How to rent an apartment safely? 8 things every renter must remember in 2023

Suspicious advances, deficiencies in the apartment rental contract, ambiguities on very important issues – these are just some of the problems you may encounter. How to rent an apartment safely and how to protect yourself from potential fraud ? In our guide we described the issues that every renter should keep in mind.

After many hours spent looking for an apartment, you finally found the perfect offer, and the owner is willing to rent to you ? There is much to be happy about! However, before you go for a viewing, think about some important points about renting an apartment. Our advice will help you make the right decision, make sure you protect your rights and avoid problems in the future.

What should a safe apartment rental agreement contain?

We will help you keep everything in mind during the process of renting M. Download our practical check-list for tenants!

  • ask for a list of accounts 

Obtain from your landlord a list of paid and (if any) unpaid charges from the past months. This way you will avoid having to pay the previous tenant’s bills. The tenant pays utilities and other fees only for the period during which he rented the apartment (also after the end of the lease, if he comes to the landlord billing for the rental time).

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  • draw up a protocol of handover and acceptance 

“Please don’t worry about it, I’ll certainly remember what was in what condition” – don’t be put off by such words! Some landlords avoid making a handover protocol of the apartment in order to later collect money from the deposit for the damage that was already there.

Write down the state of the meters and carefully inspect the apartment and the equipment stored in it for any damage, even the smallest (bruised walls, scratched frames, damaged pipes, etc.), and make sure that the owner writes them in the protocol. Photographs of the condition of the apartment prior to the start of the rental will also be useful, which should dispel any ambiguities when returning the deposit. Along with the acceptance protocol, attach them to the contract.

The protocol is also made when the tenant empties the premises, that is, on the day the contract ends. The landlord should be present when the tenant moves out and picks up the apartment. Failure to have him present may give him an avenue for claims against the condition of the property left behind.

  • how to rent an apartment safely? Conduct a community interview 

Before signing a contract, it’s a good idea to talk to your neighbors. Ask them how long the previous tenants lived here (and if they moved out quickly – what prompted them to do so), how they rate the building and the immediate neighborhood, and what they think of other residents.

A short tour of the neighborhood is also not a bad idea. This way you’ll check, among other things, whether the immediate neighborhood is littered (this gives you some idea of the surrounding residents) and whether there is somewhere to do some quick shopping.

This is really valuable advice for renting an apartment. Environmental intelligence can be time-consuming, but it can save you from unpleasant surprises related to, for example, noisy neighbors (or silence lovers who react nervously to even the quietest murmur – especially in blocks of flats), frequent renovations or a dilapidated building. In this way, you will complete the information that the landlord may have omitted.

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  • determine the length of the notice period 

The contract can be terminated by both the apartment owner and the tenant. However, setting the length of the notice period is by far the most important for the latter party – after all, you definitely want to avoid having to leave the apartment overnight. So make sure that the contract includes a provision for a one-month notice period. In the case of a contract for an indefinite period, i.e. one that does not indicate an expiration date, the termination can take place under the terms of the contract. If no such provisions are included, the statutory notice periods from Article 673 § 2 of the Civil Code apply:

    with one month’s notice at the end of the calendar month – with rent payable monthly;

    with three months’ notice at the end of a calendar quarter – for rent payable at intervals longer than one month;

    three days in advance – if rent is payable at shorter intervals;

    one day in advance – in a daily lease.

Termination of a contract concluded for a fixed term may be made on the initiative of both parties, at the time and under the conditions specified in the contract. In special cases, the contract can be terminated immediately, without notice.

Recall that according to the Law on the Protection of Tenants’ Rights, a landlord may terminate a tenant’s contract when:

    the tenant uses the premises in a manner contrary to the housing contract, allows damage to the apartment or regularly disturbs other residents;

    the tenant defaults in the payment of rent and other charges for at least two months despite having been warned in writing about the intention to terminate the agreement and given an additional one-month period to pay overdue and current dues;

    the tenant has rented, sublet or given for free use the premises or part thereof without the required written consent of the owner.

Some tenants also add a provision to their contracts to terminate the contract immediately in specific, described situations. If you are an honest tenant, don’t worry and try to understand the landlord, who protects his rights and the property in this way.

