Find and rent a flat in Bulgaria: Things to know

Things to bear in mind when you rent a flat

You have just moved to Bulgaria or you are planning to do so? I guess the apartment hunt has already started for you. If you want to rent a flat in Bulgaria, there are (at least) 10 things you should know or do before and when you sign the rental agreement.

1. Pros and cons of finding a flat online.

Searching online definitely makes things easy and is a huge plus when you want to rent a flat before you arrive in Bulgaria. However, some ads that are available online (posted by random people or estate agents) might be outdated. Hence, do not rush into signing an agreement or paying something. Especially if the deal looks (too) good (to be true). We recommend asking people who already live in Bulgaria for trustworthy estate agencies that post reliable and nice offers.

Also, Photoshop (and even Paint) can do miracles – pictures of flats that are available online sometimes do not always show how the apartment really looks like. Edits in the light balance or simply lack of pictures of the entrance of the building/the area around the flat might later make you regret taking the apartment. Thus, we recommend asking a local to check out the area/building for you or simply finding a flat after you arrive in Bulgaria. This way you will be able to decide for yourself whether this flat is a good choice and is worth the price.

2. Estate agents and their fees.

Unfortunately, it is rather hard to find a flat without using the services of an estate agent. Estate agents in different cities will charge you differently – their agency fees are usually between 50% and 100% of one month rent (of the flat that you have decided to take). The fee must be only one time fee – later you do not have any obligations towards the estate agent. However, it is good to keep in touch if some problems occur in the future. We advise you to discuss in advance with the estate agent what their fee includes – some might offer to show you the apartment via live chat, pick you up from the airport or simply be more helpful than other estate agents. Do not pay any estate agent fees before seeing the actual tenancy agreement – if you pay them and you later do not agree with some of the clauses in the tenancy agreement, it is very likely that you will not receive your money back. Lastly, always ask for a receipt when paying them the fee.

3. The rental agreement must be translated in English language.

If you do not speak Bulgarian language, ask the landlord for a contract that has English translation on the side. Do not sign anything you do not understand!

4. The actual contract must have your name included.

If you decide to share a flat with a friend, you definitely must make sure that both of your names are included in the contract (not only his/hers or yours). One of the reasons is that as a foreigner living in Bulgaria you must apply for a residence permit (something like a Bulgarian ID). One of the documents required for the application for a residence permit is a tenancy agreement – and, of course, the tenancy agreement must have your name included.

5. Sign a hand-over protocol.

When signing the tenancy agreement, make sure you and the landlord also sign a hand-over protocol (one copy for each party). It is basically a protocol that describes the furniture and all things that the landlord will leave in the apartment so that he/she makes sure you have kept all items in the apartment after you leave it. Make sure there are no additional items in the apartment that are not included in the protocol and which the landlord might later ask you for. Also, make sure you note down on the protocol if some of the items have bugs/are broken, so that later the landlord does not claim you have caused the damage/problems and asks you to pay to fix the issue. You must sign the same protocol when you leave the apartment – so that the landlord has no claims whatsoever after you no longer live in his property.

6. Asking for one deposit is completely okay.

According to the contract, you usually have to pay one deposit to the landlord (equal to a one-month rent of the flat). This deposit serves as a guarantee and is usually given back to you as long as you leave the apartment according to the rules of the contract (e.g., after the contract expires – usually after a year) and all of the items that the landlord has provided you with are there and you have not damaged them.

If the flat is brand new and has modern technology/furniture, the landlord might ask you for two deposits. This is usually negotiable so try to discuss this part of the contract with the landlord.

Make sure that the contract clearly states in what cases and when the deposit will be returned to you. Also, make sure you receive a declaration / receipt for the paid deposit or the contract clearly states that signing this contract also means you have paid the deposit.

7. Bargaining is sometimes an option.

As mentioned above, some prices (e.g., the deposit) might be negotiable. The landlord might be in a rush to find a tenant so you can always ask for a small (!) discount, especially if you decide to prepay several month rents. However, keep in mind that bargaining in Bulgaria is often considered a very rude practice, so do not insist on huge discounts – the landlord might decide that you won’t be a reliable tenant.

8. You must be able to leave the apartment with one-month notice without paying any further rents.

What’s more to say? Make sure that the contract clearly states that you are allowed to leave the apartment with one-month notice without having to pay all bills/rents until the contract expires. Sometimes the landlord might try to leave out this part in the contract or to even write down that if you leave earlier than one year (before the contract expires) you must pay all rents until the rest of the year. This is not okay and you must definitely discuss it with the landlord! Imagine your neighbors are too loud or you don’t like the area so you want to move out a month after you have signed the contract. It won’t be fair to pay for 11 more months, right? Moving out earlier than expected is definitely something that the landlord won’t be thrilled about, but this is why there is a deposit (check point 6).

9. All payments and bills must be clearly stated in the contact and paid accordingly.

Several things must be discussed/included in the contract:

  • Bills: It is normal that you pay for bills such as electricity, hot water, Wi&Fi. It must be clearly stated how you will pay the bills – will the landlord cover them and provide you with a receipt for each payment so that you pay him/her back or will you have to go to the respective offices to pay the bills?
  • Government taxes: The contract must clearly state that the landlord will cover state taxes, e.g. property tax.
  • “Entrance fee”: Discuss with the landlord who will have to pay the fee for living in the building (in Bulgarian called “entrance fee”, usually about 5 leva per month) – this fee is usually needed for cleaning up the common areas, such as the entrance, the elevator, etc. This also must be included in the contract.
  • Repairs: Discuss with the landlord who will cover small repairs, e.g. if a pipe breaks. In most cases you will be in charge of covering these expenses. However, the landlord must cover all fees linked to big repairs, such as buying a new door (if you have not damaged the old one), new windows, etc. This must be written in the contract.
  • Rent: The contract must clearly state what the monthly rent is as well as the preferred payment method. If the landlord prefers to be paid cash, make sure you receive a receipt for each payment you make.

10. The contract must include several points.

The contract you sign must definitely include the following things:

  • The names and ID/passport number of all people signing the contract as well as the address of the property;
  • The price of the rent and the payment methods;
  • The deposit – how it is to be paid, when and under what conditions it will be returned to the tenant;
  • When does the contract start and when it expires;
  • Ending the contract – how, when and under what conditions each party is allowed to end the contract (very important: check point 8!);
  • Whether or not you allowed to sublet the apartment to other people when you are not in Bulgaria;

There are many things you should keep in mind when signing a contract – look for the fine print so that you are later happy with the flat you took. Of course, if any further problems occur, we recommend discussing them with the landlord (even when it comes to payments/deposits/leaving the apartment) – we are all humans so the landlord might show understanding.

We hope you find a nice flat in Bulgaria and enjoy your stay here!

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