Location saisonnière. That’s the reason it’s so damn hard to find an affordable rental in Paris.

It’s also why landlords can double down on the requirement that you have a French guarantor and make at least three times the rent of your apartment, even though it’s not a requirement of the law, and is technically considered discrimination.

And it’s definitely why every single apartment you’ll visit as a student has a line out the door and a pile of dossiers way better than yours.

So what is “location saisonnière”?

Location saisonnière is basically the practice of renting an apartment as a short-term vacation rental instead of giving a long-term lease to a Paris resident.

All of those ads you see in FUSAC for Paris Vacation Rentals and Paris Attitude, asking €2000 per month or €500 per week for a one-bedroom apartment in the 6th? Are location saisonnière.

And location saisonnière is totally illegal. At least in Paris and most major French cities.

But unfortunately, it’s far more profitable to rent an apartment in Paris as a “luxury vacation rental” than to rent it to a student or a couple through a legal lease.

Technically, location saisonnière, or short term rentals, are illegal in Paris and several other large cities (not everywhere in France). The law was originally intended to preserve the amount of residential space, because luxury rentals are considered commercial space, and are in competition with the hotel industry.

While the hotel industry lobbied hard to pass this law and avoid competition from landlords, the real beneficiaries were supposed to be Parisians, who would be able to find apartments more easily because the housing shortage would ease. After the law was passed, landlords who wanted to do short-term rentals in Paris were required to petition the mairie for permission, and show proof that they had converted an equivalent commercial space into residential space. In other words, the idea was that the total amount of residential space would remain the same.

So far, this hasn’t worked. Mostly because Parisians don’t believe in asking for permission.

Many landlords still find ways to rent these apartments illegally and expensively to tourists, making huge profits, instead of renting to regular people.
And while there are technically huge fines for landlords caught violating these laws (several thousand Euro per day), not enough people are caught for the fines to be a real deterrence.

So what do you do if you want to find a reasonably priced, long-term apartment to rent in Paris?

1) Avoid ads targeted towards foreigners.

By far the biggest culprits of short-term rentals are foreigners and expats living in France, for two reasons. One is that they tend to make lots of money and have higher salaries than many French people, which means they can afford to buy apartments to rent out. Two is that they may not be familiar with French rental laws, as most places in the States don’t have any regulations on vacation rentals.

And they tend to publish ads for their properties in publications directed at foreigners and expats, especially in English-language publications for people who don’t speak French. And French authorities are probably less likely to scrutinize English publications.

So eschew ads from places like FUSAC and Craigslist, and turn towards French-language sites geared towards Parisians, like seloger.fr or pap.fr.

2) Start your search several weeks in advance.

The catch-22 of apartment hunting is that the sooner you find an apartment, the sooner you start paying rent. This is especially true if you’re looking for an apartment as a student. It’s a lot easier to find empty apartments in June, when students are moving out, than in August, when everyone’s moving in. But if you find a place in June and you don’t need to be in Paris until September, you have to pay for the summer months even if you’re not living there.

The best thing to do is to start your search about a month in advance, and visit as many apartments as you can. Monitor sites closely, and set up an email alert on sites like Particulier à Particulier if you can, calling as soon as it pops up in your inbox. Ask in advance if the landlord accepts applications from students, or if he requires a guarantor, so you don’t waste your time on apartments that are never going to rent to you;

3) Use Paris Unraveled’s Apartment Finding Service

If you’re a student or teaching assistant in the Paris area, you can use Paris Unraveled’s service to find you an apartment in August or September before you arrive in Paris.

We’ll do the legwork of finding an apartment that meets your needs and your budget, and show you up to 3 places so you can be settled before you even get on the plane. When you arrive in Paris, we’ll meet you at the apartment for the opening état des lieux to make sure everything runs smoothly, and since you won’t give your landlord any money until you arrive, there’s no chance of being scammed.

Have you had trouble finding a legitimate long-term lease due to location saisonnière?

Leave a comment below about how short-term rentals have affected your apartment hunt in Paris.