Home hunts harder for foreigners

Study finds that people from other countries find it more difficult to rent an apartment in France

19 February 2014

FLAT-HUNTING can be tough at the best of times but it is even more difficult in France if you have a foreign accent, a study has revealed.

A ‘mystery client’ test found that “discriminatory practices” were still at work in the estate agency business, with foreigners more likely to be treated poorly.

Using six fictional identities, researchers for consumer magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs responded to 150 rental advertisements.

‘Babacar’, a businessman of African origin, experienced the worst service.

More than 40% of estate agents asked him whether he earned the required amount to pay his rent - compared to one in 10 estate agents, who put the same question to ‘Anne’, an executive assistant.

Estate agents were also more friendly when dealing with ‘Anne’ on the phone. ‘Babacar’s’ accent was thought to be to blame for a number of rejections.

Single mum ‘Christelle’ fared no better. Like ‘Babacar’, almost a third of her enquiries progressed no further than the initial phone call.

The study showed that even when ‘Babacar’ or ‘Christelle’ managed to get appointments, they were forced to provide more documentation than ‘Anne’.

A young ‘curatelle’ (someone who would need a guarantor) and a 71-year-old also received poor levels of service, with 29% and 24% of refusals respectively.

Lionel Maugain, who led the study, said: “We wanted to show that not only is discrimination related to (a person’s) origin.

“Age, family status and disability are often obstacles for housing."

Photo: Jean-Louis Zimmermann

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