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How to evict the tenant of a French commercial lease

Many British or Irish citizens have purchased property in France as part of leaseback development projects.

All properties in the same development are usually leased out through a commercial lease to a management company responsible for subletting it to students, elderly persons or holidaymakers.

Owner of property in France frequently ask how to evict a tenant who is in breach of contract for not paying rent.

I am afraid that there is no miracle process.

I can nevertheless outline the standard procedure to obtain a court ruling containing a payment of rent arrears and eviction order.

Prior to any court procedure, the owner must instruct a French bailiff (“huissier de justice”) to serve an injunction to pay rent arrears on the tenant (“commandement de payer”).

Under French Commercial Code (“Code de Commerce”) the tenant will then have a limited period (usually one month as stipulated in lease contract) to pay rent in arrear.

We will suppose the tenant does not pay the sum quoted in the injunction within the required delay or challenge the validity of the claim.

The owner can then have a summons to appear in court served on the tenant.

The case will be judged summarily within one to three month of service of summons. (Despite the dossier being adjourned at least once to allow defendant to prepare its case).

If proof of non-payment of rent is provided to the judge, judicial termination of lease for breach of contract will be ordered.

The Judge will also order payment of areas and eviction.

Once the eviction has been ordered, the situation will vary depending if the tenant vacates the property spontaneously or not:

– If the tenant complies with the court order and evicts the flats spontaneously and rapidly: the owners can repossess  property.

– If the tenant dos not vacate, owners must instruct a bailiff to force the tenant to leave the premises, possibly with the help of the police.

IMPORTANT 1: Owners can request a payment order without eviction if they do not wish to terminate lease.

IMPORTANT 2: at any time if tenant no longer has the cash to pay rent, it can ask the Commercial Tribunal to place it under receivership. The consequences, of receivership are that until a decision is taken on the future of tenant (continuation, takeover, liquidation):

1. All eviction and payment procedures are suspended, the owner must declare the rent arrears due to the receiver within a limited period of time.

2. The receiver has to pay rent for the period after opening of receivership procedure. If rent cannot be paid the receiver must terminate leases.

3. As part of a continuation / takeover plan the receiver cannot force owner to accept substantial changes to the provisions of the lease (reduction of rent for instance). If receiver cannot pay rent lease must be terminated (see point 2 above).

IMPORTANT 3: Procedure to evict tenant of commercial lease differ form procedures concerning housing or residential lease (“bail d’habitation”). Indeed the statutory provisions on residential leases are very favourable to tenants to protect their housing right (“droit au logement”). This question will be developed in a future poste.