In Belgium all accommodation is rented out on the basis of a signed lease. Verbal lease contracts are not legal! Remember that your signature on a lease contract means that you accept all the clauses in the contract.
There are basically two types of rental agreements in Belgium: short-term leases for a maximum of three years and the so called “9 years lease” or long-term lease. The first cannot be stopped before the end of the convened period except if you foresee and negociate a specific clause with the landlord. The second one is for nine years, but it can be broken any time without a reason, by giving three months’ notice. However there are penalties to be paid if the contract is broken during the first three years. This amounts to three months’ rent in the first year, two months’ rent in the second year, and one month’s rent in the third year. As of the fourth year of rental, three months’ notice is still required but no penalty has to be paid. That’s why it is always important to reflect on the duration you wish to rent for regarding the length of your work contract! For instance if you come in Brussels as a trainee you should sign a short time lease contract!
Before you sign the lease agreement, make sure to use our check list or download our model agreement. Do no hesitate to contact the Expat Welcome Desk to help you out. Mail your lease to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will check it for free.
A guarantee is a sum of money asked by the landlord to the tenant of which the aim is to cover any damage caused by the tenant to the rented property. Nearly all Belgian landlords require a guarantee which is normally equivalent to two or maximum three months’ rent and is to be paid when the lease is signed.
Two types of garantee
A garantee transferred to a ‘blocked bank account’: This is the most used system! In this case the amount is equivalent to 2 months’ rent. Both landlord and tenant must sign the documents to open the account. The guarantee remains yours and the interest is paid to you upon leaving the property. Go to your bank to prepare the document.
A bank guarantee: In this case the amount is equivalent to 3 months’ rent. This formula is used when the tenant has insufficient means to produce the guarantee at once. When the tenancy agreement is concluded, the bank acts as guarantor for the tenant. The tenant pays the guarantee (3 months’rent) to the bank in monthly instalments for the duration of the tenancy agreement, for a maximum period of three years. This system is more rare!
Release of guarantee
At the end of the lease contract, money can only be released with the consent of both landlord and tenant.
The return of the rent guarantee is conditional upon any rental damage noted at the end of the lease in the final inventory report, or proved by your landlord if no inventory was carried out at the beginning of the lease. Both parties sign a form, prepared by the bank, which details the use of the balance which acted as the guarantee (partial or total payment to the tenant or landlord, depending on the rental damage evaluated). Once this form has been signed, it is deposited at the bank which then makes the payments.
In the event of a dispute, the local court (vredegerecht/justice de paix) can be called to rule on a settlement.
An inventory (plaatsbeschrijving/état des lieux) or detailed description of the condition of the premises, fittings and equipment at the time of check-in, is standard practice in Belgian lease agreements. This can be done amicably (à l’amiable) by the landlord and the tenant or by an expert!
In practice an external inventory clerk is often called upon. His fee is shared by tenant and landlord. We recommend that you schedule the inventory BEFORE moving into your new home, although this is not required by law. It is legally allowed to conduct the inventory any time during the first month of the tenancy agreement.
An inventory of fixtures must be attached to the lease and registered with it. When you leave the premises, an exit survey is carried out and compared with the original entry survey. If both parties agree on the findings, the guarantee is returned to the tenant if no damage has been caused to the property. Normal wear and tear is acceptable, though this depends on the length of occupation. In the event of a dispute, the matter can be referred to the court.
REGISTERING A LEASE
Once a lease has been signed, it must be registered by the landlord within two months together with the inventory of the premises. This procedure is free.
In a 9 years lease contract, failure to register within 2 months from the signature of the contract, gives the tenant the right to end the lease at any time, without giving prior notice or paying any penalty. However this system should be used very carefully and we always recommend to send a letter to the landlord by registered mail in order to inform him of the cancellation of the contract.
Moreover in a 9 years lease contract the failure of registration has consequences when the property in sold during the lease contract. Indeed the tenant can be put out of the good more quickly!
The lease has to be registered at the Office of the Collector of Registrations (Bureau du Receveur de l'Enregistrement, Rue de la Régence 54, 4th floor, 1000 Brussels, tel. 02 578 09 73, open 8.00 to 12.00).
The landlord must take along three copies of the lease contract (the original lease contract and two photocopies). The landlord and tenant each keep one copy of the contract, while the Office of the Collector of Registrations keeps the third copy.