Renting apartment in Russia Moscow – important considerations.
Information in this article applies to renting apartments in Moscow and any large city in Russia.
Advice number one for those who decide renting apartment in Moscow or anywhere else in Russia — hire a good real estate agent. Good real estate agent will save you from many hassles and will save your money. Renting apartment in Russia in general and in Moscow specifically is not very straightforward process. There is a lot of fraud, hidden catches, specifics to consider. To avoid losing money and nerves, hire a professional who knows all peculiarities of the market to manage the whole process for you.
Not everyone calling themselves a real estate agent is a real professional. You wanna hire a real estate agent by recommendation from other people to ensure they are able to do the job well. Ask other expats, Russians who can recommend a specific person they have dealt with in the past.
You must sign a contract with real estate agent before you start working with them. Their fee will be somewhere between 50% and 100% of a monthly rental cost. For really expensive apartments the fee can be negotiated to be less than 50%.
Housing options in Moscow. Moscow has very few types of housing, you will only have a vast choice of apartments of various types, sizes, decoration, layout and equipment. There are private houses and townhouses, but very limited, mostly in remote areas or outside Moscow.
The most comfortable areas are: center (roughly within the Third Ring), West, North West, South West, parts of South, parts of North. Generally to be avoided (for a multitude of various reasons): North East, East, South East.
Most expats prefer to live in the center of Moscow. Make sure to familiarize yourself with pros and cons living in Moscow downtown.
Despite popularity of the central parts of Moscow, very good or even excellent apartment options can be found in areas away from the center. It can be a newly built apartment complex with spacious and nicely equipped apartments with garage and all infrastructure nearby.
Typical, standard apartment will have: kitchen, bathroom (toilet can be separate from bathroom), living room and a bedroom. When you see number of rooms indicated in advertisements this means living room plus number of bedrooms. One-room apartments have just one room that serves both as living room and bedroom. One-room apartments are normally in higher demand because they are cheaper and more suitable for single people or families of two.
Before signing rental contract you need to check all the important details about the property. Whatever information you read in the advertising, can turn out to be a blunt lie. “Ten minutes from subway” may mean “ten minutes on a bus that runs every half hour and fifteen minutes on foot from the bus stop”. “Cozy, clean, quiet apartment” in reality can be old, rundown soviet flat, windows facing noisy street.
Apartment must haves: air conditioner, washing machine, water boiler, mosquito nets, thick metal door. Suggested extras: second entrance door, stationary water filter (reverse osmosis type). Most apartments come with kitchen furniture, stove and oven. Most rental apartments come fully furnished.
More information on must haves of Moscow apartment.
It is better to avoid apartments with all windows facing West. In each room facing West you will need to have air conditioner that you will have to run for the most part of summer.
Prices on renting apartment in Moscow vary. The cheapest rental cost is around 30K Rubles per month (around US$500 on today’s exchange rate). Use current exchange rate to calculate cost in other currencies. For 30K you get average one-room or two-room, (depending on location) apartment. Most likely all rental options for this price will be in remote areas, soviet style apartment buildings. If you are really on a budget, feasible consideration can be shared apartment or housing outside Moscow, in one of multiple satellite cities that make Moscow metro area. Prices for renting larger apartment closer to the center of Moscow has no limits. It can be 100K or it can be 300K or more, depending on many factors such as location, type of building, apartment design and equipment and many others.
When you found an option, you need to check few basic things. All checks below normally would be performed by a real estate agent. However it is for you to understand what needs checking and for what reason. Below list is nor fully complete, but covers essential pieces of information and checks you need to do on your own or, better with help of a real estate agent.
Apartment owner must provide proof of ownership. Ownership certificate and passport are documents certifying ownership. It is also good to check utility bills, that must have the same person’s name. In absence of certificate, real estate agent can request information from the state registry. If it turns out several people own one apartment it poses a number of potential issues.
First thing you need to check is whether apartment owner(s) will do a registration for you and your family. All people living in Russia: citizens, long time visitors alike required to obtain registration.
