Signing a rental contract

In Belgium, an accommodation is rented on the basis of a written and signed rental contract (also referred to as a lease or tenancy agreement). Be aware that your signature on a rental contract means that you agree with all the clauses of the lease contract so you have to respect each of them. Take your time to read the lease contract carefully before signing it.

The rules governing rental contract matters vary according to the region in which the accommodation is located and the type of rental contract you sign.

In the Brussels-Capital Region, norms relating to rental contracts are contained principally in the Brussels Housing Code (Code bruxellois du Logement / Brusselse Huisvestingscode). The lease contract has to be signed in one of the official languages in the Brussels-Capital Region which are French or Dutch.

There are 3 types of rental agreements in Brussels based on their length:

  • Very short-term contract (less than 6 months)
  • Short-term (up to 3 years)
  • Long-term (3 – 9 years)

Each of these contracts follows different rules, particularly in the event of early termination by the tenant.


Rental expenses, both private and common, often are substantial. Before signing the lease contract, it is strongly recommended that the tenant inquire about the latest expense statements for the building.

Before obtaining the key of the accommodation, some conditions must be fulfilled by the tenant: provide a proof of rental guarantee to the landlord, do the inventory of the premises with the landlord, subscribe an insurance.

Registration of the lease contract is mandatory and free of charge if it is done within 2 months after signing the lease contract.

Keep in mind that rental prices in Belgium can increase annually in line with the consumer price index.

Finally tenants in Belgium also have responsibility for the upkeep of the property. Several routine repairs have to be carried out and paid for by the tenants. 

Don’t rush to sign your rental contract! Contact the Expat Welcome Desk for help from our experienced team, free of charge.

Signing a rental contract

(Art. 237 to 239 Brussels Housing Code - BHC)

A distinction must be made between (1) a very short lease, (2) a short lease, and (3) a long lease.

(1)   A rental agreement for a period shorter than six months terminates, without notice, at the end of the period stipulated in the lease, unless this has been extended. It cannot be ended earlier. (Art. 238, AL. 3 BHC)

(2)   A rental agreement for a period from six months to 3 years terminates, in principle, by means of notice from the owner (landlord) or tenant at least three months before the end of the period agreed in the lease. In this case, no compensation is due.

By mutual agreement, the parties may extend a short lease in writing, one or several times, under the same conditions up to a maximum period of three years. (Art. 238, AL. 1 and 2 BHC)

However, the tenant may terminate the agreement at any time by giving notice of three months and paying compensation equal to one month’s rent. As for owners, they may terminate the lease early, but only after the first year of the lease, and only in order to occupy the accommodation themselves or allow it to be occupied by a member of their family (or the family of their spouse). In this case, the landlord must give the tenant notice of three months and pay him or her compensation equivalent to one month’s rent. (Art. 238, AL. 4 BHC)

(3)   The lease for a primary residence automatically lasts for a period of 9 years, even if it is drawn up without mention of the period or for a fixed period of between 3 and 9 years (a lease for a period of 5 years is valid but will be considered to have been agreed for nine years).

The lease terminates at the end of the 9-year period, on condition that one or other of the parties has given notice at least six months before the expiry date. Notice can be given without any justification and no compensation is due from the party who takes this initiative. If neither of the parties end the lease after expiry of this period of 9 years, the lease is extended with the same conditions for a period of 3 years. Each of the parties then has the option of terminating the extended lease every 3 years, without giving any justification and without having to pay any compensation, by giving six months’ notice. (Art. 237, §1 BHC)                                      

 The owner has the right to terminate the lease before its expiry date:

- The owner may end the lease at any time for personal occupation on condition that the tenant receives notice of six months. The rental agreement may exclude or limit (for example, as to the time or persons concerned) the right of the owner to terminate the lease in order to occupy it personally. To be valid, the notice must mention the reason given and the identity of the person who will personally and actually occupy the leased property, and his or her relationship with the landlord. (Art. 237, §2 BHC)

- The owner may, but only on completion of the first or second triennium (three-year period), also terminate the lease if he intends to carry out reconstruction, transformation or renovation work in the rented property. The rental agreement may exclude or limit (for example, as to the time) the right of the owner to end the lease in order to carry out work. This option can only be exercised by the owner if he gives the tenant six months’ notice and specifies the exact reason. This reason must meet four conditions defined in the Brussels Housing Code. (Art. 237, §3 BHC)

