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Standard contract for unfurnished rental

Unfurnished rental has a lot of advantages and is thus an important part of the rental sector. 

Simplicity is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages of unfurnished rental. The owner does not have to worry about the furniture to be installed in the apartment nor about its decoration. It is the tenant who takes care of it.

In addition, the rental demand is higher in this sector of unfurnished rental. Indeed, the law requires the owner to establish any lease of empty rental for a fairly long duration with also long periods of notice. The furnished rental contract is concluded for at least one year compared to a minimum of 3 years for unfurnished rental.

The change of tenants is therefore much slower in an empty rental. The bare rental is therefore rarely vacant and the collection of rents is therefore much more regular.

The rental contract

Subject to the law of July 6, 1989, the lease contract must be in writing and its content is regulated. The unfurnished lease includes mandatory mentions, forbidden clauses and other optional clauses.

Draft the unfurnished rental contract

The lease (rental contract) of a property rented as a principal residence must be in writing. It can be established either directly between the owner and the tenant or before a notary. The mandatory clauses are the following:

  • The name and address of the owner and of his agent, if any.
  • The name and the denomination of the tenant.
  • The duration of the lease and the date from which the tenant may use the accommodation.
  • The description of the accommodation and its annexes (cellar, garage, garden or other) as well as the living area.
  • The list of equipment for access to information and communication technologies.
  • The list of the common parts.
  • The destination of the rented premises, i.e. the use that will be made of it (residential or mixed residential and professional use).
  • The amount and terms of payment of the rent as well as the conditions of its possible revision.
  • The amount and date of the last rent paid by the previous tenant (if he/she left the property less than 18 months ago).
  • The amount of the security deposit, if any (limited to one month’s rent without charges, not subject to revision). If the rent is payable quarterly, the owner may not require a security deposit.
  • The nature and amount of work carried out in the dwelling since the end of the last rental.
  • The signature of both parties.

Prohibited clauses

Certain clauses that are detrimental to the tenant are considered “unwritten”. This means that even if they appear in the contract, they do not apply without having to be annulled in court.

  • Payment of rent. The lease agreement cannot require the automatic withdrawal of rent from the tenant’s current account.
  • Charges and repairs. No clause may require the tenant to repay in advance the amount of rental repairs, based on an unilateral estimate made by the landlord. All sums relating to rental repairs must be justified, with supporting invoices.
  • If a landlord rents to different tenants in the same building, they are not allowed to insert a clause. This clause would make the tenants collectively responsible for damages caused to the common areas, such as tags. The landlord must therefore identify the author of the damage who will be solely responsible or pay for it himself.
  • Automatic termination of the lease. A clause stipulating automatic termination of the lease in the event of work carried out by the tenant without the owner’s authorization is illegal.
  • Reduction or termination of certain services. The landlord may not include a clause authorizing him to reduce or terminate the services provided for in the lease. This includes the termination of services like the security service, without any consideration for the tenant.
  • Fines for violations. Any clause that penalizes the tenant for violations of the lease or the rules of the building is illegal (e.g., a fine for hanging laundry in windows, etc.).
  • Animals: any clause in a lease prohibiting the presence of pets in an apartment is void. However, since July 1, 1999, a clause in the lease agreement (or co-ownership rules) may prohibit the possession of attack dogs, such as pit bulls.

Optional clauses

Certain clauses are strongly recommended and can be included in any contract because of their importance to the landlord.

  • The rent indexation clause. This revision is not automatic and, if it is not stipulated in the lease, the rent cannot increase during the entire term of the lease.
  • The clause facilitating the termination of the lease in event of non-payment of rent and charges, the security deposit or the absence of insurance. However, it should be noted that the law of July 29, 1998 has significantly reduced the effectiveness of the dissolution clause.
  • The clause defining the conditions of the right of visit. When the tenant gives his notice, the owner must be able to show the apartment to a future occupant. In order to avoid possible disputes in the future, it is recommended to define in advance the visiting hours (two hours per working day).
  • The penalty clause, which allows to foresee:
  1. A penalty on the amounts due for any delay in payment of rent.
  2. An indemnity to sanction the abusive maintenance of the tenant in the dwelling after the expiry of the lease.

Case law has long recognized the validity of penalty clauses.

  • The clause formally prohibiting subletting without the owner’s written agreement. If the owner gives his agreement, he must validate the amount of rent requested from the sublessee.
  • The clause in case of death of the tenant. In the case of a furnished rental only, it is stipulated that the lease ceases with his death.

Annexes to be attached to the contract

Certain documents relating to the accommodation and co-ownership must be attached to the rental contract.

