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Russia - Renting Property
Landlord Attitudes To Tenants
Russian attitudes to society are at odds to liberal Western values. It could make your house hunting or your relationship with your landlord more difficult if you don’t fit their stereotype of the ideal tenant. In particular, you should note:
• Women are generally expected to look after the home and children, maintain an attractive appearance and hold down a job if necessary;
• Racism in Russian society is widespread – racist taunts on public transport, for example, are often unchallenged;
• Homosexuality is not illegal but both governmental organisations and society as a whole discriminate against and threaten the wellbeing of LGBT people;
• Scientologists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the religious groups seen as extremist organisations and subject to much discrimination.
Who Owns Property In Russia?
In Russia, home ownership is seen as the most secure and stable form of housing. Owner occupation rates are thought to be in the 70-80% range, far above the comparative European and US levels.
Rental properties tend to be owned by private individuals rather than development companies. These landlords tend to use the rent money as their sole source of income. Some sources suggest that illegal rentals are common, with tenants who are unprotected by tenancies and landlords who don’t declare rental income to the authorities.
Many expats choose to rent their home in Russia rather than buy somewhere, even when staying for the medium to long term. This can partly be an issue of financing or protecting the ability to leave without complication. However, the bureaucracy of property purchases in Russia can also be daunting.
Finding A Good Real Estate Agent In Russia
There are a number of real estate agents whose staff can speak English. You can often find them online, although don’t agree to rent a property from anyone until you have seen it in person.
Always Sign A Tenancy Agreement
Anyone who rents a property without signing a tenancy agreement is left without legal protection for the terms and conditions of their residency. That means landlords can put up the rent or serve an eviction notice with little warning. You could also find yourself responsible for costs you didn’t anticipate, such as the maintenance of common areas in apartment blocks.
Always insist on a tenancy agreement which is signed by both you and your landlord. The contract must be in Russian to be legally enforceable. If you have found the apartment through an agent, they will usually be able to provide an English translation. Don’t sign the Russian contract without understanding its terms.
At a minimum, your contract should include:
• The terms of the lease
• How much rent is to be paid and when
• Whether the lease can be extended
• The point at which the rent can be increased
• Break clause conditions
• What costs are included with the rent
• What fixtures and fittings are included in the property
The break clause is important yet can be easy to overlook. You might arrive in Russia full of expectation and excitement, just to find out you can’t cope with the traffic or your new boss. A parent might fall seriously ill and need you to come home to look after them. You may even experience ill health yourself, which could make working life difficult and so invalidate your visa.
If any of these situations occur, you are expected to continue paying the rent until the end of the lease. However, with a break clause, you can give three months’ notice and therefore have only three monthly rental payments to cover instead of an entire year’s worth. This is typically enough time for a landlord to find a new tenant, so most will be happy to accept such a clause in your contract.
Furnished And Unfurnished Rental Property
Most properties in Russia are rented with some basic furniture and appliances provided in addition to the fixtures and fittings. However, these may not be to your taste and will typically be little beyond the essentials.
Unfurnished properties are unusual. They will cost a little less in monthly rental payments but will mean that you are responsible for purchasing all the furniture and appliances you need as well as disposing of them when you leave. Depending on how long you intend to stay in Russia, this may or may not be a worthwhile investment.
Luxury rentals are fully furnished homes into which you can comfortably move straight away. They are expensive and often aimed at the business community. Therefore, they are found in a small number of select locations.
Your landlord should provide a list of contents itemising every item included in the property. On the day you move in, check this list against the items physically present and ensure they are each in good condition. Take photos of anything that is damaged and make a note of missing items. Send a record of these by email to the landlord or estate agent so you have evidence that these were identified.
On the day you move out, repeat the exercise. In addition, photograph each item to show the condition you are leaving them in. Should the landlord try to keep your security deposit by claiming that items are damaged or missing, you will have enough evidence to challenge this.
Utility Costs For Rental Properties In Russia
The owner of the property is generally responsible for the cost of utilities, including water and electricity. As a tenant, you will be spared the bureaucracy of setting up utility accounts and supplies in your own name.
The landlord recovers these costs through your rent. However, you should confirm this before agreeing to the rental by checking if it is specified in the tenancy agreement. A landlord might try to take advantage of naive tenants who don’t understand Russian systems by charging rent and then an additional utility cost which isn’t declared in tax returns.
Register With The Local Russian Authorities
Anyone staying at one location in Russia for seven working days or more must register with the local authorities. This includes tenants renting a property for the medium to long term.
Normally your landlord or estate agent will do this, but you should check with the local authority that everything is in order in case they forget or file the incorrect information.
When you leave Russia, you need to show evidence of the registration.
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