By the Athens News

Are you looking for a new apartment or house to rent? Before you make a move, make sure you know your renter’s rights and responsibilities.

Tenants do have rights, as well as duties. A few points you should keep in mind.

The lease is a written agreement between the tenant and the landlord. Before you sign on the dotted line, read the contract carefully. Discuss anything you do not understand with your landlord. The lease should state the following:

• The names of both the landlord and tenant as well as a description of the apartment or house.

• The amount of rent the tenant must pay and when it is due, as well as the amount of the security deposit, if one is requested by the landlord.

• A security deposit (one or two-month rent) is returned to the tenant when the lease is up if there are no outstanding bills or damage to the apartment or house. Note: A security deposit is not required by Greek law. Most landlords also require tenants to pay the first and last month’s rent upon moving in.

• The term of the lease (two-year lease, three etc). And options for what happens at the end of this period (renew the lease, increase the rent etc)

• Always keep a copy of the lease in a safe place

• Also ask about the payment of the duty stamp (hartosimo), which is added on top of the rent . This is about 5 percent of a month’s rent. Usually, the tenants pay half.

• By law, the term of the lease should be for at least three years. Even if the lease expires in less than three years, the landlord cannot evict the tenant until the full three years are up.

• It is also common practice for the tenant to pay the municipal rates charged through the electricity (DEI) bill. However, this is meant to be paid by the owners.

• By law, the tenant cannot leave before the lease expires. If this does happen, the landlord has the right to sue the tenant, which is rare. It is common practice for the tenant to give the landlord at least one month’s notice. In the worst-case scenario, the landlord keeps the security deposit.

• Rent increases: These are usually specified in the lease. Most landlords request a 10 percent rental increase upon renewal of the lease. However, if this is not specified, the increase is only 75 percent of the cost of living index.

• Think twice about signing a lease that states that all damages must be repaired by the tenant. Under Greek law, a fresh coat of paint, a leaky tap and other damages caused by normal daily use are the landlord’s responsibility. But if the lease states otherwise, the written agreement supersedes the law.

• It is a good idea to inspect the condition of the apartment or house with the landlord and make an inventory of any damages caused by previous tenants. This should be dated and signed by both you and the landlord. This way you will not have to pay for damages caused by previous tenants.

• Always keep the receipts when you pay your rent.

• If you do not pay your rent, the owner can legally evict you. The procedure takes about three to four months.

For more information about renters’ rights and obligations contact the Panhellenic Renters’ Protection Association. Its office is located at 66 Menandrou St, Omonia (Athens) tel (30) 210 524 6982. In Thessaloniki call (30) 2310 283 111.

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