Gergö will start a new job in Paris in March and our rental agreement expires by the end of February. So in the next 6 weeks we should find a place to live, ideally in Paris in the South-East.
When we looked for a place to live in 2015 we sent a couple of emails to estate agents asking about apartments and never heard back from any of them. In the end we used the help of science accueil, an organisation that supports incoming researchers. They had a list of apartments, we sent emails directly to proprietors et voilà, un appartement.
When we started looking again this time, we tried the traditional way again: sending emails to people who advertise their apartments online. We’ve learned in the meantime that you don’t just express an interest in the apartment and ask to view it.
No, you have to introduce yourself, tell them your income and your situation, and then ask if it’s possible to view the apartment. Websites that explain the apartment hunting process in Paris to foreigners explain that and also list details of what you can be asked to provide as proof of income and solvency and what isn’t allowed. These websites also say that proprietors will ask for a garant, a security or guarantor, Bürge in German, if you earn less than 3 times the monthly rent.
What we found is that they demand you earn 3 times the monthly rent and still want a garant plus proof of your income (the last three pay slips), and proof that you paid your last rent on time (you get a quittance every month, I always wondered what that was for). They can’t lawfully reject a garant who isn’t French. But the person is required to be present and sign paperwork when the rental agreement is signed plus also provide proof of income.
It seems incredibly unfair. Not only are rents ridiculously high in Paris, and apartments tiny, they are also impossible to get if you aren’t well connected. And I’m speaking from a position of relative privilege – we can proove our income and it isn’t that low. We might even be able to pay for an apartment that isn’t a “studio with american kitchen”, i.e. one room with a fold out couch, a microwave oven and two hotplates in the corner.
We ended up viewing one apartment in a very nice quarter close to the Bastille and an open market. It was January 1st and icy. It had even snowed in Palaiseau.
When we arrived at the house we discovered it was a group viewing and the landlord discovered he didn’t have the right access code. A lot of houses in Paris don’t have door bells. They just have a number pad and you have to know the code to get in. Apparently this one had been changed since his last visit. So we stood around for 15 minutes in the freezing cold waiting for someone to leave the house at 10 am on New Year’s Day.
The apartment itself was unfurnished and had individual electric heaters. The building was ancient, too with a tiny little staircase.
It also had those old fashioned china door handles and an ancient yellow monster of a couch that I failed to photograph. Gergö wanted out immediately but I wanted to hang around and see how other people handled the situation. Some people left right away, others stayed around and presented their “dossier” to the landlord. They had all their papers with them, some in copies to leave with the proprietor.
After that rather pointless viewing and three or four fights about the way to proceed we ended up back at one of those organisations that help incoming scientist.
The absolute highlight of that excursion were the two black swans I saw in the park opposite Cité Universitaire.
I mean, the trip also potentially helped us find an apartment in Paris without tearing each others heads off. But I’ll hold off on that judgement until we actually sign anything. Acc&ss, as they are called, referred us back to science accueil. Since then Gergö has been emailing back and forth with them filling out forms, explaining that he has already filled out this other form, etc.
But we also got a list of aparthotels (extremely expensive) and websites that cater to foreigners who want to rent short and medium term. I’m not fond of moving house but I keep telling myself that it’s much easier now, without furniture. And it’s simply good to know that there are options in case we don’t find anything before the end February. Which is soon!