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.
Types of accommodation in Belgium
The standard of accommodation in Belgium is typical of Western Europe, with small comfortable houses the most common. Air conditioning is not a common 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.
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.
Most properties in Belgium come 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, but it could also mean that there are no carpets or basic electrical appliances.
Finding accommodation in Belgium
It should not be difficult for expats to find and secure accommodation in Belgium. There are several online resources that 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 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. Expats should be aware that these specialists do charge a fee.
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 full protection of the law, expats are advised to follow all the proper processes, which can be obtained from 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 type of lease is often referred to as a '3-6-9 lease' because the lease and its components can be revisited every three years.
There are also short-term leases available for a period of three years rather than nine. During a three-year lease, it is not possible to break the lease before the completion of the term. This means that tenants are responsible for paying the rent for the full duration of the contract, regardless of circumstances.
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. An employer may be able to help by providing proof of earnings or acting as a guarantor.
Deposits in Belgium are generally three months’ rent. This amount will be held by the landlord or agent in a separate account. 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.
Before finalising a rental agreement, expats should always make sure what the terms of the lease are. In most cases, utilities such as 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 may include some maintenance costs. If the property has a garden, the tenant will be obliged to look after it.