Renting a property in Brussels


Apartments in Brussels often have complicated rental agreementsA general rule when it comes to renting a property in Brussels is that the farther out from the city centre someone searches for accommodation, the more space they will get for a lower price.
 
For this reason, many expats choose to live on the periphery of the city in nearby communities like Tervuren, Overijse, and Hoeilaart.

Most expats prefer to rent accommodation in the Belgian capital because property is expensive; because they don’t want to invest in real estate; or because they don’t plan on staying long.

Renting in Brussels is complicated because of strict legal requirements by and by landlords. It would be wise for expats to consult with a professional to help them with the process. Any relocation firm will do this, or the estate agency renting the apartment can be spoken to directly.
 

Important facts about renting in Brussels

 

Empty means empty 

In Brussels, when a flat is "unfurnished", it really is stripped bare. In many countries light fixtures, kitchens and window coverings are already in the house or apartment; this is often not the case when renting in Brussels. Built-in closets are also rare, so purchasing armoires (wardrobes) are the norm.
 
Expats should keep this in mind when budgeting; window treatments alone can run into the thousands depending on what a person is looking for – Ikea does big business in light bulbs, kitchens, window shades and armoires.
 
Sometimes landlords will buy items from the tenant when they move out, although it’s always best to ask in advance. Otherwise, the tenant will be able to take everything with them when they leave, but a lot of it will be custom fitted and can’t be re-used.
 

Charges

Rental prices generally don’t include utilities such as electricity, water and Internet, so it is important for expats to ask about this before signing a lease.
 

Leases in Brussels

 
Rental contracts in Belgium should include the following:
  • Address of the property to be rented
  • Parking spaces, garages or storage facilities included in the rental
  • The agreed upon monthly rental amount
  • Details of future rent increases
  • The conditions of the deposit
  • Signature of both the landlord and the tenant

Most landlords require a standing order to be set up with the tenant's bank for monthly payments.
 
An inventory and condition report should also be completed and signed when moving into a new property and should include the following:
  • State of the fixtures and fittings
  • Cleanliness and condition of walls and decorations
  • Items missing or in need of repair
  • An independent surveyor will normally carry out the inventory, which is paid for by the property owner
 

Duration of leases in Belgium

A Belgian residential lease is assumed to be for a period of nine years. However, tenants are only financially obliged for the first three years, after which they won’t have to pay any penalties for early cancellation. This type of lease is common and is often referred to as a “3-6-9 lease”, because the lease and its components can be revisited every three years.
 

Terminating a lease

Tenants have to give three months written notice to terminate a lease. At the end of the nine years, new periods of three years are agreed upon without notification, if nobody has terminated the lease. Expats will have to be aware of their lease dates and plan accordingly.

If a lease is broken within the first year, a penalty of three months’ rent must be paid. If it is broken during the second year, two months’ rent is due. One months’ rent must be paid if termination occurs during the third year.

Landlords cannot terminate a lease within the first three years. At the end of each three-year period the landlord may terminate the lease if they or a close family member need the property. In all cases, the landlord must give six months’ notice.
 
If the landlord breaks the lease after the first three-year period, the penalty is equal to nine months' rent. Six months' rent is due if termination of the lease occurs after six years. If proper notice isn’t given, a penalty of 18 months’ rent is due.
 

Tenant responsibilities in Brussels

 
In addition to the basics, leases in Belgium will include very detailed assignments of responsibility for appliances, the garden, rain gutters, and any other item that directly impacts the state of the house or apartment. This is completely different from leases in many other countries, so it’s best for expats to know what they are getting into up front.
 
In general, it’s safe to assume that tenants are responsible for everything they use on a daily basis, such as repairing appliances, carpet cleaning and cleaning out rain gutters. The owner is usually responsible for electrical systems, roof, plumbing (clogged toilets and broken shower heads do not count) and heating systems.
 

Insurance

The tenant is required by law to have a comprehensive household insurance certificate (premiums depend on the size of the property). Proof of insurance must be shown to the landlord at the signing of the lease, and may be requested each time the lease is renewed.
 

Garden

Some landlords include garden maintenance in the rent, but the majority will not. This is also something expats should consider when budgeting or negotiating the lease. The cost of maintaining a large garden, which is usually a requirement, can cost thousands of euros per year.
 

Rental deposits in Brussels

 
Most landlords require a security deposit, which may not exceed the equivalent of three month's rent. This amount is placed in an interest-bearing bank account in the tenant's name. This account is put in what’s called a “blocked” account and requires authorization from both landlord and the tenant before the money can be released.
 
At the end of every lease in Brussels, an Etat des Lieux is scheduled. This is the final meeting between an independent contractor (picked by the landlord) and the tenant, who review the state of the house to determine how much of their deposit they will get back. The general rule is the house must be left in the same state it was received in.
 
Expat tenants should keep a file of every purchase, upgrade and change. This will serve them better in the end, though it’s still no guarantee they won’t lose most of their deposit.
 

Rent increases in Brussels

 
It is only possible to change the base price of rent in Brussels every three years. During the lease, however, rent follows a yearly cost of living index, which is different from increases in the base rent. As such, rent can also be increased based on this index.
 
Every year, the landlord can increase the rent based on a cost of living index that is determined at a federal level. The landlord must notify the tenant on the anniversary of the date the lease was signed (usually the day rent is due) and has a right to raise the rent by this index as well as collect money for the three months before the adjustment was made.
 
If a landlord forgets to index their tenant, they cannot ask for any retroactive sum in the following year

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Our Brussels Expert

KLovato's picture
Los Angeles, California, USA
Brussels, Belglium
I am a freelance American writer and author of a soon to be released culinary travel book Walnut Wine...
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