Landlords in Prague don’t have the best reputation. There are countless stories of foreigners and locals alike being taken advantage of. However, if you know the most common landlord tricks, you’ll be more likely to avoid problems and misunderstandings as you navigate the process of finding a flat in Prague.
Beware of these frequently employed landlord schemes to save yourself money and headaches:
Unfair rental contract
An unfair rental contract is one of the Czech landlord’s dirtiest and most frequently used tricks. Before you sign the contract make sure you read it thoroughly. Also, if there is a contract which has been translated from Czech to English the landlord very well could have different provisions in the Czech contract. If you don’t read or speak Czech fluently it’s important to have some help you translate the legalese as the Czech version of the contract will be legally binding.
Things to watch out for:
- Notice period – The Czech civil code states that a three-month notice can be given by either the landlord or tenant unless otherwise stated in the contract. Simply put, a landlord cannot throw you out on the street. Either the contract comes to its natural end or the landlord must give you a three-month notice in writing. Notice must be delivered by the first of the month, otherwise, the three-month period starts the following month.
- Utilities – If you pay for utilities (gas and electricity) directly to the landlord, make sure the contract stipulates the due date for providing an overview of the yearly utility costs and that you have a right to see the bills (more on utilities below).
- Returning the deposit – Although the civil code does not state the deadline for returning the deposit, you should request that this be added to the contract. One month following the apartment handover should suffice.
Overcharging for utilities
Many landlords who rent to foreigners ask their tenants pay them directly for the utilities. Why? Because they can make a killing! Apart from the standard building utilities (typically 500 CZK/month/person) which are paid along with the rent, it is much better for your wallet when the utilities are in your name. This way you can avoid the notorious landlord trick of overcharging for utilities. That being said, some people do not want the hassle of having the utilities in their name, so be sure to watch out for rental ads where the rent is reasonable, yet the utilities are outrageous (6,000 Kč and up for two people).
Failure to return the security deposit and/or charging exorbitant sums
This dirty landlord trick is probably the most well-known and yet people constantly fall into this trap. One way to have peace of mind from the start is by thoroughly documenting damages during the initial apartment handover on the apartment handover form (předávací protol). In many cases, your landlord will not do this and may also tell you that it’s not necessary. Nevertheless, note on the handover form in detail any major and minor damages and take photos as well. Also, if the landlord sticks you with a bill after you move out, make sure you have in writing what was damaged and that they provide you with the bills. According to the civil code, the deposit cannot be used for repairs that are connected to normal wear and tear.
Major rent hikes
Unfortunately, landlords often assume that foreigners are not informed about renters’ rights, so they raise the rent more than the legal amount. If a rent increase is not explicitly stipulated in the contract, a landlord by law can raise the rent to reflect average rental prices in the given locality, although is not allowed to increase the rent by more than 20% over three years. Once again, make sure you have the rent increase in writing. The new rent goes into effect three months after the rent increase proposal was agreed to unless otherwise stated.
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