Indicative, non-binding rental prices
Since 1 January 2018, the Brussels Capital Region has made indicative and non-binding rental prices available to Brussels landlords and tenants. It did this through the website https://huurprijzen.brussels/. These prices are based on surveys conducted by the Observation Center for Rental Prices, which is run by tenants.
Starting 20 October 2022, the reference rental prices are calculated according to the following:
- The formulas depend on the housing type (studio, apartment, house…), whereby the following are taken into account:
- The surface area of the housing;
- The location of the housing. Sectoral statistics are now used and are linked to a difficulty index. Every quarter has such difficulty index. This is how the more expensive quarters are distinguished from the cheaper ones;
- The state of the housing, depending on whether there are double-glazed windows and on the construction year.
- Several additional variables include:
- any central heating;
- any thermostat;
- if there is a second bathroom;
- any recreational area space;
- any storage area;
- if there is one or more garages;
- the energy efficiency and indoor climate (abbreviation in Dutch “EPB”) level
The indicative rental prices are a range of prices with a 10% margin of error from the reference rental price. At the end, they are adapted according to the evolution of the health index, as long as it is not based on new surveys.
Joint rental commission
At the end of 2021, the Brussels Capital Region approved an ordinance that ensures the set-up of a joint rental commission (JRC, or the Dutch abbreviation: een paritaire huurcommissie, PHC) after 2 December 2021. This commission will consist of the same number of landlords as there are tenants. It is authorized to give free advice on the fairness of rental price for residential tenancies in the Brussels region. However, the following tenancy contracts cannot be submitted to the JRC:
- tenancy contracts concluded by a public real estate operator or by a social housing rental office; and
- tenancy contracts whose rental price range is set by an ordinance or government resolution.
Any party concerned can approach the JRC. This means not only landlords and tenants but also, for example, associations can seek the JRC to defend their interests.
The justice of the peace can also request the commission to give an opinion as part of the (housing) rental price review process.
The commission gives its opinion within two months from the date the request was filed. If the JRC considers the rental price to be excessive, it suggests an adjusted Trental price.
The JRC’s opinion is not binding. If it suggests that the rental price be reviewed, it proposes that the parties embark on mediation. This is restricted to reaching a consensus on the amount of the rental price. The adjusted rental price that results from this process applies from the first day of the month following the date when the JRC made the matter pending, unless the parties agree otherwise.
In addition, after the first three-year period, the landlord has the right to seek the commission if it appears that the rental price that had to be paid at the time of the request is 30% lower than the reference rental price. This difference may not be justified by substantial and major quality defects (that are not attributed to the tenant) or by factors in the surroundings.
Presumption of abuse
Secondly, since 2 December 2021, it is presumed in the Brussels Capital Region that the housing rental price is excessive if it is 20% higher than the reference rental price. This presumption is rebuttable.
In this regard, the following should be noted:
- If the rental price being charged does not exceed the reference rental price by 20%, but the housing does show major quality defects and, therefore, is of below-average quality, then there could be alleged abuse. The quality defects may not be attributed to the tenant, of course. Moreover, they must relate to the intrinsic characteristics of the housing or its surroundings, which were not explicitly considered yet when estimating the reference rental price. Some examples of this include the absence of an individual electricity or water meter, the absence of the property’s own sanitary facility, no kitchen equipment or a lift. Also, significant environmental noise or frequent environmental odours can be considered.
- A difference of more than 20% of the reference rental price can be justified, however, by major comfort elements (that relate to the intrinsic features of the housing) or by surrounding factors, which were not considered when estimating the reference rental price. The following characteristics are examples of major comfort: the fact that it is a mansion with four façades or is a townhouse, it has remarkable or prestigious architecture, there is solid-wood parquet flooring, there are several relaxation areas, an abundance of green areas, or it is in a very quiet location.
Therefore, there is abuse if the landlord rents out its property at a price that is not proportional to the qualities of that property.
Stipulate the reference rental price in the tenancy contract
Thirdly, since 2 December 2021, a landlord of housing in Brussels must indicate in the tenancy contract the reference rental price of the property or the range of the reference rental price as calculated and published on the website https://huurprijzen.brussels/.
Anticipate further evolution
Furthermore, a landlord of housing in Brussels should expect even stricter rules in the future.
The Brussels Capital Region have already adopted several provisions in this respect, but their effective date is postponed to a later date that has not been set yet.
- It will prohibit the landlord from proposing an excessive rental price. If the landlord does this, the tenant may seek an opinion from the JRC and request that the rental price be reviewed or that the request be made pending immediately at the justice of the peace. If the parties do not reach a consensus after mediation, which is organized by the JRC, the tenant will still be able to seek a review of the rental price by petitioning the justice of the peace.
The adjusted rental price that is pronounced by the justice of the peace can become effective, at the earliest, four months before the date of the initiatory procedural instrument.
- If it concerns a tenancy contract with a term of more than one year but less than three years, you cannot petition this in the first two months after the contract has entered into force. For tenancy contracts of a longer term, there is a waiting period of three months.
- If the landlord already had to adjust an excessive rental price for the same property, the tenant can seek a reduction of the rental price at any time during the term of the tenancy contract. In such scenario, the adjusted rental price becomes valid only from the first month of the tenancy contract.
If we have a clearer view on when these provisions enter into force, we will certainly inform you through our newsflash announcements.
For more information about keeping housing rental prices in the Brussels Capital Region under control, see https://huurprijzen.brussels/.