A roof over our heads

Well, it’s been a while, but now here we are : in our very own apartment in Toulouse! Then again, it’s only a rental, so technically it’s not actually ours, but at least it’s a fixed place for us to stay.

Not that it was that easy to find something here. I guess I’d forgotten how crazy it can be to try to rent an apartment in France. The first part of my apartment hunt actually went pretty smoothly. First of all, I had to figure out what kind of place I wanted. Having spent the last year living out of a backpack, that was not a small step.

So after having visited several decent places, I came upon “the one”. This definitely was what I was looking for:  fairly large (for France), an extra bedroom that N. could use as an office, a nice balcony overlooking the roofs of “La ville rose”, very calm, and even a gas-powered cooking stove, by far my favorite. The apartment in question was put up for rent directly by the owners, an elderly couple, meaning there were no extra charges to complete the transaction. Great, where do I sign ?

Well just hold on a second, things never go so fast around here. If I am interested in the apartment, then the first thing I must do is submit an application file. Ok, makes sense, I can understand the owners need some kind of reassurance regarding my financial situation, proving that I will be indeed be capable of paying rent. You see, renters have so many rights here in France that getting them kicked out, even if they haven’t paid their rent, is a terrible hassle and takes many months at least of fighting red tape.

So, okay, what do I need to prove I can pay? I just landed this nice new engineering job, with a good pay, so there shouldn’t be any problem, really. All right, so here goes :
– my ID card, sure.
– my current work contract. Of course, it mentions my salary so they’ll be able to see I earn enough to pay the rent. Check.
– last 3 pay slips. Hmm, I haven’t worked in the last year, so I don’t have anything recent. Will my pay slips from 2010 be ok ? They aren’t nearly as much as what I get from my new contract though…
– income tax receipts from the previous 2 years. Well, I don’t have anything for 2011, having travelled the whole time and earned basically nothing (I probably should have some kind of declaration, but never really looked into that..), and in 2010 I worked in Belgium, so what I do have is written in Dutch. And it’s likely stuck inside the container where all of our stuff is stored at the moment. Hmm, I should have a scan of it somewhere in my emails though, I think I can find it.
– a bank statement. Well, ok, if I must, sure.
– all of the above from N. as well. Oh, well, she’s also been travelling during the last year, and before that she was studying so she hasn’t been earning all that much lately. Hmm…
– all of the above from a guarantor. What, really ?

Yes, despite being 35 years old, having worked for 10 years as an engineer, and having a nice job that pays me more than 4 times the rent, I cannot by myself rent an apartment here. I need someone to act as my guarantor, which means that I need to ask my parents to agree in writing to pay the rent in case I should default payment. Seriously ???

In the end, after submitting all of the paperwork, I didn’t even get the apartment. Not good enough… And so it was back to combing the classifieds, and more visits, and still more visits. At one point though I turned out to be the first to reply to an ad, and the owner told me that if I wanted the apartment, I could have it. Brilliant !! Naturally I took it, especially since the paperwork involved wasn’t quite as bad as for most. Whew ! Now all we need to do is to start unpacking !

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