10 things to know before renting an apartment in Croatia

Buildings in Dubrovnik old town
Buildings in Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia

PUBLISHED: 19.2.2024.

There are many essential factors you should be aware of before beginning your apartment search in Croatia. How to pick the location? When is the best time for renting? How to pay bills?

While there is some consistency across countries, certain things you must know before renting an apartment or a house in Croatia are unique to this country. This is especially true if you are a foreigner.

In this article, we cover:

The facts are these…

1. Picking the right location depends on various factors

Despite Croatia being quite a small country, there are numerous options for places to live. Here are some factors to consider as you determine your dream location.

Coast vs. inland

If you want to live on the coast, it is essential to know that many apartment owners will only rent their apartments during the off-season – from October to April. This way, they can rent them for higher prices on Airbnb and Booking.com during the summer.

In general, prices are higher on the coast than inland. Within cities, prices are higher the closer you get to the city center. You can view apartment rental prices here.

Public transportation vs. having a car

Do you plan on having a car? If you can’t see a car in the future, you should consider cities with public transportation systems.

Living in smaller villages without a car can be frustrating if you want to go somewhere else. A few local buses run through the hinterland, but they will be few and far between. For more tips about driving a car in Croatia, view this article.

Some parts of Croatia, mostly in the north and northwest, have rail transport, but it can be quite slow. The trains are often late, especially during winter, and they are sparse on Sundays, holidays, and during the night.

Learn more about Croatian public transport in our travel guides:

  • Boat travel – view here
  • Bus travel – view here
  • Train travel – view here
  • Dubrovnik – view here
  • Osijek – view here
  • Pula – view here
  • Rijeka – view here
  • Split – view here
  • Šibenik – view here
  • Zadar – view here
  • Zagreb – view here

Proximity to airports

How close to an airport do you want to be? Croatia has 9 commercial airports spread across the country. View all of them and our guides to Croatian commercial airports here.

Communities vs. going solo

If you’re a sociable person, it is best to choose a city. You’ll have more opportunities to meet new people at bars, events, festivals, caffe bars, or through Expat Facebook groups.

[Read: Expat Facebook groups in Croatia]

For those who prefer to be alone and live a peaceful life out of the tourist fray, living in a smaller municipality or village may be a better match. But the villages are a tight-knit community. Your arrival will be noticed and likely discussed before you even meet any of your neighbors. Learn more about Croatian culture here.

2. Long-term rentals in Croatia are not easy to find

Most free apartments are rented out to tourists full-time by Croatians or foreign investors. The amount of apartments used as vacation rentals versus long-term rentals in Croatia is incredibly disproportionate and out of balance.

Some apartment owners will rent their apartments to long-term tenants during the off-season but force them out in April. Sometimes, they are not transparent about it, so this is a crucial factor to consider when deciding on the apartment.

[Read: How to rent out a house or apartment in Croatia to long-term tenants]

3. Time of the year matters when looking for an apartment in Croatia

The time of year you are looking for an apartment matters greatly. Availability, while already severely limited, can fluctuate even more in certain months. Especially if you are looking for apartments for rent by the Adriatic Sea.

In summer, Croatian apartments are rented to tourists. In early fall, they are rented to students in bigger university cities. The best times to look for an apartment are late fall, winter, and early spring.

4. You must understand heating and cooling in Zagreb

If you plan to live in the Zagreb area, you must know the heating situation before renting an apartment. Heating is critical during winter in continental parts of the country, where temperatures sometimes reach -10 degrees.

Toplana (City heating)

Having your apartment plugged into the city grid is the best heating option you can get. It is much cheaper than any other option, and you will never be cold.

However, your heating will be controlled by the city, and it will be turned off around 22:00 or 23:00 each night. It may sound scary, but your apartment will hold the heat until it is turned back on the following day.

Gas heating

The second heating option in Zagreb is gas heating, but it is much more expensive than city heating. Aside from the cost, gas heating is not as effective in warming up your apartment as toplana, leaving you a little frigid in winter. The heating devices may sometimes make a strange noise.

Cooling

Not every apartment has air conditioning. Most new buildings have it, but some buildings are centuries old, and all you get in an apartment is a fan. If air conditioning is important to you, always check if your desired apartment has it – do not assume it does.

5. You must understand the utility bills you pay as a tenant

The critical question you should ask your landlord is how the utility bills are paid. There are several scenarios that you may encounter.

[Read: How to pay bills (invoices) in Croatia]

Landlord telling you what you owe

If the landlord controls calculating what you owe for monthly utilities, run the other direction. This will likely lead to you being taken advantage of and overcharged.

Sure, there may be some good-natured landlords who wouldn’t take advantage of a naïve foreigner by padding their utility bills, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Automatic bills calculated by the utility companies

Having all your utility bills calculated based on meter readings by the utility companies is the best situation. The bills will come to your home every month or be calculated using your monthly usage average, which is typical for HEP, the national electricity company.

This is the best way to guarantee you are not overcharged by your landlord and to keep your expenses private.

Partial landlord involvement

Sometimes, you may experience a hybrid solution. For example, your water meter may be inside your apartment and doesn’t automatically send your usage to the water company. In this case, your landlord or building manager will ask you for the meter reading once a month.

While this adds the human element, you are still not paying your landlord. The landlord or building manager sends your meter reading to the water company, who will send you a bill based on your usage.

Splitting the bills with your landlord

“Splitting” the bills with your landlord is another scenario that could lead to your landlord taking advantage of you. This usually happens when one large apartment is split into two apartments. Your landlord has one, and you have the other, but they are the same apartment in the eyes of utility companies.

