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Rental agreements: giving notice and renewing the contract

There are four recognised durations for rental contracts in Belgium. Mutual agreement to end a contract before it’s up is always possible without any penalties needing to be paid, but it does need to be mutual, and it’s advised to get it in writing. But if no mutual agreement is found then this post explains where you stand legally when notice is given, depending on how long your contract is.

How long can a contract be?

There are 4 recognised durations:

  1. 9 years (the most common). Any duration between 3 and 9 years is still recognised as a 9 year contract. More on breaking, ending and extending these kinds of contracts below.
  2. 3 years or less (known as a ‘short’ duration). More on breaking, ending and extending these kinds of contracts below.
  3. More than 9 years (known as a ‘long’ duration). In terms of breaking, ending and extending, these contracts follow the same rules as 9 year contracts.
  4. For the lifetime of the tenant (known as a ‘lifetime’ duration). As you may guess, these contracts end when the tenant passes away. The tenant cannot end the contract early, unless stated in the contract. The landlord can, but must provide 3 months’ notice.

Nine year contracts

  • If either the tenant or the landlord doesn’t want the contract to be extended beyond 9 years, they still need to give notice no later than 6 months before the end of the 9 years.
  • If no notice is given, the contract is automatically extended by 3 years at a time. 6 months before each 3 years is up, the landlord and tenant have the right to conclude the contract again.
  • During the 9 years, the tenant has the right to end the contract, without needing to give a reason. They need to provide written notice, 3 months before they will leave. But there is a penalty to pay if you leave within the first 3 years. The tenant needs to pay 3 months’ rent within the first year; 2 months within the second year and 1 month within the third year. This penalty does not legally need to be paid at the same time as notice is given. Instead this is sorted out during the moving out process.

Can a landlord give notice on a nine-year contract?

During the 9 years the landlord has the right to end the contract. But depending on the circumstances, the tenant is entitled to different things.

They (or an extended family member) are going to live in the property

  1. The landlord needs to provide written notice of this 6 months in advance. The written notice needs to contain the reason and the personal details of who will be moving in.
  2. ‘3rd line’ family members (uncles, aunts, and some others) are excluded from this option in the first 3 years of a 9 year contract.
  3. As the tenant, you are allowed to ask to see proof of the relationship in order to accept the notice.
  4. Assuming the landlord has met the requirements, the tenant has to move out before the end of the notice period. The tenant cannot claim any compensation.
  5. If the tenant can later prove the following, they can claim compensation of 18 months rent from the landlord:
    1. That the family member hasn’t moved in within 1 year of the acceptance of the notice
    2. Or that they haven’t stayed for at least 2 years
    3. AND the landlord cannot prove any extenuating circumstances

Work is going to be carried out on the property

  1. This can only happen at one of the 3 year points in the 9 year contract
  2. And only if written notice is given 6 months in advance
  3. Written notice must include the motive, and 4 other things:
    1. Proof of the work to be carried out
    2. Confirmation that the works have been approved (where legally required)
    3. That the works make the property uninhabitable for the tenant, i.e. work on the garden or facade are not a reason to end the contract
    4. That the cost of the works is more than 3 years of rent
  4. Assuming the landlord has met the requirements, the tenant has to move out before the end of the notice period. The tenant cannot claim any compensation.
  5. If the tenant can later prove the following, they can claim 18 months rent from the landlord:
    1. That work has not started within 6 months
    2. Or that work has not finished by 24 months of the acceptance of the notice
    3. AND the landlord cannot prove any extenuating circumstances

Just because they want to break the contract

  1. This can only be done after either the 1st or 2nd 3 year period
  2. Written notice needs to be given 6 months in advance
  3. The landlord needs to pay the tenant 9 months’ rent (after the 1st 3 year period) or 6 months’ rent (after the 2nd 3 year period)

Note that if the landlord gives notice of the end of the contract in one of these 3 ways, and within the first 3 years, the tenant can give a counter-notice of one month. This means that the tenant can leave the property within one month, without having to make any further rental payments, and without paying any penalty.

Contracts of 3 years or less

  • So-called ‘short’ contracts can be renewed (same conditions, same rental price), but not for a total period of more than 3 years.
  • When they are renewed they can have a different short-term duration. E.g. a one year contract can be renewed for 2 years, but not more than 2 (as this would be more than 3)
  • They can only be renewed once within that 3-year period
  • Neither the landlord nor the tenant can end a short-term contract early. Unless there is an agreement on how to do this set out in the contract
  • If either the tenant or the landlord doesn’t want the contract to be extended beyond the original duration, they still need to give notice no later than 3 months before the end of the contract.
  • In the event that no notice is given 3 months before the end of the contract, or if the tenant just continues to live at the property, the contract is not automatically renewed. Instead it is extended and the contract retrospectively becomes a 9 year contract. If the contract claims that there is a different automatic extension, this has no legal value.

Good to know

  • No contract can be terminated in any other way because the other party hasn’t kept to the contract (e.g. if the tenant hasn’t paid rent). The only way a contract can be ended under these circumstances is by a legal process.
  • If you are married, your written notice to end the contract must be signed by both parties.
  • The notice period begins on the first day of the month following the month in which written notice was given.
  • Without wanting to end on a downer, if either the landlord or the tenant dies during a non-lifetime contract, their heirs inherit the contract. They must see it out according to the same legal requirements as the original landlord/tenant.

Author: Heather Sills

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.

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19 thoughts on “Rental agreements: giving notice and renewing the contract

  1. Hi Heather! I have some questions on terminating short term rental contracts when leaving the country, wondering if we could chat via email if you know the extra info. Hope to hear back, thanks!

