What is important to know before you rent a flat in Prague
This article is aimed at people who for a variety of reasons decided not to use the help of real estate agents and thus to undergo a pre-rental process on their own. The recommendations are tailored to specifics of Czech Republic and they are based on the experience of local people.
Although I assume that potential readers who have already rented apartment in other countries can find themselves familiar with some aspects of this article I strongly recommend to read it also in this case not to miss anything before you rent the flat which can eventually make your life easier.
How to recognize problems with the lease?
Let me suppose that having looked through numerous rental advertisements you decided in favour of one flat which seems to meet your requirements. You can derive some information if further steps are worth taking even before contacting a potential landlord.
If the advert was placed on the website more than 2 months ago there is likely to be some kind of problem with a flat (or building, or location, etc.) or rental price is too high. If no doubts have arisen your further step may be contacting the landlord. Let me assume that he / she is willing to communicate with you, therefore you can start asking questions.
If you omit this step you'll put yourself at risk that you will go to move-in inspection (so called prohlídka) in vain.
In order to avoid this and to fill the “gaps” characteristic for advertisements (hardly any of them include full information) try to specify the following things:
Make sure that a potential landlord is a sole proprietor of the flat in question. This will help you to exclude the possibility of sublet (so called podnájem – means that your landlord will be a tenant himself/ herself). In this case your interests will be hardly protected by Czech law, therefore you should decide whether you're willing to take such risk.
Knowing your landlord's name and surname and the apartment address you will be able to verify the information about proprietorship by using the following website: http://nahlizenidokn.cuzk.cz/ Unfortunately it's only in Czech, however I hope that any Czech person can give you a hand in translation or you may even cope with it yourself.
Questions you should ask
Is the entire flat or only a room rented out? What is its precise size? Attempt to ask the landlord to send you apartment layout via email.
What is the exact address of the flat? Which floor is it on? Does the location have good transport accessibility?
How much you will have to pay for renting in total? Is the price the same as indicated in the advertisement or will you have to pay any additional fees?
When will be the apartment ready to move in?
What does landlord mean by partially furnished or fully furnished apartment?
Does the landlord have any specific requirements (tenants should be non-smokers, without animals, etc.)? Think about your particular preferences as well.
Next stage of the process
If you are satisfied with all answers you move to the next stage of the process, namely move-in inspection.
Although some people ignore this stage (they form the opinions on the basis of photographs or recommendations from former tenants) the possibility of making really a good deal considerably decreases. You can derive a number of benefits from a move-in inspection:
You can ensure that the location really meets your needs, find out if the building has entrance security systems and (or) is secured in some other way.
You can check if all household appliances and switches, warm and cold water, toilets, heating, windows, etc. work properly.
You can ensure that the distance and sightlines from the opposite house(s) conform to your understanding of privacy.
You can find out if the flat has sufficient storage place for your things and there is enough room for your furniture.
You can find out all the details about Internet connection and satellite television (including international channels). Landlords are usually willing to share their experience and their former tenants', thereby providing you with useful information about TV and Internet providers working in this area, their actual prices and even their sales managers (contact details).
Once more you can discuss financial details to get added evidence that a landlord will pay all utility bills himself (for instance in some situations the tenants are required to pay for electricity themselves).
You can ask about advantages / disadvantages of the parking lot, whether vehicle-related thefts occur often (if a landlord is unwilling to tell the whole truth it is more complicated to lie face to face).
You can get a rental discount if anything is damaged or doesn't satisfy standard requirements. Landlord can promise to remedy the identified defects instead. In this case ask him to do so before you move in.
You can receive other information (why the former tenant has left, whether the neighbours (you can get acquainted with them as well) have children, animals, etc.).