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Expats will find plenty of reasonably priced, comfortable options available to them when looking for accommodation in Belgium. All kinds of housing can be found, whether it be furnished or unfurnished, from freestanding houses to luxury apartments.
Home security in Belgium is not a major issue. Although minor break-ins do occur in some neighbourhoods, these crimes are hardly ever violent. More often than not, the installation of a simple alarm system will be enough to deter potential robbers. Expats usually report that they feel safe in their homes in Belgium.
Types of accommodation in Belgium
The standard of accommodation in Belgium is typical of the Benelux countries, with comfortable, small houses predominating. Air conditioning is not a common feature However, the vast majority of houses have adequate heating systems. Expats should be aware that condominium complexes of the kind that might include a swimming pool or a gym are scarce.
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 a bigger property 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.
Finding accommodation in Belgium
It should not be difficult for expats to find and secure accommodation in Belgium. There are several online resources which can be used to find a home before arriving in the country. Though it's always recommended that expats see a property in person before signing a lease. Expats will also be able to 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. However, expats should be aware that these specialists do charge a fee.
Renting property in Belgium
Most expats opt to rent property in Belgium and will normally use a rental agent. It’s useful to note that the standard, assumed lease agreement in Belgium is nine years. Strangely enough, many expats find that for shorter stays in the country, it's a better idea to go the nine-year route, as these agreements are generally more flexible. The letting agent should be aware of how long their client intends to stay in Belgium, however, so they can find the best option to suit their needs.
Furnished or unfurnished
Most properties in Belgium are offered unfurnished. Expats should check with the landlord or agent what condition the property will be in. In some cases, “unfurnished” may simply mean that there are no soft furnishings. However, it could also mean that there are no carpets or even basic electrical appliances.
In Belgium, a short-term lease is typically signed for a three-year period. This is a typical lease expats usually opt for. This lease can easily be converted into the traditional nine-year lease if needed. Shorter contracts usually include steep penalties if the tenant leaves within the first three years. For example, the penalty could be three months’ rent if an expat leaves in the first year. Some rental agreements will have a clause requiring the entire three-year rent if one leaves early. Expats should, therefore, make sure they carefully read through the contract before signing anything.
Monthly rentals are rare. However, they can be arranged through specialist short-term agencies. Expats should note that these rentals come at a premium.
The rental process
After deciding on a property to rent, expats will have to sign a rental agreement. Rental agreements in Belgium must be covered by a written contract. This contract should be signed by both the tenant and landlord. This agreement then has to be formally registered. So, expats should provide a copy of the signed contract to the local registry office to show the deal has been properly concluded. Usually, though, the landlord will do this on the tenant’s behalf.
References and background checks
Before a rental agreement in Belgium can be finalised, expats will have to prove their residency status, identity and that they’ll be earning enough to cover their costs. Expats can usually prove that they will be able to pay the rent by providing documentation showing their savings and income. Alternatively, depending on the landlord’s requirements, an expat can also have a credit check done. In addition, an employer may be able to help by providing proof of earnings or acting as a guarantor.
The most common kinds of leases in Belgium are either signed for three years (short term) or nine years (long term). The three-year lease can come with strict penalties if an expat decides to terminate the contract earlier. On the other hand, the nine-year lease seems to be more flexible.
Nine-year contracts don’t mean that one has to stay in the same place for nine years. It’s actually normal to have a three-month notice period. Landlords have to give six months’ notice and a good reason before they can evict a tenant.
Deposits in Belgium are generally three months’ rent. This amount will be held by the landlord or agent in a separate account. This money shouldn’t be incorporated into business or personal cash flow. It’s also important to note that expats should never hand over cash as a deposit – use a bank transfer instead.
Typically, the deposit will be paid back once the lease has come to an end and hasn’t been renewed by either party. The landlord or agent will do an exit inspection. If there are any damages to the property, the cost of repair will be taken from the deposit. It's best to have an expert document exactly what the property looks like before moving in and as soon as one moves out.
Before finalising a rental agreement, expats should always make sure what the terms of the lease are. In most cases, utilities like phone, electricity and water bills will be paid by the tenant. Details of the bills paid by the tenant will be set out in the tenancy agreement and are likely to include some maintenance costs. If the property has a garden, the tenant will be obliged to look after it. Tenants in Belgium are responsible for the upkeep of the home they rent.
Bins and recycling
Waste collection fees will usually be included in the rental costs. Collection times are arranged according to the local council’s schedule. Rubbish must be sorted for it to be recycled. Some types of rubbish can be collected from the home. However, most recycling can be disposed of at collection points and container parks.
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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