Our experience: renting in Brussels.
For starters, you might want to know that we were considered majorly “handicapped” when it came to finding a suitable place to live, for the below reasons:
- We are a foreign couple. We are a couple considered to be Eastern European. I am not making a discrimination case out of this, as my experiences have always been good with foreign acceptance in any countries I moved to, but it is a disadvantage. We are Hungarian. Budapest often gets confused with a Bucharest and people who have no idea that this is an existing country simply refer to the brilliant and overly creative “are you hungry?” joke. 🙂 But most landlords don’t really feel secure renting to…us.
- We were living back in Hungary at the time when we had to find our accommodation. When you move to another country to work, you need to have a place to live, but to have a place to live you need to have a job. Flat hunt is easy on the Internet, but when you live 1400 kilometres away it is pretty time and money consuming to arrange viewings.
- We have three cats (let me just refer to the name of the blog :)). If you have a pet, you are not an eligible tenant. If you have 3, you are insane in the eyes of a landlord.
- Only one of us had a Belgian job, which he – matter of fact – has not even started. So when it came to showing 2 paychecks, well…
- We don’t speak French or Dutch. I find that all people here possess some knowledge of English, but when it comes to rental matters, a lot passes.
With this said, we found our dream home in a week. Two weeks before the moving date the contract was signed. Did we experience the miracle? The impossible just decided to happen?
None. I admit, we probably were lucky on one hand. But I am pretty sure the way of doing this flat hunt helped a lot, so here is my advice on how to look for a new home when you feel like the impossible is about the happen:
- Announce beforehand that you have pets and say the amount proudly. There is no reason to not tell, or be embarrassed about the fact that you are such a great person that 3 cats chose to live with you. This will protect you from a lot of disappointments. You will receive a lot of “no”s. People will be rude. But in fairness, would you really want to live in someone’s property who has this kind of an attitude towards your beloved pets? Do you really want to explain yourself every time you talk to your landlord?
- If you are an expat find agencies that specialize in renting to expats. Use their property list to make sure the landlord won’t rent the apartment to someone less eligible just because they are local.
- Don’t rush and jump on a plane every time you are invited to visit a property. Tell everything to the agent, or the landlord and make it clear that you need to schedule a certain appointment. Ask for everything they need from you for the decision and take those with you. If you go prepared they will appreciate the effort and see that you are an organized, responsible person who is ready to rent their property.
- Expect downsides and learn to compromise. No property will ever be a hundred percent perfect. Consider your needs and adjust expectations.
- Not everything is what is seems. Our flat is beautiful, huge and still cozy. We love it. It has a garden a fireplace and everything we can imagine. Oh, and by the way, 3 months into the contract turns out that our laundry is shared but only we are paying for the electricity plus all the common areas are connected to our meter, too. We have humidity issues on one wall, and the heating system is really loud. My point is to make sure you know every single detail about the apartment beforehand, because if something is too good to be true, it probably is. So don’t be afraid to talk about the bills, consumption estimation and the price you are going to pay for the rent. If you feel like, you can ask the landlord to adjust the price to your needs.
Are we still happy with our decision? So far, yes. Slowly everything is getting fixed and at least we learnt a lot about renting and our apartment. If we move to another place, we will know what to look for. Then again, a new place can have new hidden problems. You can never be a 100% sure, but you can be prepared. My main advice is to always have a plan, and a plan B. And C. Maybe D, too. 🙂