Dr. Varga Detre
How to rent an apartment in Budapest?
As a foreigner, you have to be extra cautious when renting an apartment. After reviewing hundreds of rental agreements, it’s time that the lawyer nerd summarizes you the 10 good advices you must know before you sign a contract.
1. Find out who is the owner!
Every piece of real property has a certificate named "tulajdoni lap" in ab original or "property sheet" in free translation (also called as land registry certificate or title deed). If you know the land registry identification number (or lot number, "helyrajzi szam" in hungarian) you may get an actual copy from a notary public, an attorney at law (like us), or through your client page, if you have one (for Hungary). The first section (numbered with roman I.) contains the data of the real estate, and basically section II. contains the name of the owner(s).
2. With whom are you signing the contract?
It's not necessarily the owner though, with whom you'll sign a rental agreement. The owner may provide a permission or proxy to anyone, to rent his property, but the proxy has to be written, and contain the minimum formalities like identifiable personal data, date, duration (if not indefinite), witnesses or notarial (lawyers) stamp. If you find out that the lessor in fact does not have written permission from the owner, it's recommended to insist on it.
3. What is the deposit for?
It's for covering damages you cause in an apartment, or any claim that may arise from the rental agreement, even rental fee or termination of the agreement before fixed time. At the end of the rental agreement, accounts shall be settled, and if there is no claim, the deposit shall be returned.
4. Moveables and accessories list
Unless you rent an empty flat with four walls, there will be a list of accessories the lessor may claim you have damaged or lost. Writing a list of these and sign it makes sense but it does not solve the issue: I'd rather you make a lot of photos with your phone and save it on a flash disk, because a list may not show the actual state of an accessory. A bed or a refrigerator may have been used by more people before you that have damaged it.
5. Visiting ghost in the apartment
Not a real ghost, but the owner may appear when you're not at home or even when you're home, with or without preliminary notification. You'd better ask permission to change the keys, as even lessors and their friends before you may have copies, and leave a set of new keys at the lessors or your lawyer, for safety. If you don't do that, at least include in the agreement that the owner is not allowed to come without your preliminary notification.
6. Measure the meters
Public services like electricity, gas or water have their meters in or out of the apartment. Write their actual stand in the contract or on it's back and get it signed by the owner, to avoid paying someone elses consumption. Some service providers charge the same amount every month, and some times a year or once a year they charge the remaining amount to factual, exact consumption. If they do it once a year, and you've signed the rental agreement in the middle of the year, you'll need to remember high school maths classes to calculate how much is yours from that.
7. Adress registration
It's an inherited historical sickness in Hungary, that owners are reluctant or refusing to register you anywhere, in any public database to the apartment. Unfortunately this is obligatory if you're a foreigner, especially if you're a non EU citizen. It's better if you insist on it before you hand over the deposit.
8. Adress matching
The most absurd obstacle at all to enjoy your new home, is when the content of public databases don't match. An adress is registered in at least three public databases, and the immigration office checks the matching. It's possible that you've got a real apartment under a certain adress, but it does not match in the land registry and the municipiality database, so the immigration office does not see it. If you've got the property sheet, you may walk into the closest public client point (kormanyablak or okmanyiroda) or ask your lawyer to do it, and check if the databases match. If they don't the immigration office will not issue your residency or adress card until the issue isn't resolved.
9. Unfair liabilities
Some private owners are tending to include unfair liabilities in the agreement. You pay rental fee, and most likely the owner does not pay tax from it (you don't get an invoice, or/and you pay in cash, without receit). It's not expectable that you paint the apartment when you move out, or fix items on your own or/and on your own expense.
10. Receit of rental payments
Some lessors (owners) don't pay tax for the rent you pay, or pay tax only for a part of it. This is not your business of course, but if you don't get some kind of receit for your payment, the owner's got a rental agreement and you've got nothing to prove that you've paid deposit or rent in cash. Professional way of doing that is signing to rental agreement, the owner getting the right one and you're getting one with a rental fee one zero less in it's amount... Every month you sign a paper "I've got the rent for month .... year ...., date and signature." This reduces the owners temptation to claim any time that you've not paid.
Do you think I'm exaggerating the situation?
What is the reason why you, exactly you may face these problems? Circa 50-70 thousand apartments are missing in the real estate market... A que is standing in front of the door of every apartment that is suitable for humans to live in, not to mention those ones in the center, or in a nice condition. The owner may choose from many lessors, and after missing 10 opportunities you become tired, and tend to overlook problems that I've listed above.
Some owners don't rent their flat to foreigners at all. If you've got a hungarian friend or a lawyer, it's better if he calls the owner first, to prepare the contact. If there is a sympathy in the beginning, it solves many obstacles. Most lessors choose their lessees emotionally, since they hand over their apartment, which was or will be once their homes. Any obstacle may be overcome through the right communication.
Finding a home, the safe place in a foreign country is difficult. Others are searching for answers and solutions just like you, so if you’ve got some personal experience or advice to share with us on the topic, don’t keep it for yourself, and thank you in advance…