Moving to France

An overview on everything you need to know when moving to France.

Moving with a French company

Any loss or damage occurred during a house moving must be declared within 10 days. According to the French law of 8th December 2009 loi n° 2009-1503 du 8 décembre 2009 relative à l’organisation et à la régulation des transports) there are three major points consumers should know:

  • In case of a loss or damage, the assumption of responsibility falls on the moving company (and not the consumer as it was the case before). 
  • The latter can declare this loss or damage via registered mail within a period of 10 calendar days (instead of three before) after reception of the moved goods.
  • The consumer will need to explain the damage and compensation asked, unless he has already detailed and motivated the damage directly on the delivery documents and the professional has approved the conditional acceptance.

The professional has to inform the consumer about the possibility to make a conditional acceptance. If he/she doesn’t, the consumer has not ten days but three months to complain and declare the damage.

One third of people moving in France pay a professional company to do the moving for them. To avoid some unpleasant surprises (such as too high pricing, damaged belongings or abusive practices of companies), read further:

Almost half of the moving companies in France are part of a Moving Trade Union. If your moving company is also member of this Union, then the Union could intervene as a mediator in case of dispute. Moreover, if your moving company filed a petition in bankruptcy after you have made the deposit, the Union could pay you back from their insurance funds. To verify if your moving company is registered in the Union, please check on the following website.

Another sign of the company’s quality is the NF mark1. It is a collective certification mark which guarantees the quality and safety of the products and services. It also guarantees compliance not only with current standards, but also with additional quality criteria that meet consumers’ needs.

1: If you want to see the list of companies with the certification NF, see the website of NF Certified Serenity or the website of afnor pro contact.

The consumer can sign up for different services offered by a moving company, from loading the goods, transportation and unloading (in which case you will get a price offer) to full-service including your stay in a hotel and cleaning services (in this case you will get a price quote). In between there are various other options available. To make sure that the charges are not above normal, you can visit websites such as the website of 1000 demenageurs and the website of mon-déménagement to establish an estimate pricing.

On every price quote or offer document there should be a possibility for the consumer to mention the value of his personal belongings. The moving companies usually have certain compensation limits for the loss/damage of goods. Check this information carefully.

The consumer also has the possibility to take a supplementary insurance. This will increase the compensation limits and will compensate the consumer when the moving company is not considered liable according to their insurance.

Note that some housing or account insurances that you already have could also include a moving insurance.

There are two different storage possibilities: regular storage which is a good solution on long term, but can become pricy when frequent access is necessary and self-stocking, in which case you rent a box and have permanent and free access to your belongings.

The moving company sent a subcontractor to do the move. From legal point of view, you have the right to refuse the subcontractor’s services. Even if you agree, your moving company remains liable for all problems caused by the subcontractor.

To avoid surprises

It is advisable to follow the moving process closely - did the company ask for permission to block the street? Did your fragile belongings arrive in safety?. Before signing the delivery report inspect your belongings and describe all problems.

You noticed that some of your belongings were damaged or missing after signing the form. The French law grants 10 days to the consumer to make his complaints by registered letter. The reclamation is possible even after having signed the delivery form. Note that it is important to collect proof confirming your complaint such as pictures, expense claims, invoices, etc.

Note that the moving company is responsible for all wrong estimates of the costs. Some mistakes can however be charged at your expense - you didn’t pack according to schedule; you gave insufficient or wrong information about the accommodation, etc. In any case, the prices of all services should be displayed in the company’s office. France, a household with three children, one of which is younger than two, has right under certain circumstances to Personalised accommodation aid (Aide personnalisée au logement, APL).

Keep all receipts and make a request within six months after moving in. If you moved by yourself, send the car rental bills, toll and fuel. The subsidy cannot exceed 934€ for a family with three children.

Though not very popular but still worth mentioning, there are some alternative ways of moving such as joint use of the moving van or moving by train.

Joint use of the moving van can be useful for small-scale moves (less than 15m³) and when the exact date of the move is not of importance. The moving company will then look for other movers in your neighborhood so that you could share the van.

For those who are concerned by preserving Mother Nature, there is a more ecological way of moving. One moving company will load your belongings on a train and another one will pick them up at destination.

If you live in France, it will be helpful to know which documents you must keep carefully, and for how long. In many cases (dispute, complaint, burglary…) you need evidence to defend your rights in different fields (insurances, housing, banking, consumption, income taxes, justice, health).

A new law (of June 17th 2008) reduces the deadlines for civil prescription.

You must keep certain documents more than 10 years: housing or vehicle insurance, life insurance

  • 10 years: bank statement, renovation of housing (contracts, bills…), payments of charges in shared property (“copropriété”)
  • 5 to 10 years: in case of damages/accidents (responsible or victim)
  • 5 years: bills for services (vehicle repairing, moving…), documents about income taxes, rent
  • 2 to 5 years: consumption or housing credit, documents about offences (“infractions”)
  • 2 years: electricity, gas bills and reimbursements for health care
  • Less than 2 years: internet/TV/phone bills, credit card tickets

Moving inside or to France - no longer a battle with authorities

The French government (l’Agence pour le Développement de l’Administration Électronique) has launched a new online service. This service facilitates all administrative moving procedures. It enables to submit your change of address to all important authorities (e.g. to the social security or the financial authorities) in one single step.

The use of this service is also available to non-French citizens who move to France.

Yet, when moving from or to another country, you are still obliged to physically drop by all these authorities.

The only information you need at hand when filling in the online-form is:

  • your registration number for family allowances (numéro d’allocataire at the CAF)
  • your registration number for the unemployment insurance (numéro identifiant Assédic)
  • your social security number (numéro de sécurité sociale)
  • your data for the fiscal authorities (numéro FIB and numéro fiscal) that you will find on your last tax assessment
  • all French citizens aged 16 to 25 also have to indicate their numéro identifiant défense for the military service

Then, filling in the form is no longer challenging. You only have to give your personal data, a password and the names and the data of those moving with you. After having chosen the authorities to which you want to submit your data, all your address-related changes are directly transferred to the respective authorities.

It is not necessary to send any further information by mail. Your data is only stored during the time required to submit your data, which means a maximum of one month. This service is absolutely free of charge. To avoid any difficulties, your navigator should accept cookies. The activation of JavaScript is also highly recommended.

Do the change:

If you need a so called “justificatif de domicile” (proof of address) to obtain identity papers, a driver's license, a registration certificate, by authorising online registration for the driver's license exam, a medical certificate for a child's sports practice the recent Law on the acceleration and simplification of public action (ASAP) is an important step in the administrative simplification policy.  More information on

A new service “Justif’Adresse” allows automatic verification of the address entered by a user performing an online process. This measure simplifies online procedures for obtaining a national identity card, passport, driver's license or registration certificate without producing proof of address. 

However, these services do not allow you to change your address on your passport or driver’s licence. Nevertheless, this modification is not mandatory in France.

French public service: Access to on-line services, the gateway to French public information online, informs about the possibility to access different online services which spare you a phone call or of going to public service offices.

Now, you can:

  • consult your fiscal file and pay your taxes
  • subscribe to the job advertisement service of the job centre
  • apply for a certificate necessary for the sale of a secondhand car (“certificat de situation administrative du véhicule”)
  • pay or contest a fine due to a speed check
  • consult your file of the family allowance office (Caisse d’allocations familiales)
  • consult the reimbursement of your health care.
  • have an update on your retirement
  • apply for housing benefit (this online service is only intended to students)
  • apply for a grant or a student accommodation

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.