Your rights as a renter in Croatia (for 2020)

Renter's rights in Croatia
Image by Bijesak

When you rent a property in Croatia, you automatically have certain rights. The rights of renters are regulated by Zakon o najmu stanova (the law on renting apartments). In reality and practice, the law is old and lacking, but there are some common rules which can be applied to everyone.

Your rental contract (called “Ugovor o najmu stana”) contains all the rights and obligations of najmoprimac (the renter) and najmodavac (the landlord/property owner) not already defined in the law.

The law and your rental contract in combination outline your rights as a renter. In this post, we’ll dig deeper into both to clearly outline what you should know before renting a property in Croatia.

What should be in the rental contract

An enforceable rental contract must be in the Croatian language. You can have a dual language contract, with Croatian and English, however it is important to know that the Croatian part is what matters and is what is enforceable.

If you’re a foreigner, it is recommended that you have the contract notarized by a notary public (called “javni bilježnik” in Croatian) to doubly ensure its veracity. Aside from cementing the contract as an official document, you’ll need a notarized contract to register your address with the police. Without a notarized rental contract, the landlord will need to accompany you to the police station to register you at that address.

Rental contract inclusions

According to the law, a rental contract must define the following:

  • Contract parties – the landlord and the renter including:
    • OIB (or your passport number if you do not have an OIB yet)
    • Registered address (or your foreign address if this is your first address in Croatia)
  • Description of the apartment or portion of the apartment, which will be rented including:
    • Apartment’s address
    • Size of the space in square meters
    • List of all rooms (bedrooms, guest rooms, bathrooms…)
    • List of all the devices (TV, radio, washing machine, fridge…) – This may not always be included, but it is good to insist on it. Having the provided appliances listed in the lease gives you leverage if they break and the landlord is refusing to fix them.
  • Amount of rental payment, when payment is due, and how rent will be paid
  • Any other applicable rental costs, which may include:
    • Flat rate for utility costs
    • Building fees (Example: Monthly payment to clean the stairs)
  • Definition of who will live in the apartment
  • Duration of rental contract
  • Restrictions on using common rooms, parts of building and building land
  • Restrictions on handover of the apartment
  • Terms and deadlines for cancelling the contract

You may view an example of a basic rental contract here.

Types of rental contracts

There are two types of rental contracts:

  1. A long-term contract – Term is for an indefinite period with no end date specified.
  2. A short-term contract – Term is defined, with a start and end date.

Basic renter’s rights

Beyond the rental contract, the law includes some basic, albeit vague and nonspecific, rights. It should be noted that just because these rights exist in the law, it doesn’t mean that these rights will be respected. In some extreme cases, reminding a landlord of your rights may still not yield results and a getting a lawyer involved may be required to enforce the law. Sad but true.

1. Apartment maintenance

Landlords are required to rent you an apartment that is suitable for living, which means it should be suitable when you move in and continue to be livable throughout the rental period.

Before you move in

Before moving in, fully evaluate and inspect the apartment to ensure it is suitable for living. This is the time to determine the condition of the apartment to avoid complications in the future. If you find anything that is damaged, broken, or not working, the owner must fix it before you move in.

Don’t hesitate to tell the owner that you’re not happy with something you’ve found, especially if it is a threat to your health or isn’t functional.

After you move in

Once you move in, something will eventually break or need maintenance. The washing machine or a boiler may stop working, a pipe may burst, or black mold may appear (which can be common on the coast).

Keep in mind that it is a landlord’s obligation to fix provided broken devices and  maintain the apartment so contact them immediately when an issue arises. If they do not fix the problem, you have a right to cancel the contract, given that you have not contributed to or caused the problem.

For example, if black mold occurs because the apartment was not ventilated properly, the landlord will not be at fault. However, if black mold appears because the apartment itself doesn’t have proper ventilation, then it is the landlord’s responsibility to resolve.

