Airbnb, Abritel … how to legally rent your French property to tourists

Tourist rentals in France can form a considerable part of a property’s income and increasingly this type of activity is becoming less amateur.

To avoid unpleasant surprises and fines here’s what you need to know.

Renting your main residence

Only a really option for those who have made France their main home, this is the simplest way of renting your French property because renting a main residence is always legal and is possible without any formalities. A ‘principal residence’ is a residence that is habited for at least eight months of the year by its occupant or a spouse or a dependent. It is therefore perfectly conceivable to rent its main residence throughout the summer or even every weekend of the year but must not exceed four months of rentals per year.

Renting your second home

Things get tougher when you rent your second home or a home that was bought specifically for secondary purposes. First, the formalities: make a declaration of your intentions (using form Cerfa No. 14004 * 02). This document serves to identify you as someone who pays the tourist tax, which is paid by the tenants (the tax you’ll remember paying when leaving a French hotel). Undeclared residences face a fine of up to €450.

Things can be a bit more complicated in certain cities: communes with more than 200,000 inhabitants, those in inner Paris and those with more than 50,000 habitants in ‘tense zones’. Here, it is necessary to gain authorization from the local municipality to modify the recorded use of the accommodation in furnished houses to become loosely a ‘commercial’ entity. It can be hard to gain this authorisation, which is why some are moving directly towards the purchase of habitable commercial surfaces.

Renting a ‘commercial’ space

To avoid the constant worry about being found out by the authorities, some real estate agencies refer investors to homes regarded as commercial spaces. There are not many but these spaces prove perfectly habitable without too much work. And if they are well located, they lend themselves well to the tourist market without the legal woes.

If I am renting myself

Risky but not impossible. If a tenant wishes to sub-let his house whilst he’s not there, a tenant must inform his owner and obtain his written consent.