Are you renting a home in Leuven and have come across a disagreement with your landlord? This article will help you avoid any disagreements and provide you with resources in case a difficulty arises.
In Dutch they say “goede afspraken maakt goede vrienden”, which translates as “good agreements make good friends”. In other words, step 1 (when you move in) is to make sure everybody is on the same page about what is expected and what they need to do – that includes understanding the content of the rental agreement* as well as the (basic) rights and duties of both tenant and landlord. Ask your landlord any questions from the start; this can be difficult when deciphering contracts in a foreign language, but it will be worth your time to avoid disagreements in the future.
* Looking for template rental contracts? In this blog post on finding housing in Leuven you can find pro-forma translations in English as well as Dutch templates.
Step 2 in avoiding disputes is simple: communication, communication, communication! If a problem arises, first action is to notify the landlord/rental agency as soon as possible. Write an email or pick up the phone. Document your request and take pictures (if possible). It’s usually better, quicker and less costly to try to reason with the landlord and come to a mutual agreement.
Sometimes, even when we do our best to avoid problems, they still come. In case you want professional advice on your rights and duties or in case you feel some sort of escalation is needed, these organizations can help:
- Huurdersbond (website in Dutch): This platform is available in Flanders which provides information on rent-related issues. They can also aid you in cases of conflict with your landlord by acting as mediator. You must become a member to benefit from their services which costs between €12-€20 per year (check with your employer to see if they have a group membership).
- If you are student at the KU Leuven, then you can get assistance from the housing department.
- Free first-line legal aid (website in Dutch) organized by the Legal Aid Commission (CJB): At fixed times, pro bono lawyers sit in a Justice House, OCMW or Social House to answer simple legal questions. The free first-line assistance therefore does not provide comprehensive advice or a thorough treatment of your file, they only give basic advice. Here are the contact details of the regional house in Leuven.
- De verzoeningsprocedure or reconciliation procedure via the justice of the peace (= de vrederechter of vredegerecht). This type of hearing is not a legal proceeding. No lawyers are required and the justice of the peace will not make or enforce a decision. The procedure is completely free and voluntary. The justice of the peace merely acts as a mediator. He/she leads the discussions and hopes to reconcile the parties. That request must be made (in writing or orally) to the clerk's office of the justice of the peace (of the canton in which the property is located). The clerk's office will then summon the parties by letter to appear before the justice of the peace. For properties in the canton of Leuven contact details and a template letter can be found here (under minnelijke schikking).
- Consult a lawyer: The search engine can be found at the bottom of the page (search by name, theme and/or location).
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