If you’re still looking for the right place, read our guide on Getting a flat.
If you’ve found your flat or house, here you have some of the issues you should pay attention to.
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 an English and a Czech version (the latter having legal force should there be any question as to interpretation). Many can also supply versions in other major international languages.
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. However, many flats in the Czech Republic are in fact owned by local authorities, and it is illegal to sublet these flats. Only an extract from the property register ensures that you are renting a flat legally.
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 public – 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 and prove the ownership in advance.
Rent and utilities
Rent is usually paid monthly, in advance.
Monthly rents may be paid in two ways. In the first case, you pay rent to your landlord and the cost of utilities (electricity, water, gas) to your energy providers. The second option is to pay both (rent and the utilities) to your landlord. When looking at flat offers, always check if the offered price includes utilities or not.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. 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 use 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, the landlord can withhold your deposit (or part of it) until the calculation comes in spring so he can potentially cover the extra charge from the deposit. Not many landlords do so but they are in their rights if they so choose.
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. 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 or they are used to with previous tenants. 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 months 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 and wait for the deposit.
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 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 refund in this 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, its contents, the state of the utility metres, etc. The latter in particular is important. You should check that the figures listed for the metres correspond to the reality; 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 was actually caused before you started renting the place or be accused of having made off with something that was not there in the first place.
Our recommendation is to take photos when you are 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 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 take over. The lease agreement can set the landlord’s requirements for the state of the flat when you return it: some landlords require that you repaint 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.
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 by Jiří Lubojacký.