A couple in the south of France are planning a protest to highlight their case after a woman rented their home for three days but then refused to leave.
The woman says she is a victim of domestic abuse and needs a temporary place to stay with her children and has been unable to find anywhere else.
The situation is complicated by the fact that the agreement for the three-day short-let was made on November 8, meaning it falls under France’s trêve hivernale, or winter rental truce.
A number of usual measures, such as lodging an official complaint, asking for a police intervention, or entering the building via force, are not allowed during this truce time, which is due to last until March 31.
Woman says she is domestic abuse victim
The couple put their home in Port-la-Nouvelle, close to Narbonne, up for short-term renting on the popular French site Leboncoin, which hosts adverts for both long-term and short-term rentals, including holiday lets.
The woman agreed to rent the property for three days (November 8 to 10) and paid.
However, when the couple asked her on Friday what time she would be leaving there was no response.
“At that point, no-one was responding, so we told her that the property would no longer be available from midday on Saturday,” the couple told French news outlet L’Indépendant.
This was in part because they had agreed to rent it to someone else from that day.
The woman replied on Saturday, informing the property owners that she was a victim of domestic abuse – and had no other option but to stay.
“I haven't found any accommodation yet. I've been going from hotel to hotel with my children for several weeks now... I have nowhere to go,” she is reported to have told the couple.
She added that she was “sorry that this has happened to [them],” but she was out of other options as she had not yet been offered accommodation elsewhere.
The woman promised to leave the accommodation once she had been given alternative means of housing and asked if she could rent the property from them until she found one.
Cannot be evicted during winter truce
The couple went to the local gendarmerie station to lodge a complaint about the situation but were told nothing could be done as the incident happened after November 1, when France’s winter truce starts.
Although she was not a renter with a long-term agreement because everyone had agreed to a short-term let for the three days, the woman falls under protection of the truce.
The truce means the couple can also not apply for an eviction until March 31 when the truce ends nor can they enter their own property by force.
‘Landlords have rights too’
Their only other course of action is to ask a bailiff to issue an eviction notice (which is possible even during the rental truce), which if not respected after two months would allow the couple to take the woman to court.
“We are outraged. We're very sympathetic to the rights of tenants, but landlords have rights too. We are in real distress,” the couple said.
By way of protest, they are planning a demonstration in front of their flat over the next few days to raise awareness of their plight.