Home Guideline for Settlers in Estonia
First things first: welcome to Estonia, and we’re glad to have you here! So you’re about to begin your home searches, right? Hopefully, the following blog post is a helpful guide for you to go through the main aspects about the local rental market. Basic know-how, consistency in your searches, and a bit of luck are your main elements for success. Let’s get started!
Where to find homes for rent?
Most common sources are:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Facebook Groups, like Renting without Deposit, Rental Apartments without the Agents, Rental Apartments Directly from Owners. Sometimes local expat groups might be helpful, too.
- Real estate portals, like kinnisvara24.ee, kv.ee and city24.ee
Home rental listings are mostly in Estonian, so unfortunately for internationals, it’s a bit tricky to grasp the content instantly. As a solution, you can try using Google Translate or something similar like DeepL. Luckily, these work well enough to give you an understanding of the rental listing.
The home rental market in Estonia is highly fragmented because there isn’t one central place where rental info and opportunities come together. Usually, most action happens on social media and social media groups, so you might want to start from there.
This year has brought some changes to the rental market. The availability of rental apartments/houses has decreased significantly over the past months, mainly due to locals activity and Ukrainian refugees looking for a place to stay. In extreme cases, there’ve been 50-80 candidates per apartment. Yes, finding a new home today might be very challenging.
If and when the situation changes, it’s impossible to speculate. The capital Tallinn is most affected by this; other towns are too, but less.
Also, prices in every sense have gone up: overall inflation, electricity, gas, fuel, property rent, property purchasing etc. It’s a similar situation to most countries, so probably nothing surprising here.
The renting process can be quite costly in Estonia. The traditional market standard is to ask (when moving in) the first month’s rent, deposit (1-3 months) and contract or agent fee equivalent to one month’s rent. For example: if your rental fee is €600 per month, your starting costs are approximately €1800-3000. This is how the rental market has stayed unchanged for many decades.
However, new services and alternatives are coming up more and more, such as Rendin, enabling you to start at much lower costs.
Things to keep in mind when renting a place
- You should carefully read the entire rental agreement before signing. There may be a number of clauses in the contract that, if not recognised, would have significant consequences for the tenant. Also, please determine the type of rental agreement – termless or fixed-term. The problem with a fixed-term rental agreement is that it’s rigid. The agreement can’t be terminated by either party without a serious reason. The case is better with a termless rental agreement because both parties can end it by giving three months notice in writing.
- It is important to properly record all activities related to the rental. It seems annoying, but everything related to the rental should be fixed in a reproducible form (generally understood to be in writing): the rental agreement itself, the handover-acceptance act, and the payment details (any payments must always be provable).
- When beginning with a rental, a common mistake is that the act of handover-acceptance is not drawn up correctly. For example, when moving to a rental place, you and the owner don’t write down exactly the items that are present or do not take photos. Later, arguments may arise over which items were there and in what condition.
- Make sure you’re aware of utility costs. When you’re home-hunting, please also ask the landlord about utility bills during winter and summertime. Depending on the building, the costs can vary and also, it might be totally different from a country you lived in before (especially shifting from a warmer climate to a colder northern area).
Expectations & communication
- Maybe it comes as a surprise, but most common issue between the tenant and landlord is cleaning. Since people are different, they also have varied understanding of cleanliness. It’s good to have an open talk with your landlord and learn the expectations on this matter.
- Never forget to communicate! If something happens in the rental property, the landlord should be notified urgently. Communication should be in a form that leaves a written record (e-mail, messages, etc.), which can be used as proof later, if necessary. Honesty and responsibility from the very beginning are very important.
Rights and responsibilities of the tenant and landlord
A properly drafted and legally competent rental agreement has to determine general terms, rights, and obligations for both tenant and landlord. The rental agreement needs to be aligned with the Law of Obligations Act that regulates tenancy relations in Estonia.
Where to find more info?
Rendin, an Estonian startup, is a home rental ecosystem: giving security for landlords and saving money for tenants by being the best version of a real estate agency, insurance company, and legal bureau combined.
The landlord and tenant sign the rental agreement via Rendin (all processes are digital, trusted and seamless). No need for the tenant to pay deposit money. Instead, the tenant pays a Rendin fee which is 2,5% of the monthly rent. It’s paid every month until the agreement is ended.
Rendin’s experts help and advise both parties through the whole rental agreement period if a misunderstanding or problem occurs.
You must have an Estonian ID number for tenancy, so Rendin can check your previous payment behavior. If your ID code has been issued recently, it is not possible to perform a background check as there is no previous history. In such a case, Rendin asks the person for additional information, e.g. an employment contract. The goal is to make sure that the tenant’s income and the amount of the monthly rental are in balance.
How to get started: on the Rendin platform you can create a tenant profile where you introduce yourself and describe what kind of place you are looking for (location, price, etc.). Your profile provides a positive signal to landlords that you are a trusted candidate, because creating a tenant profile also means passing a background check. Then you can begin applying for the rental homes available. These can be found, for example, in our Facebook group, and on the kinnisvara24.ee portal (in the detailed search, put a tick in the ‘Without deposit’ box). Landlords can also make you offers by themselves.
Read more about how Rendin can be useful for you as a tenant.
The main FAQ
The landlord doesn’t allow me to register my residence in the rental home – are they right to do that?
The prompt answer is no. Every person has a right to register their residence at the address they live in, even if it’s a rental home.
When submitting a notice of the residence, you need to prove that you’ve got the right to use the premises. It can be a copy of the rental agreement or the authorisation of the landlord. The official State Portal gives an overview of your rights and instructions for submitting the application.
The landlord wants me to pay in cash – is it legal?
