Tenant rights in Brussels – Chapter #1

So unfortunately we have found ourselves in a rather uncomfortable situation. We slowly found out things about our apartment.

As all good tenants, we asked about separate meters, bills and so on before signing the contract. After we moved in, as obliged by law we took on the electricity bill. For water, heating and common charges we pay 180 EUR provision to the landlord. We connected the internet for ourselves and pay a separate bill for that. All happy. All set.

And then we receive the first estimated bill of 131 EUR. Lampiris has a calculator, and does not matter how we entered our consumption, even if we doubled the size of the apartment and added 3 children, still did not manage to result in such a high bill. Maybe we gave in the wrong meter? Well, lets switch it off, and see if it is our flat.

Meters are downstairs, in the basement area, where the common laundry room is. We really liked this feature, as we did not have to buy a washing machine just yet. There are 2 washers and a dryer, and 4 flats are sharing.

So we switch our meter off, and there goes the lighting in the basement. There are 3 storage rooms, and the laundry. The washers go silent. The whole hallway goes dark. Yes. It is on our name, and we are metered for that. So we called the landlord to confirm, where he allegedly admitted he forgot to mention this, but not to worry, he will sort that out.

This has been more than 2 months ago.

We asked him about this quite a few times, and he always promised it will be done soon.

On a very cold August evening we arrive home from work to a pretty loud and constant sound. We follow it to the basement, and figure it is the heating furnace. In our flat. Well, we should have put this on before and listen, because this is loud. Well, never mind, we will switch it off when we sleep.

So we try to switch it off, but it won’t stop. Our radiators are cold, but it is still on. Strange. We ask the landlord who informs us about the heating system being shared and can be controlled from another flat, too. So wait, how is this metered? Well, the gas is on the landlords name, and he shares the bill. The electricity for this is connected to us, but not to worry, it is marginal.

It uses more than a washing machine, so having it on all the time does cost us, and for me, that is not marginal.

So we are slowly getting to the point, where we feel we have been lied to. Fortunately, the landlord seems to admit to these problems so we feel we are figuring out a way. Another month passes, and workmen turn up to change the heating for a one that is not that noisy, automatically working, so there is no misunderstanding on who is in control of the furnace, but it is still connected to our meter. We receive a promise for a meter connected to its electrical cord.

Now the workmen, family related to the landlord turn out to be utterly incompetent. They have been in the flat (mess, damages, wasted worktime for us) 4 times, and promised to come another 3 times, but never showed. So there has been no heating for 3 weeks now, it is October and we are cold. Our time is being wasted.

I decided I was too fed up to put up with this and want out. So I have been in contact with 2 lawyers, and one of them gave us the idea to go to the Registry Office and see if our contract has been registered, because in Brussels if a rental contract has not been registered by the landlord it can be terminated any time, without paying penalty. Oh yes, the penalty. Here, by law, if a tenant breaks the contract in the first year has to pay 3 months rent penalty. If in the second year, 2 months penalty, if in the third, 1 month. Also, a 3 months notice period is required.

BUT, if it has not been registered, no notice period, not penalty. Cool! To the registry office it is.

We queued up at 8:30 and by 8:40 we knew the contract was never registered. Smile on face, email to the lawyer. How do we end the contract?

We don’t. This law is not in place for a 3 year contract. We can go to court if we want. Boo!

So if we want to be out, 3 months notice, 3 month penalty, probably a lost deposit of 2 months. And we can go to court and bear the cost of that too.

Well, Belgium, I expected better! 😦

unikitty rage


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