Housing

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.

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.

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.

Want to know more about the fire insurance for tenants?

Here you will find information on what the home insurance for tenants costs, what it covers and how to apply for it.

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.

Good to know: a tenancy deposit is not compulsory. But the landlord (owner) may request one. Never pay it in cash or via a bank transfer in euros 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. To avoid discussions, do this before you move. You or the landlord can prepare it yourselves. But you can also use an expert such as a real estate agency. In that case, all costs for the inventory are divided between you and the landlord.

If no inventory is made, it will be more difficult for the landlord to proof that you caused damage. This can lead to many discussions.  

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.

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.

If any damage occurs during the rental period (e.g. due to fire or a water leak, or due to negligence by you, your children or pets), as the tenant you are responsible for the repairs and costs. Also, if for example, a fire in your rental property spread to your neighbours’ property, as the tenant you would be liable for the damage.

As you can see: comprehensive cover is worth it. Because if you aren’t insured, you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket. Consult your insurer to find out the exact details of the different types of cover and when your insurer will intervene.

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. 

In Flanders and Wallonia (not in the Brussels region), fire insurance is compulsory for tenants. You are always free to choose your own insurer. Landlords cannot compel you to use theirs!