What’s in the contract, What’s not, and What should be….
Let’s start with the important point that rental contracts are civil rather than state agreements and so what is in them will determine how smoothly they operate and how they end. Therefore, it’s very important that before you sign you know what’s in the contract, what’s not, and what should be.
The vast majority of contracts are incident-free, but for Expats, there is the extra obvious language concern. Our suggestions below are for those who do not engage a property broker to help them. We would note that it may be possible, even though you have located a property yourself, to engage the services of an agent to help you with the final contract signing for a nominal sum (maybe zl. 100 or zl. 200 – certainly less than a full commission)
Trust but Verify
Agreements list both parties, the tenant (Lessee) and Landlord (Lessor). More importantly, they include details of each parties I.D. (Passport or local I.D. Card). We would advise that you match the original I.D. with that entered to the contract of the other party during the signing process. Sounds obvious but you would be amazed by the number of people we have heard neglect this precaution.
Safety & Insurance
It is the landlords’ responsibility, and they should confirm this within the contract, that all legal regulations regarding fire and safety of the property have been satisfied. It is also the responsibility of the Landlord to insure the premises, but this does not cover the tenants’ property and so should be insured separately.
Do not sign anything until all ancillary costs – management fees, electricity, water etc have been confirmed by checking the meters and seeing 3rd party invoices. In some instances, a tenant will be responsible for putting the utilities in their name and sometimes not. As an Expat, this can be daunting so don’t be afraid to ask for an all-in contract, backed by confirmation of the utility supplier. It will be up to the landlord to agree to this but certainly worth asking for. If you do have to put the utilities in your name you will probably need a Polish-speaking friend to navigate the process with you. Again, all of this information should be included in the lease agreement.
How the protocol is agreed at the end of the rental period should also be made clear in the agreement.
Damage, Deposit & Disputes
So what is actual damage and what is normal wear and tear? Again it is worth agreeing on this beforehand. How a dispute is decided should also be included in the agreement. In some instances, it is suggested that both parties can bring in independent assessors and the average is taken. Whatever the solution, dispute resolution should be an integral part of the agreement. Any agreement without one is crying out for trouble,
A verbal contract is only as good as the paper it’s written on.
All communication, however small, should be made between both parties in written form. E-mail and text message are perfectly acceptable. For example, how and when the deposit is returned should be clearly stated in the agreement and so any further communication that admits responsibility for damage or includes a commitment to pay for repairs should be documented.
Please note that the above article is opinion only and so for legal issues covering any contract you should engage qualified professionals in your area.
Hope it helps,