22. Legal Remedies in France for Arrears of Rent
22.2. Distraint Proceedings
In theory, the use of distraint (called saisie) on goods and funds is a easy and inexpensive procedure.
Unfortunately, it does not always work out in practice to be the case, either because there is a successful challenge to the action, or because the tenant may not have funds and goods against which you can distrain!
You need to engage the services of a huissier to conduct the process, who will need to see some proof of the arrears of rent and any attempts by you to secure payment, e.g. registered letter(s) seeking payment.
The first stage of the process is called the saisie conservatoire. The huissier will endeavour to arrange for the bank account(s) of the tenant to be blocked, as well as an injunction preventing the sale of furniture or other effects. No court order is required, provided the tenancy is in writing, although the tenant can challenge the proposed action in court.
This act alone may well bring the result required.
If not, the huissier would need to obtain a court order to to execute the distraint by obtaining an order for access to the bank funds, or selling of furniture or other belongings. This part of the process is called the saisie exécutoire.
Not all furniture and personal belongings can be distrained. The tenant is entitled to keep a minimum amount of furniture and belongings, as well as items required for their employment.
If the tenancy agreement was prepared and signed in front of a notaire, then no court order is required to execute the distraint, although a tenant can (and normally does) apply to the court for a stay of execution.
It is also possible, with a court order, to obtain distraint against salary or social security payments, but there are limitations on the amount that can be distrained in order to protect the welfare of the family. The tenant is required to be left with a minimum income, which will vary according to their family circumstances.
In either case a tenant can make application to the court for the action to be nullified if they consider it is not valid or is abusive.
Next: Possession Proceedings
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