If you’re still looking for the right place, read our guide on Getting a flat.
If you have found your flat or house, here we have listed some of the most important issues you should pay attention to when signing your lease.
You should, of course, be in a position to understand exactly what you sign. Any agency accustomed to dealing with foreigners should be able to provide you with a lease contract in both English and Czech version. Furthermore, check which of these versions actually have legal force should there be any questions as to interpretation – if English or Czech prevails.
Some agencies can also supply versions in other major international languages – always ask.
Pay attention especially to:
Ownership of the property
Only the owner (or an individual with the power of attorney to represent the owner) can lease a flat or house. Many flats in the Czech Republic are in fact owned by local authorities, and it is illegal to sublet these flats – however, people still do it. Make sure the person you’re dealing with is indeed the landlord, the owner of the property: get a free of charge extract from the online property register – the platform’s only in Czech, but the information is accessible for everyone. Ask your agent/a friend to help you out.
In order to apply for a long-term residence with the Immigration office, you will need to show them: an original copy of your lease (in Czech, no notarization of signature required) or a declaration by the owner (“Potvrzení o zajištění ubytování”), signed before a notary, that states s/he is indeed renting the property to you.
The Immigration office will check if your landlord is indeed the rightful owner of the property and if it is in their power to rent the property to you. If the Office finds anything lacking, they will reject your application. That’s why it is important to check the ownership in advance.
Rent and utilities
Rent is usually paid monthly, in advance.
Monthly energies/utilities (electricity, water, gas, services around the building) can be paid in two ways. Either you pay the cost of utilities together with your rent to your landlord; or you pay it separately to your energy providers. When looking at flat offers, always check if the offered price includes utilities or not.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both ways. Paying utilities together with your rent is considered more comfortable: it requires less paperwork when moving in or moving out, and it means only one monthly payment to one account. Although you pay in average monthly instalments, you will pay only for the energy that you actually use: the landlord will provide you with a calculation of your real consumption every year, and either refund you or ask you to pay an additional sum if you have used more than the average amount.
However, the energy providers send the calculation only once a year (usually in February/March). If you decide to leave the flat in, let’s say, September, landlords often withhold your deposit (or part of it) until the calculation comes in spring so they can potentially cover the extra charge from the deposit. It is not in their right to withhold your deposit for that long, but they often don’t know it or ignore the law, hoping you’ll be ignorant of it, too.
If you pay utilities straight to the energy providers, the paperwork at the start and at the end of your lease is a bit more difficult – you have to sign new contracts with the providers. However, your estate agent should help you arrange all of it. You will be then in full control of the payments.
The landlord usually decides which system they prefer. You can always open the discussion if you want to, though.
Usually, the lease also includes a provision for a security deposit. The deposit can equal up to three monthly rents, but more often it’s one or two months worth of rent. This is the landlord’s decision and not very often negotiable. If your deposit is high, you can try to ask to pay in two instalments – some landlords might be understanding.
Otherwise, the deposit is paid in full at the beginning of the tenancy and kept by the landlord to be returned at the end of the period of occupancy, unless some damage has been caused to the property. In this case, the landlord can retain part or all of the security deposit to cover the cost of repairing the damage. The law clearly states in which cases the landlord can deduct damages from your deposit: and it’s the landlord who always has to justify any deductions.
The security deposit is refundable. However, some landlords may include a provision stating that the deposit won’t be returned if you terminate the contract before a certain period of time has elapsed. Be aware of such clause.
We’ve written more about deposit refunds in an article by a lawyer and a real-estate agent: How to leave your flat and get your deposit back
Moving in and out
The lease, or (more often) a protocol attached to it, may contain a description of the state of the flat when you take the flat over, as well as its contents, the state of the utility metres, etc. The latter in particular is important. You should check that the figures listed in the protocol correspond to the numbers actually on the meters; otherwise, you might be in for a big surprise when the annual calculation of your consumption of electricity, water and gas is made. The same is true of the description of the flat; you do not want to be held responsible for the damage that had actually been caused before you started renting the place or be accused of stealing something that hadn’t been there in the first place.
Our recommendation is to take photos when you’re taking over the flat and then send them to your landlord’s email. Take pictures of the furniture that comes with the flat, as well as any imperfections (cracks in the walls, bigger scratches, etc) This way, you may avoid possible disagreements at the end of your stay.
The landlord should not charge anything for the normal “wear and tear”. However, it is advisable to clean the flat properly before you hand the flat over back to the landlord – you avoid an unpleasant goodbye or even possible deductions from your deposit.
The lease agreement usually sets the landlord’s requirements for the condition of the flat when you return it: some landlords require that you repaint the walls or that you will pay for repainting. Check for that before you sign.
Check out this list of expat-friendly services that might be of use to you when you’re moving out/in.
Termination of the lease
Most leases are signed for a period of one year. They may have a clause allowing the lease to be terminated early, in which case the notice period can vary from one to three months. Otherwise, Czech law states that in cases where you wish to break the lease early (or where no termination date has been specified, though this is uncommon, especially in leases for foreigners), you must give three months’ notice.
The notice period starts on the first day of the following month. For example, if you notify your landlord on the 20th of July, the notice period starts on the 1st of August, and you can move out on the 31st of October (if the notice period is 3 months).
If you absolutely have to move out earlier, your landlord might be more understanding if you find a replacement. Speak about that with them or with your agent.
Photo courtesy by Jiří Lubojacký.