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Trêve hivernale: Why you can’t be evicted in winter in France

France has a lot of laws that protect the rights of ordinary people, and one of the most famous is the trêve hivernale, or winter truce. Here's what it means.

A homeless man sleeps on the streets in Strasbourg, eastern France.
A homeless man sleeps on the streets in Strasbourg, eastern France. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

Tenants in France who stop paying their rent obviously run the risk of their landlord losing patience and throwing them out – but only between the months of April and October.

That’s thanks to the trêve hivernale – the winter truce that means you cannot be thrown out onto the streets while the country is in the depths of winter. The trêve hivernale is enshrined in law and also applies to utility companies – your electricity and gas cannot be cut off in the winter no matter how badly you are in arrears.

Of course that doesn’t mean you are safe forever, because landlords can and will evict you once the truce ends on March 31st, so we’re not advising people to stop paying over the winter.

The winter truce was extended in 2020 because of the financial hardship caused to many by Covid lockdowns, but the 2021 winter truce began on its usual date of November 1st and will run – barring unforeseen circumstances – until March 31st 2022.

The law is not without its critics – landlords don’t like it for obvious reasons. And in France not all landlords are wealthy, many people inherit property and for some older people the rental income from a property they have inherited is a vital supplement to their pension.

And housing charities say it acts as a ‘sticking plaster’ rather than addressing the real issues of why people get into arrears in the first place or putting in place better financial support for less well off people.

But in general, the rights of tenants are better protected in France than in many other countries. Read more about your rights while renting here.

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MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

While French cities such as Paris are notoriously expensive, there are many areas outside the cities where it is still possible to buy spacious homes for less than €100,000 - particularly if you don't mind a bit of renovation.

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

We decided to look at where in France you could afford a property on a budget of €100,000, and it turns out there are some bargains to be had.

There are a lot of caveats while searching for property, and many local variables in place, but our search does show some of the areas to concentrate on if you have a limited budget.

We used the Notaires de France immobilier website in August 2022, and we specified that the property should have at least five rooms (including kitchen and bathroom) and a floor space of at least 100 square metres.

We also discounted any property that was for sale under the viager system – a complicated purchase method which allows the resident to release equity on their property gradually, as the buyer puts down a lump sum in advance and then pays what is effectively a rent for the rest of the seller’s lifetime, while allowing them to remain in the property.

READ ALSO Viager: The French property system that can lead to a bargain

For a five-room, 100 square metre property at under €100,000, you won’t find anywhere in the Île-de-France region, where the proximity of Paris pushes up property prices. The city itself is famously expensive, but much of the greater Paris region is within commuting distance, which means pricier property. 

Equally the island of Corsica – where prices are pushed up by its popularity as a tourist destination – showed no properties for sale while the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – which includes the French Riviera – showed only 1 property under €100,000.

The very presence of Bordeaux, meanwhile, takes the entire département of Gironde out of this equation – but that doesn’t mean that the southwest is completely out of the running. A total of 25 properties came up in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. One property was on the market for a mere €20,000 – but it was, as the Notaires’ brochure noted, in need of “complete renovation”.

Neighbouring Occitanie, meanwhile, showed 12 further properties in the bracket.

By far the most properties on the day of our search – 67 – were to be found in the Grand Est region of eastern France. The eastern part of France overall comes out best for property bargains, with the north-east region of Hauts-de-France showing 38 properties and and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté displaying 25.

Further south, however, the presence of the Alps – another popular tourist destination – pushed up prices in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which showed just three results.

The below map shows our search results, with darker colours indicating more cheap properties.

Property buying tips 

In order to make a comparison, we focused our search on properties advertised online, but if you have a specific area in mind it's well worth making friends with a few local real estate agents and perhaps also the mayor, since it's common for properties not to be advertised online.

Most of the truly 'bargain' properties are described as being "in need of renovation" - which is real estate speak for a complete wreck.

If you don't mind doing a bit of work you can often pick up property for low prices, but you need to do a clear-eyed assessment of exactly how much work you are willing and able to do, and what the cost is likely to be - there's no point getting a "cheap" house and then spending three times the purchase price on renovations.

READ ALSO 'Double your budget and make friends with the mayor' - tips for French property renovation

That said, there were plenty of properties at or near the €100,000 mark that were perfectly liveable or needed only relatively minor renovations.

You also need to pay attention to the location, as the sub-€100,000 properties are often in remote areas or very small villages with limited access to amenities. While this lifestyle suits many people, bear in mind that owning a car is a requirement and you may end up paying extra for certain services.

Finally remember that government help, in the form of loans and grants, is available for environmentally friendly improvements, such as insulation or glazing.

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