The landlord may say, “You pay for the water, and I’ll pay for your internet.” This is never an offer with good intentions. It’ll always end up with you getting the short end of the stick.

Flat rates

In this scenario, the landlord charges you a flat rate for water or electricity, given that you don’t exceed a certain amount. This may seem like a good deal, but it isn’t. Usually, the flat rate is much higher than the actual usage. It’s just another way to skim money from you.

Garbage bills

The garbage bill that comes whenever the company feels like sending it is calculated by the number of people living in the apartment. When moving into a new one, ensure your landlord notifies the garbage company of the accurate number of tenants.

Hallway maintenance fee

If the apartment is in a building, there will be a hallway maintenance fee. This is a small amount, between 2 and 6 euro, depending on the number of units in your building.

Everyone in the building pays an equal amount to clean the stairs and hallway floors. You must pay this fee to the building manager or landlord monthly.

A building maintenance fee is also due every month, but this is the apartment owner’s responsibility. This fee varies for every building. If repairs or innovations are implemented, the amount will increase sharply. Confirm with your landlord you won’t have to pay it.

6. There are pros and cons of using a rental agency

When looking for an apartment in Croatia, many people use rental agencies. If you are searching on Njuškalo.hr, you’ll likely encounter many listings posted by agencies.

Remember that rental agencies charge a commission for helping you secure an apartment. It usually equals one month’s rent, and you will also have to pay the deposit to the landlord.

Agencies do not have a good reputation in Croatia and don’t do enough work. They are known for not responding to emails or calls and, generally, not doing their job. It is best to get a referral from someone you know and trust.

If you don’t speak Croatian, hiring a rental professional can be liberating. Our personalized local assistant can help you find your perfect place to live and negotiate with the landlord on your behalf. Fill out this form to get started, and make your life easier by skipping all possible issues.

[Read: How to find an apartment or house to rent in Croatia]

7. Act fast when you find a suitable apartment

As exhaustively noted already, there is a deep shortage of long-term housing, so rentals are snatched up fast. Don’t bother looking for an apartment until you’re ready to make a move because most of them will be gone within a day of being put up for rent.

Make sure you have these ready:

  • Deposit and your first month’s rent
  • OIB identification number (as you’ll need it to make a contract)
  • Valid ID card (either Croatian national ID or your passport)

[Read: How to apply for a national ID card (osobna iskaznica)]

8. Rental prices in Croatia are higher for foreigners

Officially, there is no such thing as the “foreigner tax” for renting apartments in Croatia. In practice, you will be charged more if you’re a foreigner because foreigners in Croatia are seen as money bags with legs. If the owner knows you’re a foreigner, they will give you a higher “foreigner” price no Croatian will ever pay.

[Read: Your rights as a renter in Croatia]

Know what things cost

Research apartments at all levels in all neighborhoods in your city. Become an expert in what apartments should cost. Talk to Croatians and ask them what they think you should pay.

Haggle with the owner

Once you are armed with information, negotiate confidently to bring down the price if it seems clear you are being overcharged. You can also bring a Croatian with you. However, don’t overcompensate by trying to take advantage of the owner. Going too low with your offer will be an insult, and you’ll get nowhere.

Don’t expect to pay as little as a Croatian would. At the end of the day, you are a foreigner, and they don’t know you – you could pick up and leave one day. You are a risk. You will always pay more than a Croatian; just don’t pay more than reasonable.

9. Croatian apartments are usually furnished

In Croatia, apartment rentals almost always come furnished. In some cases, they will be furnished with brand-new Ikea plastic. In other cases, the apartment will be a storage facility for heavy wooden furniture the family isn’t using anymore. Most of the time, it will be a combination of the two.

If you want to bring your furniture, ask the landlord if this is possible. They should clean out the apartment of their furniture before you sign a contract.

Fun fact: Don’t be surprised if the landlord requires that you handle the removal and storage of their furniture.

10. You must double-check the apartment before renting

Always double-check everything when renting an apartment in Croatia. It is not unusual to look at the apartment from the highest level only before signing a contract.

Here is what to look out for:

  • Examine all of the furniture – is anything broken?
  • Check outlets to make sure they work – are they safe?
  • Check provided appliances to ensure they turn on and work – does anything need to be repaired?
  • Check if there are lights in all the rooms – if not, it can cause you problems later

Take a small appliance, like a hair dryer, to test the outlets around the house. You may find that something is not working. It’s much better to request something must be fixed BEFORE signing a contract and moving in than after you take over the liability.

[Read: How to create a legally binding contract in Croatia]

Get help finding a home in Croatia

Are you planning a move to the Split, Zadar, Rijeka, Dubrovnik, or Zagreb area? If so, we can help you find a place to call home. In fact, we can help you find a home ANYWHERE in Croatia.

As we shared in this post, finding a place to live in Croatia can be challenging. It is much easier when you have a local who knows the good spots (and bad), can share the realities of what you can (and cannot) find, and advocate and negotiate on your behalf with the landlord.

We can help by:

  • Combing all listings to find properties that best match your criteria
  • Personally accompanying you to view the properties
  • Pointing out red flags about a property
  • Sharing local knowledge about the neighborhoods and renting in Croatia
  • Negotiating with the landlord to make sure you get the best price
  • Reviewing the contract according to the requirements of the police and making sure it protects your interests by Croatian law
  • Finding a cleaner once you’re all moved in
  • Explaining utility payment and what to expect from your landlord
  • Guiding you in setting up the internet
  • Coordinating with the real estate agent, if required, for a property
  • Translating at every step

If you’re ready to get started in your property search, please complete the form below. To get started, we will schedule a free 15-minute call so you can meet us and we can get to know what your needs are.

We look forward to meeting you!

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Read more about renting in Croatia

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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