The term laissez-faire may be a French import, but you can’t accuse France’s new government of taking a hands-off approach when it comes to rent. The country’s socialist-led coalition is introducing a slew of new, groundbreaking laws to control rents and cap real estate agent fees. Counterbalancing these tenant-friendly measures, there will also be decrees giving property owners a state insurance system against unpaid rent, and limiting taxes for landlords who offer rental apartments in high-demand areas. Dubbed collectively the Loi Duflot after housing minister and Green Party member Cécile Duflot, the laws will hold throughout France but will be especially tight in designated "strained" zones, which contain 4.6 million homes in total. These include Paris, of course, but also Marseille, Lyon, Montpellier, the Corsican city of Ajaccio, and the Atlantic resort of Arcachon.
Still, with the country’s highest rents by far, it’s the Paris market that will be affected most by the new law. The Parisian rental market currently has its fair share of problems, some familiar, some distinctive. Good Paris apartments are hard to come by (some say almost mythical) and their rents seriously stretch the resources of people with low and middle incomes, partly because international absentee landlords have soaked up much of the better stock. In a local twist on housing hell, agents also have too strong a hold on supply. Frequently demanding high finders fees, they can also charge customers up to €400 for access to lists of apartments for rents, lists that are notorious for containing properties that turn out to have already gone.