  • The information regarding the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords.
  • The rules of co-ownership.
  • A technical diagnosis file, included in the digital logbook of the dwelling, which allows the global condition of the installations to be monitored. It includes an energy performance diagnosis (DPE). For buildings constructed before 1975 or after January 1, 2018, it involves a diagnosis of the state of the gas and electricity installations. Additionally, for housing in risk zones, it includes a state of natural, mining, and technological risks (ERMNT). An asbestos diagnosis and a report on lead explosion risks for housing built before 1949 is included as well.
  • The list of equipment providing access to information and communication technologies (TNT, ADSL or optical fiber, etc.).
  • A joint and several guarantee for each of the tenant’s guarantors, if the lessor has decided to protect himself against any unpaid bills.

Non-mandatory annexes: other annexes may be added, which are not mandatory but are highly recommended to protect the tenant and the lessor.

  • The inventory of fixtures describing the dwelling and equipment, as well as their state of wear and tear when the tenant enters the dwelling.
  • A dilapidation grid if both parties have decided to use it to distinguish between deterioration and dilapidation without any dispute.

Set the rent

The rent for unfurnished accommodation cannot always be freely determined by the lessor and depends on the location of the property.

  • In a tense area: the property is subject to a rent control system when it is re-rented. It is impossible to increase the rent between two tenants.
  • In Paris and Lille: the property is subject to a double rent control system, i.e. rent control when re-rented and rent control with a ceiling. As in the tense zone, the landlord cannot increase the rent when changing tenants.
  • In the rest of metropolitan France, the lessor is free to set the rent.

Drafting and costs

The lease agreement must be in writing. It can be established:

  • Under private signature, i.e. by the owner himself or by a professional, such as a real estate agent.
  • By a notary public.
  • The costs of establishing the lease. The owner who establishes the lease himself cannot claim a compensation from his tenant. On the other hand, when a professional establishes the lease, the costs incurred are obligatorily divided between the owner and the tenant. Since this is a law of public policy, the fees cannot therefore be entirely borne by the tenant.
  • Tacit renewal under the same conditions. If the rental agreement is tacitly renewed at the end of the contractual term, it is not necessary to conclude a new contract. If it is a professional who manages the lease, he will not be able to ask for compensation.

On the other hand, if the landlord increases the rent and proposes the renewal of the lease to the tenant, who agrees, an amendment to the lease must be drawn up. This is similar to the process for the original lease.

  • If the landlord prepares the deed himself, he cannot ask his tenant for a fee.
  • If a real estate agent (or a notary) prepares the deed, the cost is shared equally between the landlord and the tenant.
  • Duration of a furnished lease. Empty leases are regulated by the law of July 6, 1989. This is mandatory when the property is the tenant’s main residence. The duration of the lease is three years. After three years, you do not have to write to your tenant or have them sign a new lease. The lease is automatically renewed by tacit agreement.

Termination by the landlord

When the tenant of an unfurnished dwelling wishes to terminate the lease, the notice period to be respected is 3 months. However, it can be reduced to one month if the accommodation is located in a tense area. It can also be reduced if the tenant is in one of the particular cases listed by law.

The landlord can only give notice to the tenant at the end of the lease, so it cannot be tacitly renewed. There are three reasons for this:

  1. The sale of the property.
  2. The repossession of the property as a principal residence, for himself or for a member of his family.
  3. A legitimate reason for non-renewal of the contract: recurrent noise pollution, neighborhood disturbances, unpaid rent or charges, etc.

If case of delay, the landlord may, at least 2 months before the originally foreseen expiration date of the lease, propose the postponement of the end date of the lease, by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt. Only one postponement is possible.

Note: if the event has not occurred or is not confirmed, the lease will be considered a 3-year rental lease.

Termination by the lessor

In order to terminate an unfurnished lease, it is necessary to:

  • Write a letter of termination of the lease containing the identity of the lessor, that of the tenant, the address of the dwelling, the place and date of writing, the intended date of departure, as well as the reason that may justify the reduction of the notice period to one month.
  • Send this letter to the landlord by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt, by bailiff’s deed or hand it over in person against receipt.

Finally, the unfurnished rental is subject to a strict regulation, that of the law of July 6, 1989. This essentially obliges the owner to rent for three years and to justify his termination to the tenant by complying with very precise conditions.

The unfurnished lease or rental contract limits disputes between the landlord and the tenant by listing the rights and obligations of each party.

The terms of the lease are defined by law: the length of the contract, the conditions and deadlines for termination, the determination of the rent… are all points that you must master before signing the lease in order to protect yourself from risks and make your rental a success.

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