The Lease Agreement

Understand what to expect from the tenancy agreement when renting property in Russia…

Renting a property in Russia is available to anyone provided they fulfill the requirements of the lease (arenda / ??????) and are able to pay the rent (renta / ?????) (Note: in colloquial Russian, arenda often refers to both the lease and the rent.)

If renting through an agency, a prospective tenant will be asked to demonstrate the ability to pay. Where a property is rented directly from a landlord, there may be an informal conversation about the future tenant's employment, salary and the length of tenancy required. A landlord may also inquire about the length of the tenant’s intended stay in Russia, their religion, children and private life. This is usually to ensure that the tenant is not going to cause trouble and should not be seen as just being indiscrete.

Landlords may advise on or stipulate rules about smoking, pets, decorating, painting the property and noise restrictions. Very strict noise restrictions have recently been adopted in St Petersburg; among the noises that are legally prohibited are "stomping of cats", howling dogs and loud moans and groans.

If dealing directly with a landlord or a private real estate agent, it is also normal for a tenant to enquire about a future landlord. This is to be certain about the legitimacy of the parties involved in signing the contract and to safeguard against scams.

  • For advice on avoiding scams by prospective landlords on the ZaZakon legal website: Click here (in Russian)

Household insurance is optional, but tenants are responsible for any damage caused to the house or flat, or to a neighbouring property, if it is the fault of the tenant.

Subletting is possible, and this may be done if a flat is rented through a friend or colleague.

A rental agreement or lease should contain the following information:

  • The length of the contract (initially a lease agreement lasts for 6 to 12 months; after this it rolls on month by month)
  • The monthly rent (increases may be subject to negotiation, but are unlikely to rise before the end of the first six months)
  • When rent should be paid
  • How the rent should be paid
  • Details of the deposit, including amount and conditions of it being refunded
  • The utilities included in the monthly rent
  • The conditions of contract (including termination and any repairs that are deemed the tenant’s responsibility)
  • Details about landlord inspections

The landlord or agency will normally ask for the first month’s rent in advance. A payment should then be made on a monthly basis, most likely by cash or bank transfer. Cheques are seldom used to pay for rent in Russia. If renting directly from a landlord, the tenant should be prepared that rent may be increased as the landlord wishes. Due to this, it can be better to rent property through an agency that can fix the amount of rent increases in the lease agreement.

Documentation required from the tenant:

  • ID document, such as a passport
  • Proof of a visa or residence permit

Deposit

Deposits (zadatok / ???????) are entirely legal and will certainly be asked for if a property is rented through a real estate agency. If renting directly from a landlord, it is possible to negotiate the amount and payment of a deposit. If a deposit must be paid, it is usually one month’s rent.

All lease agreements must include a section clearly stating under what circumstances a deposit will not be refunded. In general, however, it is given back when the contract expires and the tenant wishes to move to a different flat. Some lawyers advise not to pay the last month’s rent until the deposit is returned, or to suggest that the landlord should take the deposit for this.

Utilities

The lease agreement must say exactly which utilities are included in the rent and what must be paid by the tenant, preferably advising the name of the providers. Utilities such as council tax (kvartplata / ??????????), electricity, heat, telephone, Internet and TV are usually paid for by the tenant, while water is normally included in the rent.

Parking

Parking (parkovka / ????????) may or may not be paid for, depending on whether the tenant has a car. A property listing normally specifies if parking is available and of what type: for instance, an outdoor garage or an underground parking space.

Other Costs and Taxes

In general, a tenant is not required to pay any taxes on top of rent. This should be stipulated in the lease agreement.

Inventory

Any furnished property must contain an inventory (opis imuschestva / ????? ?????????). It is advised to check the property for damage prior to moving in. If any damage is found, it must be promptly photographed and reported to the agency or landlord.

Repairs

The landlord is normally responsible for repairs at the property. It is not uncommon, however, for a landlord to be away from the city or country. This means that the tenant will have to take care of the repairs, either by asking the agency to take care of this, or organising repairs themselves. Ask when signing a lease if it is possible to claim back any costs incurred for regular maintenance.

Terminating a Lease

Rental agreements may be terminated by the tenant or by landlord. The lease will stipulate the minimum of days' notice which should be given to avoid a fine. If the tenant’s behaviour is unacceptable (not paying the rent, breaking other tenancy rules, especially making noise) a landlord may terminate the lease before the agreement has ended. In such cases, the landlord will provide the tenant with notice of termination.

Advice from Russian Tenants

Russians themselves advise to first move into a hostel or short-term rented accommodation when arriving in either Moscow or St Petersburg to start working (or find a job), then to find a residence when the location of work and the type of accommodation are all known.