- The owner may, but only on completion of the first or second triennium, terminate the lease without having to specify the motive by paying the tenant compensation. The rental agreement may exclude or limit the right of the owner to terminate the lease without a reason. To be able to exercise this right of termination, the owner must give the tenant six months’ notice and pay compensation. This compensation is equal to nine months’ rent if notice is served at the end of the first triennium and six months’ rent if notice is served at the end of the second triennium. (Art 237, §4 BHC)

The tenant is also entitled to terminate the lease, at any time, by giving notice of three months. In this case, he would also have to pay compensation of three, two or one months’ rent depending on whether he ended occupation during the first, second or third year of the lease. From the fourth year of the lease onwards, the tenant is no longer bound to pay compensation if he wishes to terminate the contract early, but the three-month notice period is still required. (Art. 237, §5 BHC)     

Rental guarantee ("garantie locative / huurwaarborg")

(Art. 248 – 249 BHC)

The rental guarantee is an amount of money which compensates the owner if his property is damaged. Almost all property owners in Belgium demand a rental guarantee equal to a maximum of two or three months’ rent. This sum has to be paid when the rental contract is signed and before occupation.

Three types of guarantee

The transfer of the guarantee onto a “blocked bank account”, which is the most common system. In this case, the sum is equal to two months’ rent. Both the owner and tenant must sign a document to open this type of account. The guarantee remains the property of the tenant and interest earned is due to him up until the time he leaves the property. Tenants should request this document from a bank. (Art. 248, §3 BHC)

The bank guarantee: in this case, the sum is equivalent to three months’ rent. This system is chosen when the tenant is unable to pay the whole rental guarantee in one payment. When the rental contract has been drawn up, the bank becomes the guarantor on behalf of the tenant. The tenant pays the guarantee (equal to 3 months’ rent) to the bank by monthly transfer for the duration of the rental contract, up to a maximum period of three years. (Art. 248, §4 BHC)

- e-DEPO : The e-DEPO service (online application of the Fund deposits and Consignment)can be found online, on MyMinfin, where you can constitute your rental guarantee. In order to access to this tool, you either need a residence permit with a chip or a numerical key.

If you pay the guarantee in cash or by bank transfer to the owner’s current account, this sum will be considered as payment of a debt and you will lose claim to it in the event of the owner’s insolvency.

Avoid paying it in cash but if you do so, request a signed receipt from the landlord in as many copies as there are parties to the agreement.

Release of the guarantee (Art. 249, §2 BHC)

The guarantee will only be reimbursed on presentation of a signed agreement between the owner and tenant drawn up when the lease has ended. This agreement may be in the form of a letter or a special form supplied by the bank and signed by the two parties.

Reimbursement of the rental guarantee will be based on the costs of the damages made in the accommodation during the rented period. If no inventory check was carried out, damages will have to be proven by the owner.The two parties then sign a form prepared by the bank on which details of the calculation of the balance of the rental guarantee are explained. The actual amount reimbursed to the tenant depends on the assessment of rental damage. Once the bank has received this form or letter (signed by both parties), it will credit the tenant with the final sum.

In the event of a dispute, the rental guarantee can be released via an enforceable judgement from the « Juge de paix/Vrederechter” in the judicial district where the property is located. This means that the judgement can be enforced in spite of any appeal procedures and in spite of the sum being blocked on an account.

Inventory check ("état des lieux / plaatsbeschrijving")

(Art. 1730, §1er C. civ and art. 220 BHC)

This is a detailed description of the rooms, materials, fixtures and fittings in the rented accommodation, documented after an inspection. It is standard procedure in Belgian rental contracts. The report can be made by an expert appointed by both parties (shared costs) or as an amicable arrangement (free process). Contact CIBEX or ABEX if you are looking for an expert.

PLEASE NOTE: the tenant has the right to refuse the expert proposed by the owner. It is important that both parties are in agreement on the choice of expert.

We advise you to organise the inventory check BEFORE moving into your new accommodation (although this is not required by law). The law authorises the inventory check to be carried out at any time during the first month of the rental contract. This document must contain the water, gas and electricity meter numbers. Before signing the document, read it carefully and don’t hesitate to add written comments. If the report was done by an expert, you have within a month to make your remarks and send back the report to the expert. The incoming inventory check must be attached to the lease and registered with it.

For those who wish to carry out an amicable check without an expert, you can refer to an example (modèle d’état des lieux) available in FR & NL on the website

When the tenant leaves the accommodation, it is important that screws, nails and hooks are removed and that the entire accommodation is cleaned thoroughly. All utility meters should also be read.