Yes, that’s completely legal, just not very common in Estonian digitalised society anymore. If this is the case, the tenant has to receive a receipt in writing every time the rental fee has been paid.
Can I sign the rental agreement in English, or does it have to be Estonian?
The rental agreement needs to be in a language that’s understandable to both parties. For example, on the Rendin platform, there are three languages available – Estonian, English, and Russian.
Have questions? Book a free consultation at International House of Estonia
International House of Estonia provides free personal consultations for foreigners, their families and local employers about settling in, documentation, healthcare, language programs etc. Located in Valukoja 8, Tallinn.
The best way to rent a house or a flat is to contact a real estate agency. The Estonian Association of Real Estate Companies has a list of trusted estate agencies.
The best place to start searching are the real estate websites KV.ee, city24.ee and kuldnebors.ee. They are all available in English and feature both rental and purchasable properties. Of course, you can also use real estate agency services, like Pindi, RE Kinnisvara, Uusmaa, and Domus.
When you find your perfect flat or a house, consult a real estate professional in order to understand the lease agreement in detail before signing it.
Another option is to use Rendin, It’s a platform for home rental agreements that includes tenancy insurance: the landlord gets rental plus utility payments guarantee and property protection, and the tenant can rent deposit-free. All processes are digital, smooth and secure. Rendin’s experts help and advise both parties (the tenant and landlord) through the whole tenancy period if a misunderstanding or problem occurs.
The lease may be concluded for a fixed or an unspecified term. You can freely negotiate on the rental period with the owner. You have to pay a security deposit that is usually equivalent to 1-3 months of rent. You’ll get the deposit back when moving out.
Rental payments are usually paid at the beginning of each month. It is possible that the landlord will ask you for an advance payment when you’re signing the rent agreement.
Payments for utilities are also written down in the lease. Sometimes, some utilities are included in the rental price, but in most cases you will need to pay them separately.
The utilities make up quite a considerable part of the housing-related expenses. In a two-room (one bedroom) flat, the utilities can easily be around 80 euros in summer and 180 euros in winter. Always ask to see past utility bills for both summer and winter months.
On taxes & fees:
– If you’re renting from a business operator, value added tax (VAT; sales tax) may be added to the rental payments.
– Taxes related to the property are usually paid by the landlord.
– Real estate agency fees are usually equivalent to one month’s rent and paid by the tenant, unless agreed otherwise.
The best place to start searching for real estate are the real estate websites KV.ee, city24.ee and kuldnebors.ee. They are all available in English.
Buying property in Estonia is a straightforward and a relatively speedy process. Non-residents and foreign companies are allowed to buy property in Estonia on the same terms as residents.
At first, a sale-purchase agreement has to be concluded and notarised. During that same time:
– a purchase deposit of 10% is usually required,
– the transfer of title is completed.
You will then have to pay the stamp duty and the official registration will be completed.
To transfer the ownership of property and to make the title legally valid you have to submit a notarised application to the Land Register. This process normally takes about 65 days.
See the Chamber of Notaries for a list of notaries available to help you.
If you’re not from an EU or EEA country, or your company that is a party to the deal is registered outside the EU and EEA, you’re allowed to buy a house or plot of land with the permission of the local authorities. In most cases, buying a flat has no restrictions.
Estonia has an open electricity market. This means you can choose the cheapest supplier.
The electricity price is set by a combination of the exchange price, your electricity consumption and competition. There is also a network service fee added to your bill. VAT is always added to the electricity price.
When renting a house or a flat, you can sign a contract with a service provider or agree with the landlord about electricity payments if the contract remains under the landlord’s name.
If you buy a house or a flat, choose the most suitable package for you. Check energiaturg.ee for choosing the best price.
The standard electricity supply in Estonia is 220 volts and 50 Hz, and the plugs here are the continental European two-pin type.
The natural gas supply in Estonia is provided by a single supplier: Eesti Gaas. If you rent a house or a flat that uses gas for heating, the owner has a gas purchase contract and you have to agree with the owner about gas payments. If you want to sign an individual service contract with Eesti Gaas, you’ll need a copy of the lease agreement or proof of ownership.
Every residence is usually registered with the local water and sewage company. Each address has a single supplier.
When you move into your new home, your water meter will be read and the reading set as the initial reading of your service contract. If your residence is located in an apartment building, the water and sewage service is arranged by the cooperative housing association or the real estate management company.
If you rent a house, you need to sign a contract with a service provider or agree with the landlord about your payments.
Most residential buildings have a selection of different waste containers: general waste, paper/cardboard and biodegradable waste.
Recyclable, sorted waste can be taken to public containers: green containers for glass, blue containers for paper, yellow containers for mixed packages (plastic, metal), red containers for clothes.
There are public containers for free disposal of packaging waste all over Estonia. You can easily find the nearest spots for you on the kuhuviia.ee map.
When buying bottled or canned drinks you’ll often pay a small deposit. That deposit is refundable when you return the empty bottles or cans to the return vending machines, located in most shops. You will receive a receipt from the machine that you can use to pay for your purchase or exchange for cash in the grocery shop.
Registering your place of residence
As a newcomer in Estonia, you must also register your place of residence at your local government service office. As an EU citizen you must do it within three months after arrival, as a non-EU citizen within 30 days after receiving your residence permit. Even though as a tenant you have a right to register your place of residence in your new home, it is best to confirm this with the landlord in advance.
Address. In Estonia, houses are usually even-numbered on one side and odd-numbered on the other side of the street. Counting generally begins from this end of the street that is closer to the city center.
Floors and levels. When entering a multi-story building, the ground floor on the street level is called “1. korrus” (1st floor). Moving up, you will reach the “2. korrus” and so on. So, for example, the British 4th floor is “5. korrus” in Estonian.