If you can’t come to an agreement with the landlord regarding the termination period of the lease, ask for permission to sublet, and an appropriate provision informing about it should be written in the contract. Subletting gives you a wider window of opportunity in case you want to move out sooner than the lease provides.

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  • Read the rental agreement 

How to rent an apartment safely? By reading the contract carefully! Although it may seem strange, a sizable number of tenants skip this step, contenting themselves with the ready-made templates from the Internet given to them.

What should an apartment rental agreement contain? First of all:

    personal data of the owner and tenant – name, surname, date and place of birth, residential address, ID card numbers and PESEL;

    information about the apartment being rented – address and area;

    arrangements for the notice period and rules for resignation from the apartment;

    the amount of monthly fees (with a calculation of what exactly they consist of), the agreed payment date and the landlord’s account number to which the money will be transferred;

    provisions on the deposit – its amount and the rules for its return;

    attachments (e.g., handover protocol, photos of the apartment).

  • ask about the possibility of making changes to the apartment 

Arrange with the landlord such issues as hammering nails into the wall, repainting the apartment or moving furniture out. Some landlords are happy when tenants offer to help arrange the apartment – especially for units with a lot of old furniture. A sizable portion, however, do not wish any modifications.

If you see arranging potential in the apartment, before signing the contract, make a guess as to which group the landlord belongs to. Maybe you can share the costs?

As a tenant, you have the right to make minor changes to the apartment without the consent of the owner, such as hanging a mirror, a painting or a shelf, but you must be aware of the need to restore the apartment to the condition in which you received it, when you vacate it. So it will be your responsibility to fill in nail holes and even repaint the wall.

Any repairs on the landlord’s part and improvements to the apartment are worth arranging with the landlord. Perhaps the landlord will decide to entrust you (with your consent) with the repairs and will reduce the rent by the agreed value. However, remember to write down any provisions on this issue (including the method of settlement) in the contract, or as an annex to the existing lease agreement.

  • take care of moral issues 

This is one piece of advice about renting an apartment that many tenants and landlords seem to forget. While it may seem strange on the surface, it’s worth taking care to agree with your landlord on such details as rules for receiving guests, keeping pets, or hosting family and friends for the night. These types should also be in the contract to avoid future problems and ambiguities related to customs issues.

Of course, an occasional overnight guest in the apartment does not require the landlord’s permission, but a regular, for example, weekend stay of a college friend does.

Also, don’t forget to talk to your landlord about his possible visits. Agree on rules and dates for visits. Remember that while he is obviously entitled to have a second pair of keys, he should not enter the apartment in your absence. Such unarranged visits are trespassing and a violation of the home, according to Article 193 of the Penal Code.

  • how to rent an apartment safely? Avoid fees without a contract 

Don’t get caught up in apartment down payments, reservations and transfers after inspections, and other fees not covered by the apartment rental contract. Remember: you are not obliged to pay any money before signing the contract. The landlord may condition the conclusion of the rental agreement on the payment of a deposit, the law allows him to do so.

The deposit should be paid at the time the agreement between the parties is signed. The deposit is not collected at any other time and is not divided into installments.

The deposit is a sum of money deposited as a guarantee of compliance with the obligation, but it is also a source of compensation in case of non-compliance with the agreement. This fee cannot exceed the sum of twelve monthly rents for the premises in question, or six in the case of an occasional rental agreement. It is a payment that is refundable within a month from the date the tenant vacates the premises – in whole or in part – depending on the technical condition of the apartment being vacated. Of course, obsolescence and changes in the premises resulting from its natural use are not grounds for reducing the deposit. On the other hand, it is difficult to define “normal wear and tear of the apartment.” But obvious damage to the apartment is a rationale for using the security deposit for its repair, and thus reducing it or using it in its entirety. The provision for a deposit is not mandatory, and depends on the agreement of the parties to the contract.

If there is a provision for a deposit in the contract, it can be specified with the claims it will cover and the order in which they will be fulfilled. According to the regulations, such claims may include:

    unpaid rent and bills for individual consumption of utilities;

    compensation for damage and destruction of the premises, due to the fault of the tenant, but not resulting from the natural use of the apartment.

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