Renting in Brussels
All the basic information you need to find and rent a property in Brussels, and choose which neighbourhood to live in Brussels.
Home to EU bureaucrats, world-famous chocolate and a small statue of a boy peeing, Brussels has its own unique character. Although property prices in the capital are the highest in the country, they're still significantly cheaper than London or Paris.
Try Dutch, French or English. Belgium has three official languages, French (38 percent), Dutch (56 percent) and German (1 percent). You might also see signs in minority languages, including Flemish and Walloon. Brussels is in the Dutch-speaking north of the country, although in a French-speaking enclave. English is a common second language in the city.
In this article, terms in translation are given in the following format: Français / Nederlands.
Renting a flat in Brussels
Leases in Belgium are long and favour the tenant. Unusually, the tenant is responsible for most repairs and improvements required during their tenancy. Although this means that if something breaks, the landlord probably won't fix it, it also means that you can put up shelves, repaint a wall or replace a washing machine without losing your deposit.
Newcomers may also consider the advantages of buying property in Brussels.
City centre rents are typically around EUR 1,000–1500 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, and somewhat lower in less popular areas.
Adverts must include an accurate rent, otherwise the landlord can be fined. As a result, negotiating the rent is rare. Expect an annual rent increase (or occasionally decrease) tied to the cost of living index. This will be applied retrospectively for the preceding three months. Base rent may be increased either at contract renewal (short term lets) or every three years (standard and long term leases). The tenancy agreement (contrat de bail/huurcontract) should have the details in it.
Paying Belgian utilities
In Brussels, utilities are the responsibility of the renter and are usually paid separately. The rent may include water and sewage, but any others are rare.
In addition, there are often fees owed to the housing association (particularly for apartment blocks) or the commune (eg. for garbage collection). You may have to pay both, or neither, or they may be included in the rent so be sure to ask up front. Read more about switching on Belgian utilities, internet and television.
Fees and the deposit
The deposit will be up to three months' rent. It must be handled separately from the landlord's other finances and the rent, and placed in a special account. Do not hand over cash as this can go astray. Instead, insist on a bank transfer.
Types of properties and contracts in Brussels
Belgian rental contracts have some quirks, particular the standard of a nine-year contract. Read more about regulation and contacts in our guide to renting in Belgium.
Short or long term?
In Belgium, a short term contract is three years or less, however, the standard contract of nine years can actually be more flexible. Short-term contracts impose a penalty for giving notice before the end of the contract; in many cases, you will be charged for the full duration of the contract if you leave early.
Longer contracts – from nine years to the long term contract of up to 25 years or 'for life' – impose penalties (up to three months' rent) for giving notice in the first three years; after four years, no penalty applies for breaking a contract. Even where penalties apply, the tenant can give three months notice at any time.
On the other side, landlords will also have to pay a penalty of several months' rent to the tenant if they give the tenant notice to leave.
Furnished properties that are not holiday lets are rare. Subletting a whole property is illegal. Even where a property is furnished, the landlord does not have a duty to maintain the items within it. As a result, you can usually dispose of items that don't suit (but do check first) and will have to replace, at your own cost, any items that break or stop working. The inventory must be completed and registered with the local registry office within two months of the lease beginning.
Properties in Brussels are typically rented unfurnished, often without carpets, curtains, white goods or light fittings. You may be able to purchase some items from the exiting tenant by negotiating with them directly. An inventory must be completed and registered, as for furnished properties. The property must be returned in the state described in the inventory, which typically means empty with neutral décor or with agreed improvements. Keep any documentation relating to improvements or repairs safe to prove you've done the required maintenance.
Many institutions have dorms. Students typically have their own bedroom and share a bathroom and kitchen with between 2–10 other students. Charges for this type of accommodation start at EUR 250 per month. Dorm rooms are arranged through the university or college, so you need to contact their housing department for details.
The alternative is to live in a private apartment, shared house or rent a room in a family home. Subletting a room is legal, with the permission of the landlord, so renters may do this to make a bit of money.
Apartment or house?
Although Brussels is home to over a million people, it's only about 20km in diameter. The city centre is primarily apartment blocks and old town houses split into apartments, but this quickly gives way to suburbs. As a result, it's easy to find a house with a garden.
How to find a new home in Brussels
Relatively few Belgians (around 30 percent) rent their home and the market in Brussels is skewed by the large number of expats on short-term postings with one organisation or another. This means that landlords are often used to expat renters, but may also be tired of the quick turnover. Contact your company to ask about relocation services or look online. Estate agents often focus on narrow geographical areas, so wandering the streets of pleasant neighbourhoods and looking in agency windows can be effective too.
Using an estate agent
A good real estate agent (agences immobilières / makelaar) can not only help you find a home but also smooth over the endless red tape. English-speaking agents are common, and many businesses have connections with a particular agency.
Estate agents in Brussels are usually paid by the landlord. Be wary of any who ask for a fee from you, the renter, particularly if they request money to let you view a property. If you hire a search agent, however, you should expect to pay them a fee, typically between EUR 250 and one month's rent.
Online property portals:
- www.immoweb.be (English, French, Dutch)
- www.immo.vlan.be (English, French, Dutch)
- www.century21.be (English, French, Dutch)
Short term, furnished and holiday lets:
- www.immobe.be (English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish)
- www.vrbo.com (English)
- www.airbnb.com (20+ languages)
Where to live in Brussels
A small city with little geography, Brussels is ideal for cyclists. Public transport is good and even driving is relatively easy – particularly when compared to capitals like London or Rome. As a result, you can commute to the centre easily from the many attractive and peaceful suburbs and villages that surround the city. The busier city centre district is also relatively affordable. Find out more about where to live in Brussels or consider commuting from farther out and living outside of Brussels.
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