By Eden Chua
“Victim of a housing scam, a Marsellaise student finds herself on the streets”, such is one of the headlines of an article in France Bleu. A simple Google search in French reveals numerous similar stories of housing scams, all over France, and of varied nature.
Scams on the Cote d’Azur
For students who managed to move into their apartments scam-free, this is no guarantee that scams will not be attempted on them at a later stage. At my university campus, located on the Cote d’Azur, a friend’s landlord kept 1000€ of their deposit with dubious justification. Towards the end of the school year, there was also a post on the university Facebook group cautioning students not to rent from a certain landlord, in light of how this landlord also kept the full amount of their deposit despite a meticulous cleaning of the apartment before the état de lieu de sortie. In both these cases, the students were foreigners, and did not feel confident either speaking French, or navigating the French rental system, or both.
Lack of information in English
A Google search in English reveals that most articles on how students scams relating to apartments in France center on how to avoid scams while apartment hunting. Yet, even while avoiding a scam at the beginning of the tenancy, what happens when one’s landlord tries to keep an unjustified amount of the deposit when moving out? (Note: In France, landlords have the right to ask for 2 months of deposit for a furnished apartment, and 1 month of deposit for an unfurnished apartment.) Between engaging with French and the French system, and simply giving up the amount the landlord is trying to keep, most non-French students, unfortunately, choose the former.
Screenshot from a google search, student scams apartment France
Confusing/Unclear information online (even in French)
Indeed, even if there exists information online, the great majority of this is in French. Even if one succeeds in finding potential useful information online, it is oftentimes not clear or direct. For instance, the official website of the French administration states that landlords only have the right to ask for a one month deposit from the tenant. Yet, an amendment to the relevant law states that landlords have the right to ask for two months of deposit from their tenant. To say that such lack of clear, streamlined information is confusing would be an understatement.
Relevant websites such as ANIL should be acknowledged for the work they do to minimise information failure in rental situations. Yet, the same issues resurface. It is fully in French, from which it can be inferred that it caters predominantly to French-speakers. In addition, it covers a whole range of rental issues, from both the landlords and tenant’s perspective. While such comprehensiveness is laudable, it can come off as confusing for non-French speakers who simply require a clear, direct, coherent response to their landlord’s actions.
Standing up for oneself in a foreign language and culture can be intimidating
Finally, the cultural aspect needs to be acknowledged. From my experience living in France for the past three years, I gather that the French manner of speaking is rather assertive and confident in general. For non-French speakers, or for people who are not fluent in French, such assertiveness and confidence can come off as rather intimidating. This is especially true for cases in which one has to oppose a landlord attempting to unjustly keep one’s deposit.
What can be done?
The current context in France pertaining to the rental market, especially for foreign students, has led us to recognise the need for additional aid.
We aim to
Increase the amount of information available in English for non-French speakers facing housing scams (PREVENTIVE)
Streamline existing information and make them more accessible
Aid students whose landlords are actively trying to scam them
If you have an issue with your landlord trying to keep your deposit for unjustified reasons, feel free to drop us a message and we will be in contact with you in the next three working days.