2. Building usage

You have a right to use the common spaces and devices in the building (like the elevator, for example). You can also use the building’s yard or land. If you rent only part of the apartment or a single room, you have the right to use other rooms only if specified in the contract.

3. Long-term contract termination

If you are violating any laws, the owner can cancel the contract without notice. The landlord can also cancel your contract if you don’t pay rent on time, rent the apartment to someone else, use the property for a purpose other than living, act inappropriate or disturb other tenants.

The landlord must give you two written warnings before they can legally kick you out of the apartment. This warning states that you must fix the inappropriate behavior within 30 days. If you don’t change the behavior after two warnings, the landlord has the right to cancel the contract.

If you want to cancel the contract, you must notify the landlord at least 3 months before leaving the apartment unless different terms are specified in the contract. If you give proper notice, even if you are leaving before the end of the contract term, the landlord cannot legally keep your deposit or charge you a cancellation fee as a result.

Image by Wittenbrink

4. Short-term contract prolongation

If a short-term contract between a landlord and a tenant expires and neither is notified about the termination at least 30 days before the expiration, the contract is considered to be extended automatically.

Furthermore, tenants must accept an offer within 15 days after they get it from the landlord. If they don’t accept it, the offer will be considered rejected.

5. Landlord’s visit

A landlord cannot enter your apartment without your permission. The owner does have the right to visit the apartment and check if everything is okay, but the owner must announce the visit and you must be present.

Some of them like to check out the apartment while you are at work or traveling somewhere, but this is NOT OKAY. If you get the impression that your landlord is concerned, arrange a meeting to show that everything is fine within the apartment.

6. Internet Access

The Croatian government made access to the internet a human right in 2015, making it only one of a handful of countries that has done so. This actually is included in a different law, but it is definitely important enough to be noted as part of a discussion on renter’s rights.

Tips to make renting in Croatia a little easier

Renting in Croatia can be challenging especially if you are new to the experience. Everything is easier if you’re armed with information, know what to look for and have an idea of what to expect.

1. Explore the apartment in detail

Before signing a contract, explore the apartment and the building thoroughly. Check to see if anything is missing or broken. Make sure you test both the heating and cooling devices. In addition, it wouldn’t hurt to take a walk around the neighborhood to see where the closest markets and public transport stops are.

2. Define everything in the contract

It’s always better to write everything down in anticipation of future issues, especially if you’re a foreigner. Foreigners are fresh meat ripe for being taken advantage of, so check everything ruthlessly.

If something isn’t regulated in the contract and you think that it should be, discuss it with the landlord before you sign it. Pay special attention to the part of the contract that outlines how much your rent is and how it will be paid.

If your rent is defined in the contract in Euros, your landlord may require that you pay the equal amount in kuna each month depending on the latest exchange rate. This is definitely not preferred as your rent can vary from month to month.

3. Nurture the relationship with the landlord

You may come from a country where you never see your landlord, or don’t even know who they are. However, Croatia thrives on personal relationships. All landlords want to be sure their apartments are in the right hands.

Be respectful and transparent with your landlord. It will make life easier for everybody. You may need to allow your landlord to visit you on a regular basis. Some owners want to do periodic check to ensure that everything is okay with their apartment.

In many cases, the owner will ask that you pay rent in cash, in which they will be showing up every month to collect rent and yes, they will expect to come in and sit down and chat with you.

Conclusion

If you’re coming from the west, renting in Croatia may seem a little haphazard. And yes, your privacy may be violated from time to time. But, there are silver linings.

Need a bit more time with rent? If you’ve got a good relationship with your landlord, then this is usually not a problem. Your landlord can end up having your back when you need, which is unheard of in Western countries where you’re just a faceless checkbook. Silver linings.

Looking for an apartment? Read about the best ways to find an apartment to rent in Croatia in this post.

Are you satisfied with the relationship with your landlord? What has your rental experience in Croatia been like?

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