Elderly tenants in France have a particularly strong security of tenure, which has recently been reinforced by a bizarre ruling of the French Supreme Court.
All tenants in France who occupy the property as their principal home have an automatic entitlement to a tenancy of three years' duration, with Article 10 of Loi n° 89-462 du 6 juillet 1989 (as amended) expressly stating: 'Le contrat de location est conclu pour une durée au moins égale à trois ans.'
This entitlement applies even though the landlord and tenant may have agreed between them a tenancy of a shorter duration. The tenant can subsequently choose to simply ignore the contract terms and remain in the property for the full three-year term.
Only if there is a breach of the conditions of tenancy can the landlord terminate the tenancy earlier.
Even at the end of three years the landlord can only terminate if they wish to sell the property, or use it for occupation by themselves or a family member.
Strict procedures also apply in relation to the termination procedure, including a minimum notice period and tenants given an automatic right of first refusal on sale of the property.
In relation to elderly tenants even tougher conditions apply, for in certain circumstances if the landlord wishes to terminate the tenancy they are also obliged to find commensurate alternative accommodation for their tenant.
The rehousing obligation applies if the tenant is at least 65 years of age at the termination date of the tenancy, and
their income is less than a minimum threshold.
It also applies even if the tenant is under 65 years of age, but has someone living with him who meets the age condition. So, for instance, it would apply a 50-year old son who was tenant of the property, looking after his 70 year old mother who lived with him.
The income threshold to qualify for rehousing for properties located in the Ile de France is €23,132 for a person living alone; the figure is €20,111 in the provinces. Higher thresholds apply for additional family members. Thus, for a couple it is €34,572 in the Ile de France and €26,856 in the provinces.
The obligation applies to both furnished and unfurnished lettings.
However, as with most aspects of French law, matters are never quite as absolute as the generic rule would imply.
In this case, no rehousing obligation applies if the landlord is aged at least 65 years of age, or
that their own household income is below the threshold figures cited above.
The waiver of the rehousing condition on income grounds applies irrespective of the age of the landlord.
In a recent case heard in the French Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation
, a tenant aged 70 years, with an income below the minimum threshold was given a notice of termination of tenancy on the grounds that the landlord wished to use the property for family occupation.
The landlord in this case was constituted as a French property company, a société civile immobilière (SCI)
, whose shareholders were parents and their children.
The landlord sought exemption from the rehousing obligation on the basis that one of the shareholders of the SCI was aged over 65 years of age.
The tenant challenged the legality of the termination of their tenancy as no alternative accommodation had been offered.
The court found in her favour, on the basis that the legal owner of the property was not the individual shareholders, but the company, to which no exemption of the rehousing obligation applied.
The ruling is a peculiar one, for Article 13 of the 1989 law makes express provision for a family owned limited company to benefit from the exemption from rehousing, stating it applies: 'Lorsque le bailleur est une société civile constituée exclusivement entre parents et alliés jusqu'au quatrième degré inclus, par la société au profit de l'un des associés'
The ruling is, therefore, at complete variance with statute law and it is likely there will be further developments on this issue in the future.