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Apartment Hunting in FranceEtat des Lieux

An Etat des Lieux is the inventory that takes place before a renter moves into a property and after they move out. It is a detailed report of the state of the property, a before and after ‘snapshot’ if you like. Once a tenant moves out of a property the two Etat des Lieux, the one done before entry and the one done after moving out are compared. Any differences between that two are noted and if there is any damage then the renter must pay for repairs. Interesting enough the owner of the property does not have to actually make the repairs but the tenant must pay for them nevertheless.

Etat des Lieux literally means 'state of the place' and as this implies it is a thorough record of the condition of the apartment. It acts as a legal document and will be used to calculate how much of the rental deposit will be returned when a renter leaves.

In France when you rent a property, upon moving out, the apartment/house must be returned to its original state. That is the condition before it was in before the renter arrived. The Etat des Lieux will determine what state the apartment was in.

Please note that the Etat des Lieux has the final say, everything, down to the smallest detail should be noted when moving into an apartment or house in France. It’s even a good idea to take photos. After the renter enters a property, the Etat des Lieux can be amended and anything not noted during the first inspection can be added to the original Etat des Lieux. Anything to be added must be sent by registered mail (recommandé avec accusé de reception). This should be done as soon as possible!

Some things that a tenant will be forced to pay for should they not have been included in the original Etat des Lieux are screw holes, calcium built up in sinks or toilets, scratches on windows. Just about all the little things you can think of.

Some real estate agents will use a poorly worded original Etat des Lieux to their advantage. I personally lost over 1000 euros because of a vaguely worded Etat des Lieux. Not being able to read French handwriting is no legal excuse. If the condition of something is not stated in the Etat des Lieux then it is assumed that it was in good condition when the tenant moved in. This means that everything possible should be noted in the Etat des Lieux of entry. Remember you don’t have to sign either the Etat des Lieux of entry or exit if you don’t agree with it. If you do have problems don’t wait. Address them as soon as possible.

In our case we ended up paying for new windows for our last apartment because their condition was not stated in the Etat des Lieux when we moved in. During the Etat des Lieux when we left the inspector noted that the windows had some scratches on them. So we ended up paying for new windows! You can read more about our experience here.

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