2 December 2016

All you need to know to rent

You have decided. You are going to rent somewhere to live. Good choice! Yet it is always best to be prepared. That is why we are happy to give you a few practical tips on renting.

The basis: your tenancy agreement

Everything starts and ends with the agreement you have made with the owner of your dream house. This is a major commitment which you should read painstakingly before signing. You definitely do not want any nasty surprises afterwards.

Pay particular attention to the main points:

  • The length of the contract: if this is not specified, you are entering into a nine-year contract. But it is most likely that your agreement will stipulate a maximum period of three years.
  • Paying the rent: which account does the rent need to be paid into and on which day?
  • Extra monthly costs: do you have to pay for the communal areas of the apartment building, such as cleaning the halls and lift maintenance? Or are there extra costs to be paid to the landlord for services like gas, water and electricity?
  • Registration of the contract: Normally the landlord will register the contract within two months from the signing of the contract. Sometimes the landlord will ask you to do it again.

Make sure you receive a copy of the contract. That way you will always have something in writing to refer to if problems arise.

How is the period of notice determined?

It is also important to check the length of your contract.

  • Do you have a standard nine-year contract? In that case you can give notice at any time, with a three-month period of notice. An extra fee of three months' rent will also need to be paid if you leave in the first year, or two months' rent in the second year and one month's rent in the third year. Conversely your landlord has to give you six months' notice if he wants you to move out of the rental property.
    The contract may stipulate derogations, but the periods of notice and fees may not be less favourable than these.
  • Is your contract period three years or less? In that case, you cannot terminate the agreement before the end of the contract, unless it is stipulated otherwise in the tenancy agreement or unless you can make the necessary agreement at the time. Often the only option is to let your landlord know that you want to leave three months before the end of the contract.

But how should you do to terminate a rental contract? Always by means of a registered letter. The period of notice will then start from the first day of the following month. If you send a letter on 9 November, the period of notice will start on 1 December.

What about the rent?

The amount that you need to pay each month for your rented accommodation is also stated in the tenancy agreement. Afterwards this sum cannot be adjusted easily. A landlord is only allowed to adjust the rental price once a year through indexation. The landlord can also propose an extra adjustment between 9 and 6 months before the end of every three-year period.

Nonetheless indexation is not automatic. The owner must always inform you in writing, no later than on the anniversary of the date on which you moved in. The owner can still do so after that time, with retroactive effect up to a maximum of the previous three months' rent. Furthermore, the tenant should always apply the health index.

What is the rental guarantee?

Almost everyone who wants to rent a house or apartment has to pay a rental guarantee to the landlord once they have signed the contract. Then later, when you move out and leave the residence in good condition, the deposit is released.

A rental guarantee is not a legal requirement it is the landlord's choice. The landlord can ask you to pay the guarantee in two ways:

  • The first and most common way is to transfer the whole amount into a blocked account in your name. In this case, the deposit may not be more than two months' rent. The money is only released once it has been signed off by your landlord.
  • The alternative is to pay the sum in instalments with what is known as a bank guarantee. Your bank will then pay out the full deposit in advance and you will pay it back to the bank in a number of instalments, spread over a maximum of three years. This type of deposit may never be more than three months' rent.

You can decide together with the owner which option you will choose and it is set out in the tenancy agreement. Never pay cash or transfer money into the landlord's account.

The inventory, how does that work?

In the inventory, the state of the entire rental accommodation is checked and recorded. That way, at the end of the rental agreement, you can see what damage existed before you lived there and what did not.

It is a legal requirement to write up this description before the end of the first month of the tenancy, with both parties present. This can be done by you or by the landlord. But you can also opt to have it carried out by an expert such as an architect or an estate agent. All of the costs are then shared between you and the landlord.

What if no inventory is made? In that case, any extra damage has not been caused by you and you do not have to cover the costs.

What about fire insurance?

If you are a tenant, you are bound to return the property to the landlord in equally good state at the end of the rental period. This is also known as tenant's liability. In other words: you or by your insurance will have to pay for any damage to the rental property itself caused by a fire or leak for example, rather than the owner or their insurance.

The tenancy agreement may include a 'waiver of recourse' clause. This means that the landlord will not ask you to pay for damage to the building and will use his or her own fire insurance instead.

But even if your landlord has put a 'waiver of recourse' clause in the tenancy agreement, you are still strongly advised to take out a good fire insurance policy. It is not compulsory in Belgium, but advisable nonetheless. Fire insurance gives you peace of mind for your own valuables and the damage that could be caused to others, such as smoke damage to the neighbours' property following a fire. Your landlord's insurance will never cover all of that.

What now?

That is exactly why we came up with ING Home Insurance. A comprehensive home insurance policy to suit you, with everything you really need. In addition this policy will also provide 100% cover for your holiday accommodation and your children's student rooms; even against theft, water damage and extreme weather. It also includes on our exclusive repair service. All at the best price, which you can pay monthly for no extra charge. Request a personal quote now! Or make an appointment at a branch.