- Download our Moving to Belgium Guide (PDF)
When looking for accommodation in Belgium, expats will find plenty of reasonably priced, comfortable options. Whether it be furnished or unfurnished or freestanding houses to luxury apartments, all types of housing are available in Belgium.
Types of accommodation in Belgium
The standard of accommodation in Belgium is typical of Western Europe, with small comfortable houses being the most common. Due to the temperate climate, air conditioning is unnecessary and not a standard feature, though the vast majority of houses have heating systems. Expats should be aware that condominium complexes of the kind that might include a swimming pool or a gym are scarce, but they are a bit more plentiful in larger cities and upscale neighbourhoods.
In terms of community and parks, Belgium is a very family-friendly country. Properties tend to be on the small side in the city. Moving outside the city limits will often grant expats access to larger properties and some beautiful country views. Within the city, there is also a plethora of outdoor areas, such as parks, swimming pools, tennis clubs and children's gyms.
Furnished vs unfurnished
Most properties in Belgium come unfurnished. Expats should check with the landlord or agent about what condition the property will be in. In some cases, 'unfurnished' may simply mean that there are no soft furnishings, but it could also mean that there are no fixtures such as light fittings, carpets or basic electrical appliances, including kitchen appliances.
For those looking for temporary or short-term accommodation in Belgium, serviced apartments and short-term rental properties are readily available, especially in the major cities. These furnished apartments come with a higher price tag but are an ideal solution for expats in the country for a short duration or those still looking for a permanent home. They often include utilities, internet and sometimes cleaning services, which may make them a cost-effective choice for short stays.
Finding accommodation in Belgium
It should not be difficult for expats to find and secure accommodation in Belgium. Several online resources can be used to find a home before arriving in the country, but expats should always see a property in person before signing a lease. Expats can also use the classifieds section of their local newspapers in their search.
Rental agencies in Belgium offer a hassle-free means of finding accommodation and will usually handle all the administrative processes. Expats should be aware that these specialists do charge a fee.
- For a wide range of rental options, check out Immoweb.
- Explore Realo for user-friendly property search features.
- Vlan is another popular site for property listings in Belgium.
Renting accommodation in Belgium
There are strict laws around real estate in Belgium that aim to protect tenants as well as landlords. To receive the complete protection of the law, expats are advised to follow all the proper processes, which can be reviewed on the government's official information and services website.
A typical Belgian residential lease is for nine years, known as a 'long-term lease'. A tenant can break the lease with three months' notice at any time. If the tenant breaks the lease in the first, second or third year, they will have to pay a penalty of one, two or three months' rent, respectively. Breaking the lease early after three years incurs no penalty. This lease type is often called a '3-6-9 lease' because the lease and its components can be revisited every three years.
There are also shorter-term leases available for three years rather than nine. During a three-year lease, it is impossible to break it before the term's completion. This means that tenants are responsible for paying the rent for the entire duration of the contract, regardless of the circumstances.
For a lease shorter than three years, if the tenant wishes to leave before the end of the contract, they are usually required to give three months' notice and may be subject to a penalty.
References and background checks
Before a rental agreement in Belgium can be finalised, expats will have to prove their residency status and identity, and that they earn enough to cover their costs. Expats can usually prove that they can pay the rent by providing documentation showing their savings and income. An employer may be able to help by providing proof of earnings or acting as a guarantor.
Deposits in Flanders are typically three months' rent, although newer leases in Brussels and Wallonia cannot exceed two months. The landlord or agent will hold this amount in a separate account. Usually, the deposit will be paid back once the lease has ended and hasn't been renewed by either party. The landlord or agent will do an exit inspection, and if there are any damages to the property, the repair cost will be taken from the deposit.
Termination of the lease
Upon termination of the lease, both the tenant and the landlord or agent will conduct a thorough inspection of the property. Any damages or changes to the property that are not considered normal wear and tear will need to be fixed or financially compensated for by the tenant. To avoid any disputes, it's advisable to keep the property in good condition throughout the lease and to fix any damages promptly.
Utilities in Belgium
In the context of renting in Belgium, tenants are typically responsible for their utility costs. This includes but is not limited to water, electricity, gas and waste removal expenses. The cost of utilities can differ based on the area of residence, the type of housing and individual consumption.
Electricity and gas in Belgium are often supplied by the same company, with a few key providers including Engie, Electrabel and Lampiris. Providers offer various plans and pricing options, so it's advisable to compare deals to find the most suitable one. It's also important to note that Belgium uses Type E electrical outlets, so expats may need to acquire appropriate adaptors for their devices.
Water is typically provided by local companies in each region such as Pidpa and De Watergroep. Bills are usually issued quarterly and water may be metered, meaning charges are based on consumption. In some cases, water costs might be included in the rent, so it's worth confirming this with the landlord or rental agency.
Waste removal in Belgium is organised by local municipalities. They provide separate bins for general waste, organic waste and recyclables. It's crucial to adhere to the local waste disposal guidelines to avoid potential fines. The frequency of collections varies, but it's typically weekly or fortnightly.
Furthermore, expats will need to consider expenses for internet and phone services. Various providers offer these services, with packages tailored to individual needs. For more detailed information, read up on Keeping in Touch in Belgium.
"The village has a really good standard of housing. There are all types, from flats, to 'rijhuizen' (homes built and connected in a line), or stand-alone homes, some with huge properties." Learn more about moving to Belgium in our interview with South African expat Marco.
"The level of housing is generally very good. Expect tall, thin houses or apartments though. We had a dog at the time, and it was almost impossible to find somewhere central with a green space to it. There are short-term furnished apartments available, but they are generally very, very small and not always in the best areas." Check out our interview with British expat Nina to learn more about accommodation in Belgium.
Are you an expat living in Belgium?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Belgium. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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