The Struggle of Finding an Apartment in Paris


Nearly three years after moving to Paris, it’s finally happened: I’ve found a place to live.

No roommates. No living with a French partner who has all the necessary documentation themselves. No sketchy “expat only” agency that price their apartments ridiculously high and charge high fees. No paying cash in hand. No subletting. No short-term contracts.

An actual apartment (well, studio), that I qualified for all on my own. Essentially, a miracle.

Finding a place to live in the French capital is no easy task. The rental dossiers are infamous for the huge amount of documents required, many of which a newcomer won’t have upon arrival. And even if you have everything on the list, there’s still the little issue of making 3-4x the rent, something many people struggle with as rents can be ridiculously high, and the average salary… not so much. What’s more, you’re often required to have a French garant on top of all that!

I arrived in Paris thinking it would be easy to find a place to live, and the end result ended up being years of dodgy landlords, questionable agencies, and a string of short-term leases which made me feel like I always had to be ready to pack up at a moment’s notice.

My first few weeks were spent in an AirBNB rented together with a friend, after which we managed to find an eye wateringly expensive “two bedroom” that we took out of desperation (air quotes because one of the supposed rooms was a hot, tiny attic space you had to access by pulling down a ladder). Our landlord snuck in a lot of extra charges that normally we should never have been responsible for, including the monthly cleaning costs of not one but three apartments, and an internet box that was not even in the apartment!

Once my friend left Paris a few months later, I was eager to find a place on my own. However, without a steady job, electricity bills, French tax return, or garant, I was turned away by every agency and had few people return my calls on PAP.

Desperate for a place to live, I resorted to one of the aforementioned “expat” agencies that accept less-than-perfect applications but that charge you through the nose for whatever place you’d like to rent. I’m talking over 800 EUR for a studio that’s less than 10m2 being an average type of listing.

I found a comfortable apartment to rent in the Bastille area, but I had to pay ridiculous fees of over one month’s rent (illegal in France as agency fees are now regulated) and high charges. I loved my place, but I was finding it harder and harder to have to give so much of my paycheque to rent. The nail in the coffin was when the yearly contract was coming to an end, and the agency told me they would charge me the same high fee for every year I rented the place. Fed up, I decided to leave and move for the third time.

This time around I had a slightly stronger dossier, with a CDI, pay slips, and quittances de loyer, but the fact I was still on a temporary working holiday visa, didn’t have a French tax return yet, and didn’t have a French garant, meant that I was again rejected by regular agencies and most landlords.

After months of searching, I eventually found a landlord who accepted my imperfect dossier. I wasn’t thrilled with the studio but I was again desperate, and so agreed to rent it. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was okay for the time being. However, my landlord only gave me contracts one year at a time and made it clear that he planned to take his apartment back in the near future. As such, I always had to be prepared for the notice that he wanted me out in three months time. 

Finally, my luck changed this winter. After being put in touch with a friend of a friend moving out of her place, I sent my dossier to the agency that handled the property and crossed my fingers. I finally had a perfect application: a CDI contract where I made 3x the rent, a titre de séjour, a French bank account, a French tax return and copy of that year’s taxe d’habitation, proof I’d been paying my rent for the past few months, and proof of my existing house insurance and electricity contract. 

By nothing short of a miracle, my application was accepted. I was floored.

I officially moved in in late February, and since then have been over the moon. It’s five minutes from where I used to live so I was able to stay in my preferred neighbourhood of Montmartre, close to work, small but spacious, and in that gorgeous Haussmann style that is classically Parisian that I always dreamed of having, with ornate mouldings on the ceiling, a wrought iron window box, and a built-in bookcase.

Not to mention other perks: the place came very sparsely furnished so I was able to buy the bulk of the furniture and decor (anyone who’s rented furnished in Paris knows the prevalence of old, ugly interior design, so this was a god send!); there are no issues with my having a cat; there are two giant built-in wardrobes which save space and give me more than enough room to store my sizeable collection of clothing; and it came with a reasonably-sized fridge, a washing machine, AND an oven – a trifecta virtually unheard of in Parisian studios!

There are downsides, of course. The bathroom can best be described as a closet, and there is no elevator (though mercifully I’m not on one of the top floors). But I’ve moved enough times in Paris to know that you’ll never get everything you want unless you have a gigantic budget, and even then it’s difficult.

And while I’d love to have a balcony, a bathtub, and a view of the Eiffel Tower, I know I’m ridiculously lucky just to have found a reasonably-priced, beautiful place to live long-term, with no hidden fees, invasive landlord, or the knowledge that I’d need to move out in a few months time when I first signed the contract.

After searching for so long, and moving so many times, it is a genuine relief to have finally found a place I can call chez-moi!


  1. Félicitations ! That sounds so stressful, but I’m glad you found a place. I was a student when I lived in Paris so lived in student housing and now where I live in the South of France, getting an apartment wasn’t that difficult… Maybe I’ll have to go through the same struggle one day when I eventually move back to Paris!


    1. I’m glad I finally found something stable as well! Prior to moving to Paris people had told me it was difficult, but I never expected it to take me years to find a decent apartment. But a lot of people I meet had similar experiences – the rental market here is crazy competitive and if your dossier is not perfect it really slashes your chances, and as a foreigner it takes a while to get all the documents they require like French tax returns, pay stubs from a French CDI, etc. I think it’s easier as a student as they’re more lenient with leases and you can have a garant, but if you’re a worker it’s harder as you need to make 3-4x the rent on top of having a perfect dossier. Renting outside the capital too is easier from what I heard from friends in places like Lyon or Nice. It’s true it’s a struggle but not impossible, just takes effort and a lot of apartment showings – everyone I know found a place to call home eventually. Wishing you luck for whenever you move back! My best advice would be to ask everyone you know to ask everyone they know, if they’re moving out or if they know of something available, as if you can see a place before it’s advertised on a rental site you stand much better chances.

      Liked by 1 person

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