Long-Term Housing in the Czech Republic and Slovakia
The Czech Republic is the most popular destination for young North American expatriates, which means competition for inexpensive long-term accommodations is fierce. Finding an affordable apartment when you are working on Czech or Slovak wages is no small feat. You need either connections or good fortune.
Renting an Apartment
By American standards, most apartments in the two republics seem incredibly cheap to rent; but given their relative lack of amenities, this shouldn't come as any surprise.
Though many foreigners experience few problems when renting long-term accommodations in either country, it is worth taking advice from those who have been less fortunate. Cultural differences tend to become most evident after relationships have been established, and the tenant-landlord pairing is no exception.
The manager of a language school in Prague, an English man in his early thirties, advised:
"If you want to work here in Prague, the first thing you need to do is find a place to live. And the problem is that there is no protection for foreigners, no renters' rights. We need guarantees for both labor rights and tenant rights. Landlords seem to think that if you're from the West, you must be loaded. Privacy is understood differently here, too. Some landlords think that they can enter your apartment when you are not home without first notifying you."
If you don't know anyone who can help you find an apartment, peruse the classified section of your local paper.
Housing in Prague can range from 5,000 to 10,000 Czech crowns or more per month for a room in a house or a small apartment. Bratislava rents do not command as high a range, and apartments outside of the larger cities are considerably less expensive, but not necessarily more readily available.
Consider the following before you sign a rental agreement or lease:
- Renting "gray" or "black," which means your landlord does not pay taxes on rental income, tends to create certain problems for foreigners. For example, you may not be able to receive mail at government-owned properties, and there may be no binding contract that protects you from being cheated by your landlord. Beware of paying large rental deposits without a contract.
- Check out the electrical, plumbing, and heating systems to make sure they are in good working order before you make any commitment.
- If there is a telephone, make sure that you understand how you will be billed, especially if you are sharing it with another party. You may be asked to put down a security deposit for long-distance charges. Unfortunately, foreigners have given themselves a reputation for sticking their landlords with large sums on unpaid long-distance bills.
- Your landlord may have expectations regarding your housekeeping practices. If you can, have a Czech or Slovak speaker interpret any questions you might have for your prospective landlord before you hand over your money. Address all your concerns up front, and ask what is expected of you as a tenant.