Advice for foreigners looking to rent a home in Bulgaria
You have just arrived in Sofia and are looking for your new home?
Sofiarent.bg gives you some advice on what to expect:
Most properties on the real estate market are for long term (1 year) contract
It is difficult to find a place for just a few months as most landlords here are looking for long term tenants. The agency listings on the portals would almost always require a 1 year contract.
The good news is that contracts can be easily terminated in Bulgaria – you just need to give a 1 month notice. In some cases this would mean that you will lose the security deposit (usually 1 month-lease), but that may still be cheaper than a short-term option (if you find any).
You must make it clear you will need address registration
Even though most owners want as long a contract as possible they are reluctant to help you with address registration.
If you require this, you must make it clear before signing the contract.
Probably half of the ads you see on Bulgarian websites are fake
There are no rules and regulations for realtors in Bulgaria. Anybody can start an agency with zero experience and expertise. They usually attract their first clients by posting fake ads at low prices.
When you call these ads they will tell you this particular apartment was just taken but they can offer you some other properties. Needless to say these other properties will either be terrible (if at the same price) or much more expensive.
Apartments are furnished with the basics
Things like plates, cups, sheets, vacuum cleaners are not usually provided by the landlord.
Unless you are taking a ‘luxury rental’ the furniture will be really basic. A sofa and a small IKEA table is often all there is in the living room. One small wardrobe in the bedroom, nothing in the corridor.
You only need your ID card to sign the contract. No paperwork.
The contract will usually be for a duration of 1 year. 1 month notice for terminating will be required. The security deposit is usually 1 month rent, but in some cases 2 rents are required as a lot of owners think one rent would not compensate them in cases where the tenant left early, did not give notice, damaged something and/or left unpaid bills.
The typical agency fee is 50% of the rent.
A few agencies charge 75% and 100%. This is not typical but is also not illegal – there are no laws about this. This usually happens when a landlord is not paying any commission. But why would a broker work for a landlord who is not paying? As we already said anybody can become a broker here. We already explained how they find clients among the people searching for properties. But how do they attract a listing? They just go to a landlord and say they will work for them for free and only charge other side. If they are given the listing exclusively (no other brokers allow to offer it) they can allow themselves to charge more than typical from the tenant.
The utilities are usually not included in the rent. You pay them directly to the utility companies but you do not need to make any contracts on your name. The bills will continue to arrive on the name of the property owner.
The only exception is internet and TV. For these services in the majority of cases you will need to sign your own contract.
If your apartment has central heating it might be difficult to calculate your bills precisely. The Central heating company sends monthly bills according to average consumption for the previous year and does an adjustment once a year. If you move out before this adjustment, then calculating your spending may be difficult and this is often an object of arguments between landlord and tenants.
There will be some charges for the maintenance of the building. If you chose an old building these charges will be really small (up to 10 BGN). They tend to me higher in new buildings, especially if there is security/janitor.
They expect your rent to start immediately
Even though landlords want you to give 1 month notice before terminating a contract, they all expect you to rent their property immediately. You should be ready to sign a contract with a starting date of a week from the viewing, 2 weeks if you are lucky.