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Rental agreements: the plaatsbeschrijving

Plaatsbeschrijving literally means ‘place description’ and – although it sounds simple – it can cause a lot of confusion for expats moving to Ghent, probably because it’s not that common in other countries. Here’s a basic overview of how the plaatsbeschrijving system (a legal requirement when renting a property) works in Belgium.

Moving in

  • A plaatsbeschrijving can be created by either the tenant or the landlord themselves, or can be outsourced to a 3rd party company. In reality most landlords pick a 3rd party company and either the landlord or the company will contact the tenant to arrange a date when they and the tenant can visit the place.
  • Here are some examples of 3rd party companies: Huis-Raad, AB-Solid, Expertschatter
  • It can only be created while the rooms of the property that are going to be rented are unoccupied (i.e. before the tenant moves in), or within 1 month of the tenant moving in.
  • It is supposed to be created in the presence of the tenant and landlord, or their representatives, but often a landlord decides that the 3rd party company are their representative.
  • The resulting document must be detailed. I.e. this kind of paragraph isn’t enough: ‘The property is in good condition and well maintained and both parties recognise this’. Often it also includes photos.
  • The resulting document must be signed and dated by both parties. Each party also gets a copy.
  • If either party refuses to go through this process, the other party can call on the justice of the peace to have them comply.
  • Most 3rd party companies have a ‘grace’ period where the tenant can have the plaatsbeschrijving tweaked if they spot something up to a month after moving in.

Moving out

  • Pretty much the same process that took place when the tenant moved in takes place again after they move out. The 3rd party company is now looking for deviations from the first plaatsbeschrijving that was made.
  • If no description was created at the start of the tenancy, then at the end of the tenancy, the tenant cannot be held legally or financially accountable for any damage, as it cannot be proven that it wasn’t already there when the contract started. Exception – the landlord can prove that the damage was caused by the tenant, the tenant’s family or a subtenant. As you can imagine, this is pretty hard to prove, so that’s why most landlords make sure a plaatsbeschrijving is created at the start.
  • If damage occurs that wasn’t recorded in the original description, at the end of the tenancy the tenant is legally obliged to repair the damage and bear the costs of that. Damage caused by age, force majeure (e.g. a natural event like flooding) or just ‘wear and tear’ is exempt.

Costs of a 3rd party plaatsbeschrijving

  • Assuming a 3rd party is used, the landlord and the tenant are legally bound to equally share (50:50) the costs of this service, both at the moving in, and at the moving out.
  • Each service costs around 300 euros, so a tenant would be expected to pay around 150 euros when moving in, and 150 when moving out. However, the price depends on the size of the property, number of rooms, types of rooms, etc.
  • In addition, each party can bring an additional expert along to the meetings, but they then bear the costs of that entirely themselves.

Note: While we have done our best to make sure this information is accurate, rules and regulations change and each individual situation might be different, so it is always a good idea to check with appropriate authorities for the latest information. Consequently, the authors do not assume any responsibility or liability for any issues or damages stemming from the use of the information found on this website.

Last updated: July, 2018

Heather
Heather is a language and travel geek at heart, having gotten the bug for it while studying German and Italian in her home country, England. After managing hotel content for a start-up in Berlin, being an Erasmus student in Bologna and writing for Frommer's travel guides while in London, she moved to Gent in 2015 for a year. Still here, Gent must have been doing something right! She's now determined to help other newbie expats settle in and build a great life here in this beautiful city. If you'd like to get in touch, send an email to heather@thesquare.gent

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