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Finding a house/apartment to rent

This is a picture of a rental agreement and a key

Before you’ve even arrived, your top concern will probably be where you are going to live. If you don’t have a lot of time to find an apartment to rent yourself, or you just need some help, you may want to use the services of a relocation company, for example Relocation Belgium. They are specialised in moving people to Belgium and will take care of everything for you (finding a place to live and beyond). But if you choose to make a move to Ghent independently, then this page covers where to look for a place to live, as well as what costs and steps are involved.

Realo

  • Realo is the website (and app) to use if you’re looking to rent your own place (not shared) for one year+.
  • It is an independent company with an English version that lists properties by all the main estate agents so you don’t have to sign up with each one individually.
  • It has an AirBnB style to it with properties for rent clearly plotted on a map. This is useful when you don’t know any street names. Most property descriptions also feature info on what the neighbourhood is like for schools, getting around etc.
  • The search and save functionality allows you to be very specific about what you want to rent. Daily alerts will tell you when new items are posted so you don’t have to start again each day.
  • You can use the Realo messaging system to get in touch with estate agents if you’d rather not pick up the phone.
  • Immoweb is an alternative website to use. It’s Belgium’s largest property website and also has an English version.
  • For a two bedroom apartment in the city centre you can expect to pay something in the range of €600-900/month for rent. This would exclude bills for water, gas, electricity and communal ‘syndicus’ costs for hallway cleaning, lift repairs etc.

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Short-term and sharing

  • If you know you will only be in Ghent for a short period of time (less than a year), and/or you are keen to share with other people to keep costs down and make new friends, there are three good Facebook groups to join:
  • A lot of the posts in these groups are made in English and many houseshares are a mix of people from all over the world.
  • The Samenhuizen website is also a good place to look for houseshare ads, but it is currently only available in Dutch.
  • Sharing is the cheapest rent option. You can expect to pay anything from as little as €250/month for a room (bills excluded).

Serviced apartments

  • If you will be in Ghent for just a few months or you’re looking for somewhere to get started, you might be best off trying to rent a serviced apartment.
  • The Furnished Apartments Gent website has a list of all the main options.
  • Note that this is generally the most expensive option because your apartment will have everything you need (bedding, kitchenware, towels etc).
  • Sometimes the prices of these properties also include services like cleaning and laundry. Sometimes it’s charged extra, so make sure you know which costs are compulsory before you make a commitment.
  • If these options are too expensive, many AirBnB landlords will offer a reduced price if you stay a month+.
  • Zebrastraat also offers over 100 apartments in 3 different buildings at the same location. All the apartments can be rented unfurnished from 3 months onwards and furnished from 6 months onwards.

Contracts

For more detailed information about rental contracts in Belgium, see our dedicated post here. Most short-term rental contracts in Belgium are for three-nine years. Long-term rental contracts are nine years+. With the short-term contracts there is often a fairly hefty break clause. If you leave within the first year you lose three months of rent, in the second year it’s two months and in the third year one month. If you don’t want to risk these ‘penalties’, then ask what the terms are before you even see the apartment. Or ask outright if the landlord will accept a shorter term contract. This website contains links to some sample contracts.

Furnished/Unfurnished

  • Most apartments/houses in Ghent are unfurnished. They also often do not include a fridge, freezer or washing machine. The places that are furnished tend to be completely furnished (including kitchenware like plates and cutlery). Because of this they are more expensive.
  • It’s common to choose an unfurnished place even if you’re only staying for one year. And then of course pay a visit to IKEA which you can get to on tram line 1.
  • At the end of the year, you can resell everything you’ve bought. As there are always students coming and going, there is a healthy market for second hand goods in Ghent. Try the Facebook group Second Hand Market GENT, where most posts tend to be in English. Or the Belgian 2dehands (literally: second hand) website (Dutch and French).
  • Belgian charity shops, known as kringloopwinkels, will also take donations and come and collect larger, unwanted items.
  • Note that it is almost impossible to find a furnished apartment which welcomes pets in Ghent.

Rent process and costs

  • Viewing apartments doesn’t move too fast. Often you will be keen to see a place quickly but the landlord/estate agent won’t offer you an appointment until one-two weeks later.
  • It gets busy in the summer as students start to look for places to live for the following academic year.
  • After you’ve registered your interest, you’ll probably have to provide pay cheques (from any country) for the last three months.
  • You should not be asked to put down a holding deposit or pay any estate agents fees/pay cash up front.
  • At this point an offer will be either accepted or declined by the landlord. Note that it is not the ‘done thing’ to haggle when renting in Belgium.
  • Once you’re happy with the terms, you’ll pay a deposit of around 6-8 weeks rent. Normally (and unlike other countries) this will be paid to a middle company, for example Korfina, or a separate bank account. They will hold your money (not the landlord or estate agent) until the end of your rental agreement. At this point both parties have to fill out a form so that the money is released back to you.
  • One cost that you won’t get back when renting in Belgium is for a plaatsbeschrijving. This is where a 3rd party company reviews the property before you move in, and documents the condition of it. You and the landlord/estate agent will both receive a copy. It’s used in case there is any dispute about damage to the property at the end of your tenancy. This service costs around €300 (which is split equally between the landlord and tenant), and the landlord/estate agent tends to choose the provider.

Domicilie

  • You’ll become very familiar with the term domicilie before long in Ghent. It refers to your legally registered address. You will need to work out if you need or do not need to take domicilie before you see a property. This is because a landlord will make it either optional, compulsory or banned.
  • Once you have moved in, and if you are taking domicilie there, you will need to provide your address to city hall. This is so they can register this as your official address in Belgium. The registering involves a police officer calling round to the property at a random date and time to verify that you are actually living there. It is quite normal for this to take months as they often visit during working hours. If they keep missing you, you may be left a card to ask you to be in at a certain time. It is best to take the time off work to get this sorted.

Note: the information on this page is based on the information found on official government and local websites, and on the experience of the authors. While we have done our best to make sure it 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.

Last updated: April, 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

2 thoughts on “Finding a house/apartment to rent

  1. The problem is trying to find somewhere that you can rent for 6 months. People in the chats tend to try and rent for over 6 months almost all of the people rent for a year only.

    1. Hi Roman, indeed, short-term lets in Ghent (and in Belgium generally) are not common. In fact 3-year contracts are the most common. We’re adding some more info to our website about contracts, which you might find interesting. You can read more here.

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