My parents recently bought an apartment near the American University in Paris, since I have attended this school for a year. The plan is that it will be rented or sold when I graduate. I have changed my plans and am staying in Paris with my girlfriend, and working rather than attending the university. I am getting proposals to perform in various places in France and I will be traveling for several weeks at a time. So, to ease my parents’ disappointment, I told them that I would do short-term rentals and this way I would be paying for the apartment alone. They have heard awful things about this way of renting and it is making the matter even worse. Can I convince them that I can do it safely and that I will not be caught?
I believe the key issue in your situation has been improperly identified, although I do fully understand your parents’ reaction. There are two very different ways to view your situation and therefore your plan. Your parents have reacted to the first one, which is that they are the owner and you are one of several tenants, all of whom are staying short term. This would clearly fall under short-term rentals, an activity that carries a lot of negative consequences.
You are probably looking at the situation in the second way, which is that your parents have one paying tenant: you. The apartment will be your primary residence for fiscal purposes as far as the French and American authorities are concerned. On certain occasions – and there can be many of them – you sublet your primary residence and you declare this rental income to the authorities. The only issue left is that your parents as the owners must allow you to do so. If they can see it this way, I think that they would accept it. Furthermore, there is no reason to hide this activity. There is no law that prevents anyone from letting someone else use their home for free or for pay. The only problem might be if you rent it out for a majority of the time and in effect live elsewhere more or less permanently. That would be cheating. But as long as you are away because you are performing in various places and staying in hotels, B&Bs and so on, the risk is close to zero even if you were to face an audit, since there is no place you would be staying longer than your home.
You also have the right to take in roommates, again with your parents’ approval as your landlord. After that, it is an issue of the size of the apartment and the need for privacy, which only you can decide.
Now, there are some basic guidelines that you should follow:
1 – Never have anyone stay in the apartment for a longer period than you yourself do in a calendar year.
2 – Never have anyone stay there for more than six months, especially if it is a foreigner in a calendar year.
3 – Avoid at all costs having the person declare the apartment as his primary residence for fiscal purposes.
4 – Never allow anyone other than your partner and yourself to have his/her name on any utility bill; everything must be in your name.
French law heavily protects one’s domicile, i.e., primary residence. If your apartment somehow becomes someone else’s primary residence, you could have a lot of trouble getting rid of them. If you have any doubt about this risk, ask a lawyer specialized in this field so that you know exactly what the courts use as guidelines to define one’s residency in a third party’s place.
How do you convince your parents that this is a much safer plan than the usual kind of short-term rental? I cannot answer this question; I do not feel competent to advise you about it. But considering how much of the issue is defined by what the residence principale is, I would take the time to give them an in-depth explanation of this French legal concept, and only then would I explain how it relates to your proposal. The idea is to show them that what you plan is, objectively and visibly, a completely different set-up from what they envision. Good luck.