Housing

22 August 2018

Renting a property: everything you need to know

You’ve decided: you want to rent a house or apartment. The Belgian rental market offers many possibilities and there are plenty of chances to find your ideal home. But where to start? Here are a few practical tips to help things go smoothly.

Tip:

You’ve found the home of your dreams but don't know if the rent being charged is fair? Depending on the region where you are moving, there are different rent comparisons available: The table of rents in Wallonia, loyers.brussels in Brussels and Huurschatter by Wonen-Vlaanderen in Flanders.

The basis: your rental contract

Everything begins and ends with the rental contract concluded between you and your landlord/lady. This is an important document that you should read through carefully before signing. You certainly don’t want any unpleasant surprises afterwards!

So pay attention to the following points:

  • Duration of the agreement: most rental agreements are drawn up for a period of at least three years. Note: if the term of the agreement is not stated explicitly, it will be automatically set at 9 years.
  • The rent: How much is the rent and when does it have to be paid? The landlord cannot change the rent at will. He or she can only index it once a year, and the increase is based on the official index.
  • Additional monthly charges: do you have to contribute to the joint costs of the building, such as cleaning the lobby or maintaining the lift? Or are there additional charges payable to the landlord for gas, water or electricity in your home?
  • Registering the rental agreement: normally, the landlord is responsible for registering it within two months of its signature. It is possible, however, that he or she will ask you to do so as well. Be sure to keep a copy of the agreement, as this will be your proof in case of any problems down the road.
Tip:

Do you have any dependent children and are renting your home? If so, you are entitled to a reduction in property tax (FR).

What is a security deposit?

Almost everyone who wishes to rent a house or apartment has to pay a security deposit after signing the rental agreement. When you move out, provided you leave the property in good condition, this deposit will be released back to you.

A security deposit is not legally required but it is up to the landlord. He or she may ask for this deposit to be paid in two different ways:

1. By depositing the total amount in a blocked savings account in your name. This is the most usual way. In that case, the guarantee cannot exceed 2 months’ rent. The money will only be released after signature by the landlord.

2. Paying the amount in installments, via what is called a bank guarantee. The bank covers the entire guarantee for you, and you reimburse the bank for it in several instalments, over a period of maximum three years. This type of guarantee cannot exceed 3 months’ rent.

You and your landlord choose the type of payment for the guarantee and you agree to it in the rental contract. 

Tip:

Never pay the security deposit in cash or by direct payment into the landlord’s account.

How to draw up the inventory?

The inventory of the entire property is checked and recorded in writing during the preparation of the incoming inventory. This allows you to see, at the end of the rental agreement, any damage that occurred before you occupied the property and what you may have caused.

It is legally required to do so before the end of the first month of rental, in the presence of both parties. You or the landlord can prepare it yourselves. But you can also use an expert such as an architect or a real estate agency. In that case, all costs for the inventory are divided between you and the landlord.

If no inventory is made, any new damage is considered not to have been caused by you and you do not have to pay.

Terminating a rental contract: how does the notice period work?

The duration of the notice period depends on the type of contract. If the contract is for at least three years, it is not possible to terminate it before the end date, unless there is provision in the agreement for this or if you agree on it at the time. If the contract is for nine years,  you can terminate at any time, provided you give three months’ notice.

The 3-6-9 agreement

A rental agreement of more than 3 years is considered a long-term agreement, which automatically confers the same conditions as a 9-year agreement. This is known as a 3-6-9 agreement. If you move out during the first year of tenancy, you have to pay an early termination indemnity equivalent to 3 months’ rent. If you move out in the second year, you have to pay 2 months’ rent. And if you leave in the third year of tenancy, you have to pay an indemnity of 1 month’s rent.

After the third year, you no longer have to pay any indemnity but you do have to respect the three months’ notice period.

Your landlord can terminate the rental agreement before its official end date if he or she decides to live in the property or wishes to begin renovations. If there are no good reasons to terminate the agreement, then he or she must pay you compensation in the amount of 9 months’ rent (after 3 years) or 6 months’ rent (after 6 years). 

Advice:

Always give notice of termination of your rental agreement by registered letter. The notice period begins to run the first day of the following month. So if you send a letter on 9 November, the notice period begins on 1 December.

What about home insurance?

As a tenant, you are required to return the property in its original condition at the end of the rental period. This is known as the tenant’s liability. In other words, you (or your insurance) and not the landlord/lady or his/her insurance will have to pay for damages to the rental property after a fire or water leak, for example.

A good home insurance covers a certain number of minimum risks, as laid down by law. Think for example of fire, natural disasters or explosions. “Standard” risks, such as water damage and broken windows, are also covered by most home insurance policies. It also covers damage to your contents and personal belongings such as your furniture, personal effects, clothing, etc. 

Tip:

If you or a member of your family accidentally causes material damage or injury to someone, your family insurance covers you in many of these situations. 

As a joint tenant, you are not required to take out home insurance or fire insurance. Landlords generally include that cost in the rental contract (the lease). You are always free to choose your own insurer. Landlords cannot compel you to use theirs!

Would you like to know more?

Have you found the home of your dreams? Insure it with ING Home Insurance for tenants. It offers you customised coverage, with premiums calculated on the basis of the number of square metres to be insured. You can even apply online. You will be covered immediately and can use our 24/7 assistance hotline in the event of damage.