Registration is a formality of informing migration services on where you live. To obtain registration you need to fill standard forms, obtain signatures from the owner. Ones you have the forms, you go to a nearby organization called “multifunctional center”. The apartment owner must be with you in person and show their passport. Clerks will check your registration paperwork, stamp it and give you a registration slip. In some situations process can be different but 9 out of 10 cases it takes just a short trip to a nearby “multifunction center”, but it requires apartment owner to accompany you. If you plan to travel frequently, you will need to renew your registration every time you return back to Moscow and if apartment owner is not available, getting registration will be a hassle.
Judging by the number of questions asked online, registration seems to be a huge issue for foreigners in Moscow. Although apartment owners are required by the law to register all their tenants, many refuse to do registration for various reasons. Some owners hide income they receive on renting out their property to avoid paying taxes (4-6%). Some live abroad and can’t go with tenants to renew registration. There can be other obstacles.
First thing you need to be very positive about before signing rental contract — apartment owner will assist you with obtaining registration. Many owners will promise anything to get their apartment rented, but not many people in this culture keep their word. This is why you need to check yourself with help of your realtor if the owner is able to help you with registration.
Initial rental payment normally includes: rental cost for the fist month, rental cost for the last month and a deposit. Deposit is for covering possible damages caused to property by tenants. Deposit normally vary from 50% to 100% of monthly rental cost. Rental conditions usually require one month termination notice, last month payment covers that last month of stay. If you terminate earlier then one month, the amount will not be returned.
Rental contract. Many apartment owners are against signing contracts to avoid paying taxes and bearing responsibilities. If the owner refuses to sign the contract you must walk away from this rental option — rental contract is an absolute must. Good real estate agents know what the contract should look like, what needs to be included in what wording.
Beware, that documents in language other than Russian, legally not valid in Russia. Therefore you will need to sign contract in Russian and there must be someone who can explain rental contract to you item by item.
Any further agreement with apartment owner(s) must be fixed in written form only. In case of a dispute or argument between tenants and apartment owners, only written agreements will be considered. Verbal agreements are not valid in Russia.
Payments. Rental contract must specify how monthly payment is made. In Russia most of the time rental payments are done in cash. No matter what payment method is you need to have proof of payment. If rental setup is done in a legally proper way, apartment owner can receive payments onto their bank account. This means you need to have local bank account to make transfers. When you transfer money, the bank will give you paperwork that serves as proof of payment. If apartment owner is registered as solitary proprietor they can give you receipts as official proof of cash payment. If it’s cash paid privately, you need to obtain receipt note (in Russian — raspiska) on each amount you give to the apartment owner, including initial and monthly payments.
Before signing a contract, collect some information about the neighbors, including those living upstairs and downstairs. Any apartment building will have neighbors of all kinds, not always pleasant people. Looking at public areas of the apartment building, its overall condition and cleanliness, gives you hints on what kinds of people live here. Public places include staircases, lifts, entrance areas.
Soundproofing in most soviet era buildings made of concrete panels or blocks is almost nonexistent. Buildings that have best soundproofing are those built before 1953 and modern upper class (meaning pricier rental costs) apartment complexes.
Russians have no respect to residential laws especially when it comes to keeping noice down at night and weekends. Thus if you have noisy neighbors (drunks, young families, families with kids, people playing musical instruments and so on) you will be exposed to noises of all kinds. Renting apartment in a “prestigious” and more expensive areas of Moscow gives you absolutely no guarantees.
Besides being noisy, bad neighbors will cause other disturbing events such as banging at your door in the middle of the night, throwing cigarette butts on your balcony and into open windows, higher risks of flooding or fire and other unpleasant things.
Before moving in, you or your agent must document in detail (in written and photograph) property condition and all existing damages, even little ones. This is to avoid claiming damages on you when you move out. Many owners try to withhold deposit amount by pointing at scratches and small holes from nails, claiming money to do the repairs. To avoid this, conditions of deposit and its return must be clearly defined in a rental contract. Also all the damages must be documented before you move in.
Property condition detailing is signed by the owner and tenants and you keep your copy. The list must include all equipment and furniture and its condition. You wanna ensure that all electronic works, pipes do not leak, light switches do not shortcut and so on.