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Austria - Renting Property
About 40% of households across Austria rent their homes, a figure which rises to 82% in Vienna. This means the country is well provided with means to finding rental homes, even though only about half of rented homes have a landlord in the private sector, and that protection for tenants has been at the forefront of political thought and action.
Estate agents (real estate agents) operate in every area of the country. By law, they may only charge tenants a maximum fee equivalent to two months’ rent. This is higher than in many countries but reflects the long length of the normal tenancy agreement which means tenants are not moving home so often. If you manage to find a property to be leased for less than three years, then the estate agent may one charge one month’s rent. The fee is paid at the point the tenancy agreement is to be signed.
All estate agents must pass the national certificate in real estate brokerage, and in 2012 the training for this certification became more rigorous. Any estate agent should be available to produce their certificate on request, and many will display it in their business premises. The Österreichischen Verband der Immobilienwirtschaft - OVI - is Austrian estate agents association. It is a voluntary network, offering ongoing training and development to its members and the sign of a quality estate agent for prospective clients.
If you find a property to rent via a daily newspaper, online or by word of mouth, be careful not to make payments in cash at any stage. It makes you vulnerable to a scam by someone posing as a landlord, and to the risk that you cannot prove a payment has been made if it is disputed.
There are many websites which advertise available rental properties; though they are in German, the location, price and photographs often make the property details clear for any viewer. A selection of websites to look at are Bazar; Willhaben; Immobilien; Der Standard and Kurier.
The Rent Act regulates the rental market for private tenant, council tenants and housing association tenants, and recognises the differences between a primary leasehold (“Hauptmiete”) and a sublet (“Untermiete”) which will affect the rent paid and the security of tenure. If you are moving into a flat shared with others you may have one nominated person who is the tenant and everyone else is subletting, though there is greater protection for everyone if each person is a joint signatory on the tenancy agreement. It is also possible to find flats where each individual living in the flat has a separate tenancy agreement with the landlord.
Limited tenancy agreements are known as “Mietvertrag”. They are for a minimum term of three years, but do not have a maximum term of tenancy. If the limited tenancy agreement is extended, the extension will be for a minimum of three years unless the tenant decides to shorten the lease and gives a full three months notice.
Most landlords are not interested in securing tenants who are looking for short term rental periods of less than a year.
Properties for rent can be found in local newspapers, on internet sites and by using the services of an estate agent. If you are looking to live in a specific location and are already staying there, you will notice “miete” boards up showing that the property is available to rent.
Many properties are rented out completely unfurnished, and you would have to check carefully which items are to be provided in the kitchen as the inclusion of a cooker and fridge cannot be taken for granted. Those that are fully furnished may contain furniture which is darker and heavier than the scandinavian style often enjoyed in more northern countries, but most will be tastefully decorated in order to maximise rental income for the landlord.
You will be required to prove your income and identity. The deposit to be paid at the start of a tenancy is often equivalent to three months’ rent.
Organisations such as the Tenant Associations (“Mietervereinigungen”), the Austrian Tenant Protection Association (“Mieterschutzverband”), the Consumer Information Association (“Verein für Konsumenteninformation”) and the Chamber of Labour (“Arbeiterkammer”) are able to advise on the legal validity of any rental agreement you are offered.
State supported accommodation is available in Austria, known as “Gemeindewohnungen”. However, demand always outstrips supply so there will be eligibility criteria and waiting lists in each area. The municipal offices (“Gemeindeamt”) will be a good starting point to discuss how to get registered.
Housing Association accommodation (”Genossenschaftswohnungen”) is also available, dependent on your eligibility for assistance. They offer a range of affordable homes for rent, purchase or as part of a co-operative. GBV explains more about the sector and how to seek help.
All radios, televisions and other broadcast reception equipment used in Austria must be registered for a license, for which an annual license fee is charged. One household license may cover all the appliances on the premises, but if you have a second home for whatever the reason then you must purchase a second license if broadcast reception equipment is located or used there. Further information can be found at www.orf-gis.at which can be accessed in a variety of languages from the drop down menu.
Consumers of gas and electricity are free to choose their provider. A helpful tariff calculator is available at www.e-control.at as well as further advice about getting connected for these essential services.
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