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rental deposit

Question

I was renting an apartment in the centre of Brussels and I paid two months security deposit when I moved in. I handed in my notice on the apartment after I went on sick leave and had to leave my job and move back to the UK and the landlady and estate agent told me that I would have to give three months notice, so I paid up until today even though I haven't been living there.
Yet when I moved out today the landlady told me that because my contract had become a 'nine year contract' as I had been there over a year (despite handing in my notice before the year was up) she was withholding my deposit as I owed her two months rent.
The estate agent did not tell me about this and I want to know how it can be that I have to essentially pay five months rent for an apartment I was living in for 14 months in total. Surely the three months notice should cover the 2 months requirement? I was unaware I had rented an apartment from Dick Turpin!

Answer
shortof Feb 28, 2017 23:50

Did you have a fixed term contract and if so, of how many months?

Answer
becasse Mar 1, 2017 00:10

In Belgium you have to give the required notice (usually 3 clear calendar months) to determine (almost) ANY contract including a fixed term rental one.
As you obviously failed to give the required notice to determine the contract on 31 December 2016 (which I presume would have been the conclusion date), and neither did your landlady, the contract automatically converted into a normal nine-year one which requires a penalty of 2 months rent to be paid (in addition to the proper notice - which you had given) when the contract is determined within its second year. The automatic conversion was doubtless written into the original contract as it is a pretty standard provision in fixed term contracts. In practice, the two months rent "caution" is intended to provide some cover in case of shortcomings in the "etats de lieu" checks rather than the failure to pay any penalty due, but if the landlady had taken you to court for the money she would have won, and by the time the bailiffs caught up with you the amount due would have increased sizeably.

You didn't rent from Dick Turpin, your landlady scrupulously applied the law. Your problems arise entirely because you failed to read and understand your contract, and that is a common failing among expats.

Answer
Mikek1300gt Mar 1, 2017 09:08

Gotcha!

Answer
RPPKN Mar 1, 2017 14:14

If I understand the dates correctly, your rental contract was from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016.

To be able to leave at the end of the year without paying any penalties, you should have given notice on 30 September at the very latest (it's not enough to "hand in my notice before the year was up"). As you did not (and the landlady did not give you notice either), the one-year rental contract automatically became a nine-year contract. And as you are leaving during the second year of a nine-year contract, a penalty of two months rent is due.

This of course does seem unfair to you, as I assume that back in September you were not yet ill and did not know you would have to give up your job and move back to the UK, so you were planning to stay in the apartment.

On the other hand you can actually count yourself lucky. Many one-year contracts have a clause which states that if neither the tenant nor the landlord give notice, the contract is automatically renewed for a year.

In that case you would have been liable to pay the rent until December 2017, whether you live in the place or not (many short-term contracts do not have any sort of early break clause).

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