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