  2. Hello,
    can you pls inform me on the following. I left earlier without notice the room I rented for ten months in an old heren house basically because it was dirty and had health problems. The landlady demands apart from the guarantee to pay her for the period it was left unrented (thankfully a small period). Is her demand legal ?

    1. Hi Sara

      It would help to know a bit more about your circumstances: How long was your contract and in which month did you leave? Was there anything in your contract to say how you could leave it early and what the conditions of that would be?

      I’m afraid that if it was a one-year contract and you left without notice after 10 months (and there was nothing in the contract about being allowed to terminate it early), then the landlady is legally entitled to ask you to pay out the rest of the rent.

  3. Hello Heather, we are in our 10th year of rental and have given 3 months notice to our owner to leave our apartment. However he claims that since our 9 years lease is over, and auto renewed to a 3 years lease, we also have to pay 1 month of indemnity. We found it strange as the contract is automatically extended for 3 years after the 9 years lease with same conditions, which means we are not in the first 3 years of lease. Could you advice us please? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jaymy

      Indeed, when a 9 year contract hits the 9 year point, it just gets extended (but for 3 years at a time) under the same conditions. If you would have quit in the years 4-9, you would have had to pay 1 month as a penalty, and therefore the same goes after the 9 years. You don’t need to pay it immediately though, so you shouldn’t be legally obliged to pay it until you actually move out.

      Good luck!

      1. Hello Heather, thanks for your reply. Normally if we quit between 4-9 years, we do not need to pay 1 month penalty, only require to give 3 months notice. Is that correct?

        1. Hi Jaymy

          Sorry for the late reply. I think you’re best off contacting the Huurdersbond because everything also depends a lot on what was written in your contract. There can always be a clause that contradicts the standard law.

        2. Hi Jaymy. I am having the same issue as the one you describe. I just entered my 10th year and just gave notice to my landlord who is asking me for 3 months notice (which I understand) PLUS 3 months of penalty as if the 10th year is the same as the 1st year! How did your story go? Did you have to pay penalty in the end?

          Thanks in advance

  4. Hi, please assist. My daughter is in Leuven and have a 9 year lease agreement. The owner is now selling the apartment and it seems the new owners want to occupy the apartment themselves. What to do?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Hannelie,

      The new owners are obliged to take over the same contract that your daughter signed with the previous owners. So that contract still applies. If they want to move into the property, then they have to do it in a certain way. It’s probably worth you having a read of the section ‘They (or an extended family member) are going to live in the property’ above to find out how much notice they have to give your daughter, and how it has to be communicated to be legal.

      Good luck!


  5. Hi Heather,

    I have a short-term contract of one year. However, there is a clause in the contract that says that I need to pay a fee of one/two month’s rent if I move out within a three year period. This is not logical, considering the agreed tenancy period is one year. Unfortunately, I had only noticed this clause after signing the contract…

    Is this legal, and is there anything I can do about this? I would greatly appreciate your advice on this! Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi, it sounds like they used to have a 3 year contract and then changed it (possibly for you) to 1 year, but then didn’t update the terms… It’s probably best to just query it and ask what the terms are if you wanted to leave before the end of the 12 months. However, you should be aware that the law changed in January 2019: On this page you will see ‘Bij huurcontracten van 3 jaar of minder’ and under this it says that the tenant can break a contract of less than 3 years if they a) give 3 months notice and b) pay 1.5 month’s rent (for a 12-month contract). So, legally, you would have to pay 1.5 months. But a landlord can always come up with more lenient terms if they want…so it’s worth asking.

      Good luck!

  6. Dear all , I have 3 yrs contract and old owner sold apartment and new owner want to move , I got the notice . Is there any damage I can claim from landlord . I am in 3 rd year of lease , 11 month to go and landlord broke the lease . Please help .

    1. Hi Asma,

      Because it’s a 3-year (short) contract, this is not something that the landlord can do. Essentially the new owner takes over the contract that the old one had with you. BUT, there may always be a clause in your contract that expressly allowed this, so I would first recommend checking this. If you don’t think that’s the case, you can get in touch with the Huurdersbond!3909 for specific support.

      Good luck!

  7. Hi, I have a renter in my place in Belgium, she has been there for over a year, still hasn’t paid the bond and has been late on a few monthly rental payments and my neighbours said she has broken a few things in the house and they have seen removal trucks.. what are my rights? As a landlord can I do a house inspection? If she moves out without telling me and I can no longer find her? How does she pay rent? Why can’t I evict her?

    1. Hi Jasmine,

      This sounds like a difficult situation. A lot will depend on what was in the contract, the duration of the contract that she signed, and when she signed it. It also depends on whether your ultimate goal is to get your tenant to leave (in addition to paying the money owed). Have you tried seeking specific legal advice for your case? Or reaching out to the

  8. Dear,
    We have the situation:
    We move in to the apartment. We pay two month warranty and insurance + first month rent . Then owner change his mind ( before sign the contract).and ask us to move out in one month .
    What can we do and how to protect us . Because moving company cost a lot of money .
    Thank you for your help

  9. Hello! Please help us🙏🏻

    I moved with my boyfriend in an apartment for 6 months (May 1 – October 31). Then we extended the contract for another 6 months (October 31 – April 30). We are in March and we didn’t give 3-month notice but they always knew we wanted to leave at the end of April. We contacted the landlord to ask if we could extend the contract for 2 more months, but she said that it’s already been extended for 9 years. We can’t stay, we’re students and want to go to another country to do our masters. We don’t have salaries high enough to pay for 3 months compensation. What can we do???

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