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When renting an apartment in France how do I make sure that the person I'm dealing with is really the property owner? What document should I ask to see? Some countries have a register of property ownership that anyone can search online for a small fee, but that doesn't seem to be the case in France.

The standard rental contract says this at the bottom of page 1:

et déclaré avoir reçu du bailleur un justificatif de sa qualité de propriétaire (relevé cadastral, facture EDF ou autres)

But I could not find what this "relevé cadastral" is. I know what an EDF bill is, but I don't see how it proves ownership - I've had those as tenant.

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    Relevé cadastral is an extract from the cadastre which is precisely the type of registry you have in mind (except ownership information is not online as far as I know). But I have never heard anybody really checking that (or about anybody getting in trouble because they rented from someone who was not the actual owner). These sorts of scams do not seem very common in France. – Gala Nov 1 '14 at 10:26
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The official way to get informations about the owner of a given property is described here (in French) : http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/particuliers/F17759.xhtml

You are supposed to get informations from the cadastre that identify the property on a map with reference number.

http://www.cadastre.gouv.fr/scpc/accueil.do

Once you have this reference number, you need to ask to Service de publicité foncière who owns this reference number property. In the case of an apartment being part of a larger building, you will also need the lot number (which apartment in this given building). It doesn't seem you can do that online.

Depending on the size of the city where you are looking for this information, you might obtain this information by phone from the mayor's office (for small cities).

In general, it is not very common in France to ask a proof of property when dealing with an owner to rent a flat as an individual. There are some examples of scams where someone seems to be the owner of an apartment (has the keys, etc.) and ask you an advance fee in cash before disappearing. This is nevertheless not very common.

The common practice is to use basic clues about a potential scam : don't pay cash advances, try to get information on the property from neighbors, gardienne, etc. These are maybe not the easiest for a foreigner, unfortunately, so you might consider being helped by a local friend/colleague.

Details about relève cadastrale : there are two ways to query information. One way is to find the owner of a given building. The other way is to find all properties of a given owner. The cadastre website only allows to query by building address, and does not provide ownership information.

  • Thanks, that's what I thought, but I also thought there was some document the owner could show me. I've edited the question to clarify that. – EM0 Nov 1 '14 at 8:31
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    The relève cadastrale is the official map that I mentioned as the cadastre information. But the printed proofs mentioned in your edit are easy to fake, that's why in case of doubt you should obtain them yourself from relevant administration. – audionuma Nov 1 '14 at 9:02
  • Oh! But I thought (based on the cadastre website) that it doesn't show ownership information? – EM0 Nov 1 '14 at 9:04
  • I have edited the answer to try to make this point clearer. – audionuma Nov 1 '14 at 9:13
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    @EM It would a copy of the “titre de propriété”. The original is kept for 100 years by a notaire and then moved to the archives départementales. Every time a notaire drafts a new titre de propriété (e.g. because some piece of real estate has been sold or inherited), it must be registered with the Service de publicité foncière, where you can ask about it and that's what audionuma's first link is about. But again it would be highly unusual to ask for that when renting. – Gala Nov 1 '14 at 16:07
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Contacting the French Land Registry to get a copy of a deeds is a bit of a nightmare. They don't speak English, will not provide information over the telephone and you are just told to mail them some forms and a cheque...

I did that, but got a negative answer because I did not have the property's land registry reference number. My cheque got cashed in however!

Having tried again, the local Land Registry office mailed me a document which I was unable to understand at all and finally turned out to be in respect of another property. Don't expect them to try and help you to understand if you give them a call. The whole experience was a waste of time and money.

You might as well simply ask your landlord for a proof of ownership, such as a copy of his local tax bill. This is called Taxes Foncieres in French.

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