thought Italy had red tape. Nothing like that here that I know of. Good luck. Must explore that area. Not familiar with it at all. It looks wonderful,

  2. Oh, we are still in Nice. Cours Saleya is the market street in the old town. Keep your fingers crossed for us. We should know sometime next week if it will all go through.

  3. I’ll bet you don’t even view yourself as a foreigner. What a shock.

    Is this the area we had lunch a couple of years ago?

    Ahhh, moving day……… Fingers are crossed.

    1. Well, I definitely view myself as a foreigner. But that is not a bad thing normally, it just means that I am always learning…new words…how things work…rental practices……
      Yes, we had lunch on Cours Saleya. But you were here on a Monday and on Mondays they have the antiques market. The rest of the week it is a flower, fruit and veg market. Like I said, you will have to come back! 😉

  4. Margo, great article and I must admit after being in finance for over 35 years, I am amazed at how different things are here when it comes to financial transactions. Always a surprise!

  5. Well, everything worked out fine in the end – as it usually does. We found an apartment that required just a one year bank guaranty and it all came together just at the last minute before we had to move. So there were lots of tense moments but now we are very happy in our new place. Thanks for asking

  6. Margo,
    For this house, (a five and a half month furnished winter vacation rental) I just met the neighbor lady who had the key after one phone call to the owner. She let us in, showed us around and then turned the house over to us. No ID check. No credit cards. No money. Nothing. I didn’t sign anything or pay anyone for a couple of weeks. Then, I mailed a check for the first and last month’s rent. No extravagant bank gymnastics were required. We mailed things back and forth. The owner is a real estate agent who lives out of town.

    So, trying to rent a “real” apartment has come as a big shock.

    Wow! Gak! I must have misunderstood agent number five (the only one of eight that explained anything). I thought they said needed a LETTER from the bank saying I had money in the bank equal to THREE TIMES THE RENT in income for an unspecified period of time. I kept asking for how long but only got a shrug. I couldn’t understand what guarantee this could buy them since bank accounts can always be closed. She wrote it down for me. The letter is called “La atestation bancaire qui prouve la solvability du couple”. Could this be the same thing you were asked for? It sounds like they required you to make a trust account naming the apartment owner for an entire year’s rent (or three). If you can leave with three month’s notice, this seems extravagant. A three month deposit ought to do it.

    Our visa application for my husband’s high-integrity avionics software development project got such a warm welcome back at the French Embassy in the U.S. that I’ve been completely taken by surprise by how difficult and unpleasant business and government transactions have been on this side of the pond. Buying a car was prolonged and complicated torture. Being processed at the prefecture has never ended.

    I didn’t expect a jolly welcome party. But I didn’t expect all this either.

    So now, I need a “real” address before I can change my address with the government. Will I need a “real” address to rent an apartment so I can have the “real” address?

    Tomorrow I’ll laugh. But tonight I groan and growl.

    I think I’ll go buy some tarps and camp at the dump with the Gypsies. Italy is sounding better. ((SIGH)) ((WRY SMILE))

    I hope you got your apartment and aren’t living under a tarp. 😉

    All the best.

    1. We did actually get into an apartment – we are not in a tent, so there is hope for you.

      We did have to put the equivalent of one year’s rent into an account opened at the bank. This would be paid to the rental agency in the event that we did not pay our rent. Or, when we leave the property (on good terms – with all back rent paid). It is definitely called a “garantie bancaire” and if the rental agents are not used to dealing with foreigners who have no French income they probably are not familiar with the process.

      If you want to try renting from individuals, you might try vivastreet or le bon coin

      I think the French property owners are so careful because the laws here protect the renter. For example, if someone stops paying their rent but refuses to move, in the winter it can be difficult to get them out. You are not allowed to throw people out in the winter it seems.

      Another thing to think about when renting an unfurnished place (on a long term contract) is that usually kitchen applicance and light fixtures are not included and the renters are expected to do things like painting the walls. It will depend on the owner, but that has been our experience. In our apartment, the only thing in the kitchen was a sink.

      Anyway, I am sure you will find something so don’t lose hope.
      Best of luck -Margo

      1. Thanks so much. This is all useful information.

        I’m getting the idea that the agents (8 so far) either don’t know what they’re doing or are giving me the polite brush-off. This is a small town and I’m running out of agents.

        I know that most “unfurnished ” apartments may not include fixtures. Only a kitchen sink is usual. I’ve seen listings that included a kitchen,

        At this point, I’m not sure I can commit to three years. I think I’ll keep my eyes open for someone that will rent me a furnished place for a year. If this is not possible, I’ll have to leave. The prefecture requires that I have an address to renew my visa next summer and each year. Even though we’ve been “approved” for six years, we still have to spend months out of each year running back and forth and collecting mail from them.

        I just learned of vivastreet and have been searching lebponcoin all along.

        Thanks for your support.

  7. I had many problems renting two different homes in Lucca, Italy. The landlords took advantage in both places, I can look laugh now but at the time being a single American woman, I felt I was an easy target.

    1. I know that managing life in a foreign country is not easy, and unfortunately, you do sometimes get taken advantage of. But even that is a small price to pay for the amazing adventure.

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