dTest: What to look out for when renting an apartment - Independent tests, more than just reviews
Many tenants are satisfied that when negotiating a lease through a real estate agency, they only sign the submitted lease agreement and do not have to worry about anything else. However, even here it is true that the contract must be carefully studied before signing. In addition, some tenants, when reading the contract, focus mainly on rent payments and services related to the use of the apartment. They do not pay attention to other provisions. Thus, provisions may remain in the contract, compliance with which may be impractical and problematic for the tenant.
In rental agreements, our consumer counseling center encounters, for example, a ban on breeding dogs, cats or other pets, a ban on smoking, restrictions on business or the impossibility of registering permanent residence in a rented apartment. However, the tenant does not have to comply with such prohibitions, because according to the Civil Code it cannot be restricted in this way.
However, from 1 July 2020, it is possible for the tenant to be required to pay a contractual penalty for breach of his obligations, in compliance with the restrictions imposed by the Civil Code. First of all, this is an explicit limit when the amount of the contractual penalty may not exceed three times the monthly rent in combination with the served deposit. Furthermore, the contractual penalty must also not be disproportionate. Even if the legal limit for its amount is observed in the given case, the tenant does not have to pay it if it is not proportionate due to the breach of his obligations. Adequacy is always assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The tenancy agreement should also clearly define what services the tenant provides for the tenant and what the tenant will provide himself. Unless otherwise stipulated in the contract, the lessor provides the so-called necessary services. These include, in particular, water supply, removal and drainage of wastewater, including cleaning of reservoirs, heat supply, removal of municipal waste, lighting and cleaning of common parts of the house, ensuring radio and television reception, operation and cleaning of chimneys, or elevator operation.
Some services can be provided directly to the tenant, typically in the case of energy supply and internet connection. This can be advantageous both from the tenant's point of view and from the landlord's point of view. The lessee may be more motivated than the lessor to enter into a more financially advantageous contract for the supply of services. On the contrary, thanks to the delivery of services to the tenant, the landlord will be worried about any debts that would remain after the tenant.
In practice, there are also disputes over whether this is a service for which the tenant has to pay in the apartment or house. The most well-known issue is the contribution to the repair fund, which the lessor cannot claim from the lessee because it is not a service from which the lessee would benefit immediately.
It is also important to hand over the apartment to the tenant. The condition of the apartment at the beginning of the rental relationship is compared with the condition at the end. By writing a protocol when taking over the apartment from the landlord, it is possible to prevent possible future disputes about who and when damaged the floor, tiling, kitchen unit or broke the sink in the bathroom. The handover protocol should be supplemented with photographs or video recordings. You should not omit or record meter readings for any energy or water bills.
The tenant should also take into account that renting an apartment agreed for a definite period has its pitfalls. If the tenant wants to stay in the apartment even after the agreed period, the landlord can increase his rent. He concludes a new contract with the tenant and it may have changed conditions, including higher rent. In addition, the limits for a unilateral rent increase set by the Civil Code apply only to rent agreed for an indefinite period. People are often surprised that the landlord presented them with a new contract with increased rent after the agreed period. This is especially unpleasant in a situation where they have invested in the reconstruction of the apartment, but have not agreed with the landlord to cover the costs. If they do not agree to the increased rents, they will have to leave the apartment and the costs of reconstruction may not always be reimbursed to them.