This outgoing inventory check will be carried out and compared with the incoming inventory check. If both parties agree on the conclusions, the rental guarantee will be reimbursed in full to the tenant, if no rental damage has been incurred in the rented accommodation. Normal wear and tear is acceptable but the length of occupation will be taken into account when assessing this. In the event of a dispute. The conciliation process is advised before complaining to the "Juge de paix / Vrederechter

Subscribe an insurance ("assurance / Verzekering")

The owner in the Brussels-Capital Region generally requests home insurance for renters (or co-renters). Depending on the clause inserted in the lease contract, you may have to insure the accommodation for fire, water damages, glass damages … but also to damages caused by third parties. In some cases, the insurance is taken by the landlord for the accommodation and you have to refund him.

See the chapter "House Insurance" for more info.

Reference rental prices ("Loyer de référence / referentiehuurprijs")

To calculate this reference rental price, you need to visit the website and answer a number of questions about the property (such as the residential living space, the year of construction, the number of bedrooms, the BEP, the location, etc.)

The reference rent calculated, based on the indicative table of rents, is a range between two numbers, namely the low rent and the high rent.

To ensure that the tenant is properly and fully informed, the reference rental price must be mentioned in the lease by way of an addendum appended to the lease (completed and initialled by the parties to the lease).

The reference rent is not binding, because the landlord still remains free to set the amount of the rent. However, the landlord is also required to provide reasons if the reference rent is exceeded by 20% or more due to items of comfort and convenience specific to the property or the environment in which it is located.

Indexation of the rent

If it is mentioned in the lease contract, the rent may be indexed annually at the earliest on the anniversary date of the beginning of the lease. However, the indexation is not automatic as the lessor must request it in writing from the lessee.

How is indexation calculated ?

The indexation is based on the fluctuations of the "health" price index. To find out the amount of the indexed rent, the following formula is applied :

                                       Health index for the month preceding the anniversary of the lease

Base rent   X             -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------     =  New rent

                                      Health index for the month preceding the date the lease was signed

Until 13 October 2023, rent indexation for energy-intensive housing was subject to restrictions. From 14 October 2023, indexation for rental properties with an energy performance certificate E, F and G is once again permitted, but according to an adapted formula.

You must apply a correction factor if your property meets the following  criteria :

  • The lease came into effect before 14 October 2022.
  • The home's EPB certificate is E, F or G.

More info on

Rental costs ("charges locatives / huurkosten")

Individual and common charges associated with renting can be surprisingly high. We strongly advise you, as a future tenant, to find out about the charges you will have to pay.

  • These include co-ownership maintenance costs (lift maintenance costs, stairway lighting, cleaning costs) excluding major repair work.
  • They are calculated based on the surface area of each apartment.
  • These relate directly to the tenant’s consumption (water, gas and electricity).
  • They are invoiced either directly to the tenant by the energy supplier or indirectly via the co-ownership.
  • Provisions for charges are monthly deposits on actual expenditure calculated definitively in the final accounts on an annual basis (method based on the tenant’s actual consumption).
  • A forfait is a fixed sum specified in the rental contract. This does not have to correspond to the tenant’s actual consumption and no final accounts have to be prepared. It is often applied to short-term furnished rental contracts. With a flat fee, the owner is not authorised to request additional payments from the tenant.
  • There will be additional costs associated with a rental, such as the rental guarantee, TV/internet subscription, central heating service maintenance, and tenant’s liability insurance.
  • Property tax and the owner’s share of the building insurance can never be charged to the tenant.

Maintenance and repairs ("entretien et réparations / Onderhoud en herstellen")

(Art. 223 BHC)

  • The owner must carry out major repairs, particularly those due to obsolescence and unavoidable emergencies ("force majeure").
  • Tenants are responsible for carrying out general cleaning and the repair of any damage they have caused.

If there is a problem in the rented property, the tenant must inform the owner as quickly as possible – verbally and in writing

In the event of a dispute, the tenant should never stop paying the rent! Rather, he should send a registered letter to the owner asking him to comply. If no amiable solution can be found with your landlord, you can turn to the justice system "Juge de paix / Vrederechter”. To do this, you should file an application with the justice of the peace for the area in which the rented property is situated. A lawyer is not mandatory but is strongly recommended if you do not speak one of the national languages fluently.

The Government has drawn up a list of the main repair and maintenance obligations to be carried out by the tenant or lessor. The parties may not depart from this breakdown.

