Photo: KK for Brno Daily.

Flat Race: A Personal Account of Renting In Brno

During my time here in Brno, I have had to move three times: once when I first arrived, once into my own place, and once again just this month. Almost every time has been a nightmare experience. Not just the actual moving: packing up all your belongings, arranging transport to shift it, unpacking everything again, buying any furniture you need, decorating the new place and cleaning the old place is stressful enough as it is. But before you can do any of that, you actually need to be able to find a place to move into. In Brno, that is no mean feat.

The first time I had to find an apartment, back in October 2020, it didn’t actually seem that difficult. I was living in Blansko at the time and found Czech village life a little too quiet. The second lockdown hadn’t started yet so I was easily able to go and view the few apartments I did find on Bezrealitky or Facebook’s Brno apartment pages. I was also still in the ‘wow, Czech Republic is so cheap!’ phase that a lot of people go through when they move here from countries where the cost of living is higher.

Looking back, I realise that I was looking at apartments that were way out of my price range, which is probably why it seemed so easy to find places. I went to see three apartments that were around the 20k mark. They were very simple 1+1 or 2kk apartments, and maybe about 40 sq.m. in total, but they were all located slap bang in the city centre. I had been paying roughly CZK 17,000 in a small UK town, so to me a place for a similar price in a ‘big’ city like Brno was totally reasonable! You can clearly see how naive I was.

In the end, I did the smart thing and moved into a shared apartment a little bit out of town. Another lockdown was announced and the idea of living on my own for months on end in a brand new city was not a very appealing one. I was extremely lucky to find the room I eventually moved into. I had enquired about another room in the same apartment a few weeks earlier, but it had been snapped up, as I now know is the norm for rooms here. The woman who I’d been chatting to about that room got in touch and told me her flatmate was also moving out if I’d still be interested.

That night I went round, viewed the room, and told the guy who was moving that I’d take it. Cue 18 months living in Komárov in a fairly small room, but in an apartment that had been very recently renovated, with all the mod cons and a landlord who spoke English, immediately sorting out any issues. When I moved in the rent was CZK 8,000 and it barely increased while I was living there. When I left it was still only about CZK 8,600, and that was just because the utilities had increased.

At the beginning of 2022, I had decided that I was sick of sharing an apartment with people I didn’t get on with very well and wanted my own place. Thankfully, I was a bit savvier about prices at this point, so I was no longer looking at 20k+ apartments in the city centre. Instead, I had a max limit of 15k including utilities, and it seemed like I had embarked on an absolute mission!

I saw one apartment which had a shower in the kitchen, so you could cook your dinner and wash your hair at the same time! Another with damp so bad that the mould had gone up two entire walls and was creeping across the ceiling. Another where what the landlord called a ‘kitchen’, I would call a wardrobe with a microwave and two burner hobs. Within two months, I was starting to lose hope completely. The places within my price range either didn’t have a real functioning kitchen, or were so genuinely disgusting that I wouldn’t let an animal live in them.

Eventually I had a bit of luck. My friend had an ex-work colleague who was moving out of her 1kk and she had asked him if he knew anyone who was looking for a place. I immediately got in touch with her and went to view the place. I’ve never loved the idea of living in a studio, but the location was amazing, and the apartment was not only normal (with an actual kitchen, separate bathroom and everything) but also quite new and very well maintained. The landlord came round and, with the help of the current tenant’s translation skills, I was informed that the apartment I had just viewed wasn’t available. BUT there was an apartment on the same floor that was! While I was viewing the available apartment, another couple turned up to view it. I told the landlord I was interested and would soon be in touch with the documents she needed. I left and didn’t waste a second of time. I knew how competitive it was to find a place in Brno, let alone a place that was so well maintained, in a great location and for a good price.

Within three weeks, I had found someone to take over my room and moved into the new place: a 1.5 kk of about 25 sq.m, right next to Petrov, and at a price of CZK 13,000. It was so newly renovated that I had to remove the film from the fridge before I could use it, but the landlord only spoke Czech and the place was so small that I had to do my washing at a launderette three buildings away. Not ideal but definitely manageable, especially considering some of the other places I’d seen.

Fast forward to 2024. My small, well maintained, central apartment was going to have its second price increase in two years, up to CZK 17,000. Not only was this unaffordable, but also way more than the place was worth in my opinion. I had already been keeping an eye out, browsing some of the Brno Facebook pages, but all this had done was make me feel mentally exhausted at the idea of having to view another bunch of uninhabitable apartments. Thankfully I was saved from a proper apartment hunt by a friend who was moving into a new place and had a spare room, which he invited me to take.

The new place is in the leafy suburbs of Černá Pole and huge. My room alone is only slightly smaller than my previous solo apartment. My flatmate’s room is a similar size, plus an average-sized kitchen and lovely little sunroom. The bathroom has just been renovated and for the first time since moving to the Czech Republic, I have a bath! Yes, I’ve already taken full advantage of that. The landlord speaks English, and seems like a good guy who will happily help if we have any big issues. My rent has been halved and there are great public transport connections. For now, this is my ideal living situation.

But my struggle to find apartments is not a solitary one. Every single expat I have met has some horror story about trying to find somewhere to rent, from landlords who purposely charge them more because they’re a foreigner, to apartments where the floorboards have rotted down to literally nothing, to utility bills that are mysteriously and extortionately high until questioned with the threat of legal action. It saddens me that so many landlords here seem to not care about their properties, but only whether they can squeeze six students into a 2kk apartment and make CZK 36,000 a month, instead of the CZK 18,000 it’s actually worth.

Of course, I know that there are plenty of problem tenants out there who might trash the place, break fixtures, or simply fall behind on their rent. But that’s what contracts and deposits are for! If the landlords of Brno took some time to make their properties a bit more liveable, they might end up with long term tenants who would look after the place; even if they didn’t make the same amount of money on rent, they’d end up with a well-maintained apartment that wouldn’t need as much work done to be sold on in the future.

While difficulties finding a property aren’t unique to Brno, it’s certainly the worst I’ve experienced. I feel that foreigners in the city get taken advantage of because of their lack of knowledge of rental prices and Czech law. Add in a language barrier, and there are so many people who move here only to live in poor conditions, paying a high price, and not knowing where to turn for help. That’s why easy access to information is essential, and I can’t thank places like Brno Expats Centre and enough for providing it, not only on renting in Brno, but a whole host of other topics. Hopefully the rental market will improve in the future… and in the meantime, we can make sure to fully enjoy our time in Brno, so that the positives outweigh this one negative feature of life in the city.

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