Terminating the Lease Agreement

Understand how to legally terminate a lease agreement in France...

The law of tenancy agreements is slightly different for furnished property used as a principal residence to unfurnished property.

Giving notice: furnished property

If a furnished property is rented out as a principal residence, the written agreement has a term of one year.

At the end of that period, the lease is automatically renewed for one year if no other agreements have been put in place. If the lease is with a student, the period is reduced to nine months and not automatically renewed.

If the landlord wants to change the terms of the agreement at the end of the year, three months' notice must be given to the tenant. If the tenant accepts the new terms, the contract is renewed for one year. If a landlord does not wish to continue a contract, they must provide three months' notice and a valid reason why they are not extending the agreement, such as the sale of the property or the tenant's failure to fulfill their obligations.

A tenant may end a contract at any time giving one month's notice. It is advisable, but not required, to do so by a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (Lettre Recommandée AR).

Unfurnished property: tenant giving notice

Unless otherwise stated in the lease agreement, a tenant who wants to leave unfurnished rental property prior to the end date in the lease agreement must give three months' notice, by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (Lettre Recommandée AR).

In specific circumstances the notice period can be reduced to one month with the agreement of the landlord:

  • If the tenant can prove they need to leave due to job transfer or job loss (this will require a letter from the employer)
  • If the tenant is over 60 years of age and a move is required for health reasons
  • If the tenant receives low income benefits (Revenu de Solidarité active, RSA)

Unfurnished property:  landlord giving notice

The landlord may not quit the agreement until the lease expires unless the tenant has not paid rent or significantly failed in their obligations. In that instance the lease is cancelled and the landlord must notify the tenant by registered letter or with a letter signed by a bailiff.

The landlord must give notice to quit at least six months before the end of the contract, and then only if they want to take occupancy, give occupancy to a family member, or sell the property. In the case of sale, the tenant must be given first right of refusal. Notice must be by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (Lettre Recommandée AR) or by letter signed by a bailiff (un huissier). The letter must contain a valid motive.

Tenants in France are protected from eviction during winter. A landlord may not evict a tenant from 1 November to 15 March. This is the "trêve hivernale".

Inventory on departure

At the time of returning the keys, the original inventory and condition report (état des lieux) is reviewed together by the exiting tenant and owner.

The landlord/agent has up to two months to reimburse the deposit, deducting any money needed for repairs to the property. If the departing tenant feels that an unnecessary amount has been deducted, they may request to see the estimates for work done. In the event of a dispute, the matter can be passed to a bailiff.

It is illegal to hold back the last months’ rent in lieu of the deposit.

Legal guidance, contracts and rights

ANIL (Agence National pour l'Information sur le Logement) is a national organisation to to advise landlords (propriétaire) and tenants (locataire) on legal, financial and fiscal matters related to tenancy contracts. The website, in French, details all documents and obligations relevant to a tenancy agreement.

Each département of France has a departmental office, ADIL (Agence Départementale pour l'Information sur le Logement), which deals with specifically local matters.