How to Rent an Apartment or House in Brussels and Belgium
In every country, there are slightly different rules and procedures to follow in regards to renting accommodation. This could include types of contracts, maintenance requirements, and procedures to setup your utilities and bills. In this living in Belgium guide, we will detail what you need to know when looking for an apartment or house.
Finding Your Accommodation in Belgium
In Belgium there are many different resources and tools you can use to research and find a place to live. Below is a list of online resources available in English:
- There are online portals such as immoweb , BFF, and spotahome.
- You can also contact estate agencies (agences immobilières) directly. Check this page for a full listing of estate agencies in every region of Belgium.
- If you are looking for a short term let while you discover the city, you can use spotahome which has monthly rentals.
Since Belgium is a tri-lingual state, depending on the area you are living in, most people will speak either French, Dutch, or German. In Brussels, and other cosmopolitan cities, you will find real estate agents that do speak English.
In Belgium, agencies are normally paid by the landlord, so when finding a home through an agency, be wary of any that ask for any money up-front or when signing a contract.
Finding Your Accomodation in Brussels
As Brussels is a major urban center in Belgium, rent prices are a bit steeper than anywhere else in the country. The good thing about Brussels is that it is quite compact and has very good public transport, so you can find better priced accomodation in the periphery of the city, rather than looking in the city center.
Other than the options mentioned in the previous section, there are also alternative living options in Brussels such as co-living spaces, which are aimed at international professionals who want privacy with the ability for shared common areas to socialize and feel part of a community.
Depending on the type of property you rent, there will be different rent contracts (bail d’habitation) to consider. Below, we will explain to you the differences between them, and when each one is used. But first, we will cover the mandatory clauses in any primary residence rental agreement.
As details change from one region, or municipality, to another, we will highlight the general terms and conditions that must be stated. The rental contract must contain the following information:
- Full address of the accommodation
- Name and contact details of the landlord/owner (bailleur/propriétaire) of the accommodation
- Value of the monthly rent (loyer)
- Value and responsibilities of utilities (electricity, water, etc.) and common, or communal, charges
- Deposit (garantie locative or, caution) amount
- Standards and amounts relating to taxes
- Interest and charges for late rent payments
- Whether it is a furnished or unfurnished accommodation
- Decisions relating to responsibilities of the maintenance and repairs of the property
- Signatures of both parties dated
- Start and end date of the lease contract
- Information relating to the notice period
- Consequences relating to the breach of the rental contract by the owner and the tenant
In the appendix, the landlord must add a document containing the laws for leases and sanitation standards. These standards may change from one regional code to another.
In addition, since 2018, it is also obligatory in Belgium to have a co-signed state of inventory document (état des lieux) on entry and departure from the accommodation. This allows both the landlord and the renter to attest to the condition of the property, which is one of the issues that will affect the release of the security deposit when you leave.
Security DepositA security deposit is normally 2 months of rent, but can be upto 3 months of rent depending on your agreement with the landlord. Issues that affect the release of the deposit when you leave are:
Condition of the property
A copy of this agreement must be registered with the local authority, so don't be surprised if you sign at least 3 copies. If there are more than one renter, e.g. you are co-living with a partner or roommate, each person signing must get a copy, so you might end up signing more than three.
The state of inventory document will also be registered with the local authority along with the rental contract, and both will need to be registered within 2 months of the agreement. This is normally the responsibility of the landlord, and it is normally a free process.
If the agreement is not registered with the authorities, then you do not have to give a notice period, nor will you pay any penalties on breach of contract. At the same time, if it is registered properly, as it should be, we recommend that you give notice by registered mail in case of any dispute.
There are 4 duration lengths for rental contracts:
- Short term (less than 3 years)
- Nine year contract (also called the 3-6-9 contract, but can include fixed term contracts between 3 and 9 years)
- Long term contracts (longer than 9 years)
- Life-long contract
The nine year contract is your standard contract, but that doesn’t mean you have to live at the residence for 9 years . The differences between the contract durations is the times when the landlord can increase the rent, and notice periods for both you and the landlord.
If a time period is not explicitly stated in the contract, then it is assumed that the standard nine year contract regulations are applicable.
In a short term contract, the following regulations are applied:
- Contract is of a fixed duration
- Cannot be longer than 3 years
- A penalty is applied if the contract is cancelled before it ends
- The notice period is 3 months
If a short term contract is extended beyond 3 years, or if it is renewed for a second time, then the contract reverts to a nine year contract.
In a nine year contract the following rules apply:
- If tenant gives notice in the first three years, a penalty applies
- f the tenant gives notice after the first three years, there is no penalty
- Notice period is three month
- Allows the landlord to increase the base rent every 3 years
In the first three years, the notice penalty for the tenant is normally:
- 3 months rent in the first year
- 2 months rent in the second year
- 1 month rent in the third year
In the nine year contract, the landlord is also allowed to give notice, though only if they or a family member will be occupying the residence, or if extensive repairs are required. They will need to give 6 months notice, and will also have to pay a penalty of several months rent to you.
Cost of living rental increasesOther than increasing the base rent, a landlord is allowed to increase the rent every year based on the cost of living index. Be on the lookout for a letter from your landlord around that time. This increase can be applied retroactively to the last 3 months of the previous year, so you might also have to pay the difference to your landlord.
We will not go into the details of the long term and life-long contracts as most expats do not normally opt for such options.
Utilities and Communal Fees
It is important to know which utilities and communal fees you are responsible for. In your contract, and depending on the type of accommodation you take, it should be listed.
In most contracts, you will be responsible for gas and electricity, as this is based on your personal consumption. You can research suppliers on the CallMePower website, and find the tariff you need. If you are not sure which tariff is best for you, be sure to check our energy guide on fixed vs variable tariffs. There might also be options depending on your meter type, such as the option to have peak and off peak tariff rates.
You will also need to know your EAN codes when subscribing with a supplier. You will also need to submit a meter reading, which can be done with the energy transfer document (document de reprise des énergies).
When moving into a new home, we recommend you fill out the energy transfer document (document de reprise des énergies) to avoid any disputes. The document will be cosigned by you and the landlord or previous tenant and will include information such as the meter readings and your EAN Codes.
Water and sewage could be included in your rent, but double check so you don't miss any payments.
There could also be communal fees depending on where you live, such as to a housing association for apartment blocks, or for garbage collection. These communal fees also might be part of the rent, or your responsibility, so it would be wise to check your contract.