Expats looking for accommodation in Brussels shouldn’t have too many problems with finding a place to live. As a city of neighbourhoods, the Belgian capital has a wide selection of options when it comes to areas and suburbs.
Generally speaking, expats will choose between living in one of the city’s districts or in an outlying suburb. The advantage of living in the city is that expats will usually be close to their place of work and have easy access to public transport. That said, most international schools are located outside of the city and accommodation is generally more expensive.
On the other hand, expats who choose to live outside of the city will be closer to international schools and will usually be able to rent or buy bigger properties at a lower price than they would in the city. This does mean longer commutes and, in some cases, the public transport system in Brussels will be less accessible.
Types of accommodation in Brussels
Most expats choose to rent property, at least at first, and especially if they only intend to stay for a limited time.
In many countries, light fixtures, kitchens and window coverings are already in houses or apartments. This is often not the case when renting in Brussels. Built-in closets are also rare, so purchasing a wardrobe is the norm. Most rental properties in Brussels are let unfurnished, which means tenants must provide their own furniture, including appliances, kitchen cupboards and even ceiling lamps.
It's rare to find a furnished apartment in Brussels except for short-term stays, and these are often pricey. Generally speaking, houses are more expensive to rent than apartments.
Finding accommodation in Brussels
Renting in Brussels is complicated because of strict legal requirements by landlords. It would be wise for expats to consult with a professional to help them with the process, including the house hunt. Any relocation firm will do this, or the estate agency renting the apartment can be spoken to directly. Otherwise, property in Brussels can be found on bulletin boards, in local newspapers or listed on online property portals. It shouldn’t take an expat house hunter too long to find a suitable place to stay. Estate agents can be especially helpful for expats who don't speak any of the local languages.
Renting accommodation in Brussels
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.
The maximum deposit on a rental home is three months' worth of rent. This is returned in full to the tenant at the end of the lease as long as the property is returned without damages.
Rental prices generally don’t include utilities such as electricity, water and internet. Expats need to ask about this before signing a lease as it will usually be an extra cost on top of rent.