You’ve started your adventure and now looking for a flat or apartment to rent in Estonia. You don’t know the market, you don’t know the rental procedures, you don’t know the laws around the system, and you’re scared.
Don’t worry, here’s how you can find a flat in any city in Estonia.
But first – let’s go over some key information.
Or you can just skip ahead to using the property listing websites.
Key Things to Know Before Renting in Estonia
- There’s usually a broker’s fee. This is a fee you, as the RENTER, must pay to the broker (the real estate agent). This fee usually equals to one month’s rent. So if you find a place for 400 eur per month, you’ll most likely have to pay 400 to the broker. More on broker’s fee here.
- You don’t need to pay a broker’s fee if you find a listing directly from the owner. These listings get taken extremely fast in certain seasons. One place I rented from was on the listings for less than 24 hours before I called and reserved it.
- You usually have to put down 1-2 months rent in the deposit. If we’re using the 400 eur/mo rent as an example, you’d have to pay: 400 (first month’s rent) + 400 (broker’s fee) + 400-800 (deposit). Your upfront cost may be 1,200 eur to 1,600 eur depending on the agreement. More on deposits here.
- The rent price usually does not include utility bills. More on utility bills here.
- Your landlord may evict you for any reason – but usually requires a notice, usually agreed upon in the rental contract.
- You may also decide to terminate the agreement for any reason – but you also must notify them in the timeframe agreed in the rental contract.
- In some cases, the landlord may try to enforce an unconstitutional contract. They may try to have you pay for any fixes (such as a leak or clogged pipe), but you may not be liable for it. More on rental contracts here.
- The law favors the smaller party – this being you, the renter.
In Estonia, the broker’s fee is legally supposed to be paid by the property owner who is putting up the property on the listing sites. However, the property owners appears to have found a loophole to pass off this fee to their tenants. It has become the norm despite the outcry from those who need to rent.
The fee usually equals to one month’s rent. Whether you’re paying 200 eur or 750 eur, you will end up paying this amount and you will not get it back. Even if the owner decides to cancel the contract the following month – but don’t worry, this usually never happens and I’ve never heard of a such a case.
However, I personally did have my contract pre-maturely end at 8 months in because the landlord wanted to sell the flat. No, I did not get any money back.
This deposit amount may match one month’s rent. Some owners ask for two month’s equivalent, some three. It all depends on the owner.
Here’s a little scenario: if your flat costs 500 eur to rent, the broker’s fee is 500 eur, and deposit for 2 month’s worth of rent – you end up paying 2,000 eur right off the bat.
You will usually get the full deposit back if you leave the flat in the same condition that you moved into. Or something reasonable, as people do account for regular wear and tear. Chipped paint off walls, scratches on the floor, markings on furniture are not regular wear and tear.
You will end up paying if you damage the property. Or you won’t get your money back. Or both.
A utility fee consists of various things:
- Water (Hot/Cold).
- Heating (If your building has “central heating” – some buildings have central heating you have no control over).
- Electricity (You may have to start a new, separate contract with the electricity company and line provider).
- Maintenance (Regular building maintenance, property management, building fixes, cleaners, etc).
- Garbage (Collection and clean up).
On top of these, you may also have to independently get your own TV and/or Internet contract – which can start from 15 eur/month.
If a listing does not include historical utility costs for summer and winter months, you should ask the broker or owner for it. You don’t want to be slapped with a 500 euro heating bill in the winter.
Yes, some owners may try to push for some unconstitutional agreements within the contract. I believe if you sign, it won’t get held up in court – but I am not a lawyer.
If you have disagreements, you can either sort it out privately or go to court. Going to court costs a lot of money – but the law is usually in favor of the smaller party – this being you, the tenant.
Sometimes, the rental contract isn’t even provided in English.
So again, you either sign it and trust the broker and owner, or don’t and try your luck elsewhere.
Websites You Can Search Rental Properties On
Whichever option you pick, I’ll show you how to navigate and use these sites:
How to Use City24 to find a Rental Property
First, make sure you can understand the website interface by clicking on the flag and selecting the UK flag. The website should reload in English.
Now you want to search for apartments (flats) to rent. Select the checkbox as shown in the screenshot.
The next part is a bit difficult. You need some knowledge about which district you’d want to live in.
Let’s go over the various districts in Tallinn in another post.
When in doubt, select Kesklinn (City Center), Põhja Tallinn (North Tallinn), Vanalinn (Old Town), Mustamäe (Black Hill), Kristiine (Christina) and Kadriorg (Catherine’s Valley). I have personally lived in all of these districts and still search around these areas if I’m looking for a place to rent.
Next, you should set your other requirements such as your budget, how many rooms you want (in Estonia 1 room means 1 room – this can entail 1 living room without a bedroom), and the total size of your apartment (this number sometimes includes the size of the balcony, if there is one).
Finally, if you wish to avoid the broker’s fee, check off the “Only offers from regular users” checkbox.
When you click on a listing, the descriptions may be in Estonian. Many private owners (and brokers) do not translate the descriptions to English.
From here, you can reach them by their phone, email or other contact info they’ve shared on the listing page. You can also click on “Contact Broker” to go through City24’s contact form.
How to Use KV to find a Rental Property
KV.ee uses a similar interface.
Make sure to click on the flag and set the language to English.
Click off “Only private users” if you wish to avoid broker’s fees and want to rent directly from the owner.
Fill in your requirements and click the search box.
If you wish to contact the owner, you can use the contact info they’ve shared on the listing page or use the contact form embedded on the page itself.
So you probably noticed that there’s usually a broker’s fee.
There is a group on Facebook called “Korterite üürimine (MAAKLERITETA!)” which translates to “Renting Flats (WITHOUT BROKERS!)”.
You will see that all listings here are directly from the owners and you won’t have to pay for any broker’s fee.
Keep your eyes open since the good listings get swarmed with offers and locals who may have friends with the owner.
And that’s it! Did I miss anything? Do you have questions? Please comment and let me know!