True story: How a squatter invaded a Paris apartment for 2 years

Champs Elysées, probably the most prestigeous shopping area in the whole world. Photo: Cayetano (Source: Flickr, creative commons licenced)

Photo: Cayetano (Source: Flickr, creative commons licenced)

Buying a flat in Paris? Read this story first – and avoid your holiday home being legally taken over by squatters.

A teacher from Helsinki, Finland retired and decided to make her dream come true: she negotiated a loan from her bank and bought a flat in idyllic Montparnasse neighborhood in Paris. As Finland´s leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reports, things started to go wrong not long after purchasing the apartment.

The lady who had just bought the apartment met a friend´s friend, Parisian old widow, who claimed that she was being evicted from her own home, because the building would go under massive renovation – and she would like to rent the newly bought apartment for few weeks.

The old lady appeared trustworthy, telling the retired teacher that she had been a judge and knew the heavy French bureaucracy well and could help with the paperwork. So the owner agreed to rent the flat and the old widow moved in.

Little did the retired teacher know what would follow.

The tenant claimed to be unable to move out as agreed and refused to pay rent – she had turned into a full time squatter. Days became weeks, weeks became months and months became years – in the summer of 2013 the squatter had remained in the apartment since 2011! She even had the apartment´s lock changed, making it impossible for the rightful owner to enter her property.

The owner would come to her own apartment, trying to negotiate the squatter out of the building. Those attempts to get her property back resulted in tenant calling the police and the owner being taken into custody – for trying to claim what she rightfully owned.



How is it possible that a stranger can take over an apartment and there little the landlord can do about it? The reason are the very liberal French squatter laws and the “48 hour rule” that makes it illegal to evict a person that has been able to get into and remain inside an apartment for 48 hours.

It turned out that the only way for the owner to get her apartment back would be a long legal battle against the intruder – a task the owner didn´t want to do right away because it would cost a lot of time and money. France has also very tenant-friendly laws when it comes to evictions: A lawsuit to get a court order is needed. And it applies to anyone who has been able to remain inside for 48 hours. That´s not even all: After finally getting the court order the tenant has 2 months to arrange another housing. And evictions cannot be carried out during winter – from November to March it´s impossible to get the squatter out of the building.

Currently the retired teacher has moved to Paris to get things sorted out and her apartment back – renting a 12 square meter maid´s chamber in Montmartre. She has finally started the legal process and is looking out to get a court order in September. If the court approves the eviction, she still needs to wait until March to finally get her flat back – after 2 years of expensive nightmare.
During those 4 years the squatter hash´t paid a dime for her housing.

All we can say is: be careful when renting out your property in France. Once squatters get in, you might be looking at long and time consuming court case to get your property back.

Source: Helsingin Sanomt, The original article (in Finnish)

Do you have experiences about squatting in Paris? We´d love to hear about it!

  • Val!

    Thanks for this info!! I just saw a snippet of this in a movie I watched last night. “3 Days to Kill” and I just had to check out more info about this.

    I’m so sorry for that teacher! I hope things work out for her! Poor lady!

    • John R Willis

      Great minds think alike ! I watched that same movie ,I couldn’t believe this was a real thing . She may have gotten better results had she been a CIA operative instead of a Teacher. 😉

      • Ha very true indeed ;D

      • When I lived and owned a property in Levallois-Perret me and my partner would hire a security firm to check the property on a daily basis (we used the same small firm used by my partner’s company so we had a huge discount) when we went on Holiday back to Australia or anywhere, We tried to get permission to put up temporary screens/bars on the windows but got told it was illegal (you cannot just put bars up internally and especially externally on a building in certain areas). We had a friend and his wife in the same street that had squatters break in while he and his wife was away for a week, his Lawyers, Arrondissement Officials, City Hall, and the Police couldn’t do anything till winter was over and he was treated like he was the criminal (he even complained through the Dutch Embassy), but he was lucky as the squatters agreed to leave in exchange for cash, he never said how much she had to fork out though, he sold the property within a month, closed his business and moved back to the Netherlands with his french wife vowing to never set foot in Paris let alone France ever again. He still had to pay for the Electricity and water, whats worse is he had to pay the taxe foncière being the owner and had to pay the taxe d’habitation with penalties.

    • Corey Springer

      Wow just seen the same movie on netflix. Made me do a little research. #netflix and chill

  • Erna

    does this apply to a temporary furnished holiday rental?

  • Nikos petrakis

    In my case the people moved while I was in an extended visit. upon coming back, found these people in my apartment. Unfortunately for them, I had been NYPD cop for 30 yrs. I did not call the French authorities. I place a small cam in the hallway and waited till they went to work. Then I picked lock and changed the locks – called Friends and moved all their stuff out, moved new stuff in – all within hours. I preceded have friends call cops on me on a too much noise complaint .When cops arrived Had small party full on with maybe 10 people. I apologized to cops , for noise showed them my house papers and invited them in even gave some recent sports magazines with my address to cops as a ” sorry for trouble” when people showed up a called cops again – said did not know what they were talking about living there also had friend intercept one of the people at their work and told them were to find some of their stuff which was In van that had suffered some damage – that guy called the guy that was at my door and all of a sudden it was big mistake. Had to hire some friends to stay at place for a while but after that no problems!