Rules to know if someone lives with you for free in France

Who can be included in this definition, what are the tax implications, and how can you provide proof of address?

Living in a property for free is legally known as ‘hébergement à titre gratuit’ in French

Did you know that there are certain rules and laws you need to follow if you have someone living at your home - or second home - for free in France?

The situation is called ‘hébergement à titre gratuit’ in French. It does not apply to dependent children, and normally applies to adults who could otherwise be reasonably expected to pay for their own accommodation if they were not lodging for free.

What does the law say about this in France?

To be legally considered as hébergement à titre gratuit, the person living at your property must not: 

  • Pay any rent

  • Pay any co-owner or tenancy charges

  • Pay any fees linked to the property

However, they may still be considered to be living there for ‘free’ even if they contribute utilities costs, for example, paying for their own electricity, water, and gas bills.

There is no minimum or maximum time frame stated for ‘living for free’, but it is usually expected that the person must be living there as if the accommodation is their main home for the duration of their stay.

Who can be accommodated free of charge?

The law allows for many situations in which a person can live at your property for free (hébergement à titre gratuit).

For example:

  • When elderly parents come to live with their children.

  • A friend who comes to live with you due to a temporary situation in their life (e.g. relationship breakdown, loss of work or accommodation, returning from a trip and they do not have their own property yet).

  • A partner who is not registered on the lease or deed

What is the impact of ‘hébergement à titre gratuit’?

It is important that someone who is benefitting from this status is registered as doing so, because the situation can have an impact on certain benefits, aid, and the tax situation of the property tenants or owner.

For example, if the host is a tenant and receives housing benefit from the CAF (Caisse d'allocation familiale), this sum may be reduced.

This is because the CAF takes into account all the income of people living under the same roof in order to establish the amount of benefits paid. 

However, for this to take effect, the person living for free must be there for at least six months.

The same applies to the benefit of the RSA (Revenu de Solidarité Active) for people looking for work.

Free accommodation is taken into account for the calculation of RSA, so it may also be reduced. The CAF considers free accommodation to be ‘a benefit’, so it usually deducts a flat rate of €72.93 from the RSA.

The host and lodger should also take the free situation into account on their income tax return, by ticking the ‘occupant free of charge (Occupant à titre gratuit)’ box when filing their documents.

A host will no longer be able to benefit from tax deductions, as they are not receiving rent. 

However, they can avoid the vacant accommodation tax (taxe sur les logements vacants) if their lodger is living for free at a property or second home that was previously vacant. 

The lodger will then become liable to pay the taxe d’habitation on the property.

Hosts who accommodate their parents - who are age 75 or over - free of charge may, subject to certain conditions, obtain a tax deduction.

Read more: Tax rises for property owners: French mayors say they have no choice

What effect does the situation have on insurance?

The person living for free should take out their own insurance, especially third-party liability insurance.

This is because housing insurance policies usually only cover people who are living in a main residence, (including owners and/or tenants) and ‘all occupants in their own right’. 

People who are living for ‘free’ are not included in this definition.

How do I provide proof of free accommodation?

People living for ‘free’ may need to provide proof of address for certain bills or benefits, and want to prove their status. 

To do so, they can get a ‘free accommodation certificate’ (attestation d’hébergement à titre gratuit).

You can draw up your own written document to attest to your living situation, and have the document signed by the property's owner or tenant.

It should be written by the owner or tenant, and state: 

  • Their name

  • Their date of birth

  • Their address (the free location)

They should then attest (with a certifie sur l’honneur) that they are providing free accommodation for the person, and state:

  • The ‘free’ person’s name

  • The person’s date of birth

  • The date the person started living for free

  • The address concerned

  • That the certificate can be used as proof of address and living situation (e.g. for school, banking, admin reasons)

The certificate should then be signed, with the location, date, full name, and signature of the host.

Read more: How long do I need to keep old French documents?

How can I evict someone who is living for free?

If the situation becomes non-viable, evicting someone lodging for free can become complex.

Of course, the best action is to find an amicable solution via dialogue with the tenant. 

However, if this is not possible, the host can send a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (une lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) to the lodger, informing them of the need to leave the premises within a reasonable period of time.

Read more: How to send a registered letter online from home in France

If necessary, a mediator can step in. If the situation does not improve, legal eviction proceedings may be needed. This usually involves filing a case via letter (déposer une assignation) with the relevant court:

The letter must: 

  • Set out the reasons for the eviction

  • Detail any attempts at amicable resolution

  • Request eviction of the lodger.

If the court examines the case and decides in favour of eviction, an eviction judgement (un jugement d’expulsion) will be issued, and the lodger given a deadline by which they must move out and leave.