Registration of the lease ("enregistrement / registratie")

Registering your lease is a mandatory formality required by its own tax code: the registration fees code. Any subsequent modification or addendum to the lease must also be registered. The aim of registering the lease is to give the contract a “certain date”.  This means that the other interested parties cannot claim that they were not aware of the existence of the lease and so they are required to respect it. Leases are said to be “binding on third parties”. This formality provides a certain level of protection for both landlord and tenant.

Protection for tenants :

  • In the event of the property being sold: if the lease on a dwelling used as a principal place of residence has been registered, the tenants benefit from protection under the law should the property they are renting be sold. In fact, they are protected from immediate eviction by the new lessor/landlord (i.e. the new owner of the rented property), who is required to respect the current lease that is in place. If the new owner wishes to terminate the lease, he can do so by serving notice to the tenant – but only on the terms stated in the lease itself.
  • If the lease on a dwelling used as a principal place of residence (regardless of the length of the lease) is not registered, the tenant can terminate the lease without serving notice or paying compensation – although the tenant does have to fulfil a prior formality with the lessor/landlord (see point 6).

Protection for the landlord (owner) :

  • The tenant is always required to serve notice to terminate a lease if the owner has registered it as a residential lease used as the principal place of residence. This is the statutory principle of “protection of the lessor”.

The cost of the registration formalities and any attendant fees are to be paid by the landlord. The landlord undertakes to register the lease within two months of it being signed, along with any signed appendices to the lease and the incoming inventory. He will then provide the tenant with proof of registration.

If the landlord registers the lease after the period of two months has expired, he will be required to pay a fixed penalty set at around 25€.

However, tenants can – although there is no obligation to do so – have the lease registered themselves.

You can register your lease either:

Once your lease has been registered, you will receive proof of registration (a sort of official stamp from the Authorities). You will be contacted if your request is incomplete.

You will find all the relevant details here.

Registering a lease is free of charge if the building is used only as the dwelling of a family or of a person who lives alone.

You can check yourself to see if your lease has been registered via MyMinfin :

  • Identify yourself using your e-ID or via itsme
  • Click on “Consulter mes baux de location” (view my leases) in the section headed “Mon habitation et mes biens immobiliers” (my home and my real estate property)

If the landlord fails in his obligation to register the lease, the tenant can terminate the lease, without notice or compensation, on condition that the tenant sends the landlord a written notice by registered mail warning the lessor to register the lease and this warning is not acted on for one month. Only if the landlord does not take action within the month, the tenant can quit the property with immediate effect, without having to pay any penalties. However, it is likely that the owner will want to block this mechanism to quit by responding quickly to the registered letter and registering the lease within the timeframe stated. If the owner does not take action within the month, the tenant may then freely, but cautiously, notify the owner of the date of departure from the property – again by registered letter. By doing so, you can prove that you terminated the lease before it was registered (if the owner registers it after you have left the property). Finally, make an arrangement with the owner to set a date for the exit inventory and to hand over the keys.

NOTICE : this method of terminating the lease, which is provided for by article 227 of the Brussels Housing Code, cannot be used before a period of two months has expired following the signing of the lease.

Giving notice ("préavis / opzegtermijn")

(Art. 231 BHC)

This point will depend on the type of your lease contract because calculation of the notice period and compensation payment depends on the duration of the rental contract.

The law requires that notice to terminate a rental contract must be given in writing. No specific legal format is required but a registered letter is the surest way. This notice must be sent by post three (complete) months before the date of the end of the lease. If you fail to do this, it will be more difficult to recuperate your rental guarantee.

The notice period begins on the first day of the month following the month in which the letter was sent (e.g. if you send the letter on 10 July, the notice period begins on 1 August). The length of the notice period is 3 months.

The "day on which notice is given" is normally the day on which the other party received the mail. However, some judges consider that "the day on which notice is given" is the day of the sending. We therefore invite you to send the notice several days in advance to avoid any misunderstanding.

In the event of problems or non-compliance with a lease, only a judge is competent to pronounce the termination of a contract.

Preferential right ("droit de préférence / voorkeurrecht")

The preferential right is a right that enables the tenant to buy the rented property before anyone else under the conditions set by the landlord who is selling the property. The idea is to enable tenants to become homeowners while ensuring a degree of stability for them.

This measure applies only to residential leases of the main residence for a 9-year term.

By extension, it also applies to:

  • A one-year lease that turns into a nine-year lease (because the tenant continues to occupy the property without opposition from the landlord);
  • A three-year lease extended by mutual agreement by and between the parties.

Several sales are exempt from this preferential right such as sale to a partner or a member of the seller’s family up to the third degree, sale to a public authority, sale as a life annuity, etc.