Guide to Letting Property in France
10. Property Condition Report - L’Etat des Lieux
At the start of a tenancy a report is prepared which describes the property and its condition.
The report is called L’état des lieux.
It forms the basis for assessing any repairing obligations of the tenant, or charges against the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
The report should be attached to, and form part of, the tenancy agreement.
Ideally, it should be written in the French language in order that the document can be easily used in court proceedings, but that may not be easily achieved if you have an international tenant.
One written in the English language can be accepted provided it has been translated. You can read more about the issue at Business Contracts in the English Language.
It should be carried out before the tenant puts their belongings in the property and repeated on termination when all furniture and belongings have been removed.
If the tenancy is furnished then a full inventory of the contents of the property should be taken.
The condition report that is undertaken at the start of the tenancy, should not be confused with the obligatory survey reports that are also required, which we considered earlier.
10.1. Who Prepares the Report?
The landlord and the tenant together can prepare a report, which is valid provided it is signed and dated by both parties. There are pre-printed forms available from good bookshops.
It is also important to take photographs and for each party to sign and date the photos with the words ‘Bon pour accord’.
Nevertheless, one of the problems of this approach is that there may be disagreement at the start or, more often, at the end of the tenancy, about the condition of the property.
Accordingly, a better approach, at least certainly for long-term lettings, is to engage the services of a professional person such as an estate agent or a huissier de justice who will prepare an independent report at the beginning and the end of the tenancy.
A huissier is a quasi-governmental official whose nearest professional equivalent in the UK would be a bailiff. You can read more about their role and how to use them in our article The Role of a Huissier in France
Normally the use of a huissier is decided jointly by the landlord and the tenant, and the costs are shared between them.
The main advantage of this approach is that it is the most effective way of dealing with any difference of opinion between the landlord and the tenant as, in any dispute, the word of the huissier is effectively the law.
Most of the tariffs of a huissier are determined by law, and the cost of preparing an _état des lieux _would be €200-€300.
If one of the parties refuses an état des lieux on an amicable basis then the other party can serve notice that they wish a report to be carried out.
If there is still no agreement then they have the right to call upon the huissier to undertake the report.
Whilst use of huissier is highly recommended there are clearly limitations on any survey, notably for those parts of the property whose condition cannot be clearly established, e.g. boiler, drains,
The tenant may ask for a condition report on the heating system to be carried out within a month of occupation, in order that the system can be tested properly.
Similarly, if there are matters that come to the notice of the tenant within a few days of moving into the property, then these should be reported to the landlord by a letter sent recorded delivery.
If the landlord refuses to agree to a condition report they will need to prove that any end of tenancy repairs they seek to impose on the tenant were actually caused by act or neglect of the tenant
If the tenant refuses to agree to a condition report then they are presumed to have received the property in good condition.
If both are equally negligent in not preparing a report then the property is assumed to have been let in good condition.
10.2. End of Tenancy
On termination of the tenancy there will need to be a joint inspection of the property using the same procedure as that used at the commencement of the tenancy.
The tenant is expected to leave the property in the same condition as they found it, save for normal wear and tear of the property.
Only those repairs that result from abnormal use or neglect of the property by the tenant are chargeable.
If the tenant carried out changes to the property (major changes need the authorisation of the landlord) then they are required to reinstate as they found it, unless otherwise agreed with the landlord.
The landlord must justify the amounts to be deducted from the damage deposit by the presentation of estimates or actual invoices.
The landlord has two months to return the deposit, less any sum due from the tenant for repairs that are their responsibility.
In the event that the cost of repairs is greater than the amount of the deposit, then the landlord has the right to reclaim from the tenant the additional amount.
The failure to return all or some of the deposit is one of the most frequent matters of dispute between landlords and tenants - one more reason for engaging a third party to undertake the whole condition report process.
Disputes concerning the condition report can be referred to the Commission Départementale de Conciliation who can be found by contacting your préfecture.
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