Generally speaking, there are two possibilities when finding a place to live in Austria i.e. to own or rent a property. In the bigger cities, rented apartments in Austria comprise the majority of all dwellings. Rents in most apartments in Austria are regulated by the Austrian Tenancy Law. The exception is single-family houses. But periods of notice also apply here as well.
Average costs to rent an apartment in Austria vary from one federal state to the next. The average rental costs are lowest in Burgenland (2018: € 5.93/m²) and are the highest in Salzburg (2018: € 9.23/m²). Factors such as infrastructure, transport links, quality of the residential neighbourhood and furnishings in the apartment also affect rents. Flats located in inner-city locations or apartments on the outskirts of the city featuring good transport connections and a good infrastructure are generally expensive. Rents of smaller apartments per square metre are frequently just as expensive as larger apartments.
There are also further costs which may arise at the beginning of a rental period:
- Security deposit: designed to safeguard rental payments or as security for damage done to the rented property. Normally the security deposit amounts to three times the gross monthly rent (the net rent plus operating costs plus ten percent value added tax - VAT).
- Commission: one-off payment to the real estate broker in the case a rental agreement has been successfully concluded. (This amounts to three times the gross monthly rent** plus 20 percent VAT tax in the case of a limited tenancy contract and two times the gross monthly rent plus 20 percent VAT in the case of longer and unlimited tenancy contracts.)
- Compensation for investments: Compensation payments for investments made by the previous tenant are only allowed if the tenant moving out is actually to be compensated for these investments, which can be documented by the corresponding invoices. The previous tenant may also be compensated for furniture which was left behind in the apartment.
- Advance rental payments may have to be paid if the landlord includes this in the contractual agreement.
- Written rental agreements and the extension of these contracts are subject to fees. The freedom of contract applies here i.e. the right of the contractual parties to determine who will bear the costs in this case. Usually the tenant has to pay the relevant fees.
- Reimbursement of the costs for drafting the contract incurred by the landlord or the property management or processing fees may sometimes be levied. More information
A distinction is made between main tenancy and sub-tenancy on the one hand, and between a limited and unlimited tenancy contract on the other hand. Main tenancy and sub-tenancy primarily differ with respect to the amount of rent to be paid and protection against the termination of lease or eviction. A limited tenancy contract must be concluded for a period of at least three years.
Looking for apartments in Austria
Daily newspapers, real estate agents, various Websites as well as cities and municipalities are the main information sources for available apartments or real estate in Austria.
If a suitable place has been found which fulfils the desired criteria, it is common practice to visit the place before a rental agreement is signed.
A visit involving several interested parties can also be organised. Such visits are arranged by phone. An appointment to see the property should be used to enable the tenant to ask relevant questions. Caution should be exercised if the tenant is pressed to sign an agreement as quickly as possible.
The so-called rental offer confirms that an interested person wants to rent the apartment under certain conditions. The rental offer is binding. If the landlord accepts this offer, the rental agreement is considered to have been concluded.
The rental agreement
Both a verbal and written agreement between the tenant and the landlord/owner are considered to be valid. Nevertheless, it is recommended to conclude a written agreement in order to have something in writing in case a dispute arises. The rental agreement includes information about the duration of the rental period, the specific apartment in question, the size of the apartment for rent, rental costs, notice periods, house rules etc.
Rental agreements are generally concluded for a limited period of time (as a rule for three years) or else the tenancy contracts are for an unlimited period of time. If the limited tenancy contract is not terminated, it is automatically extended by the contractually stipulated time limitation. After the second period of time has passed, the limited tenancy contract is automatically considered to be an unlimited tenancy contract.
Unlimited tenancy contracts can be terminated by both parties by complying with the contractually stipulated notice periods. In contrast, limited tenancy contracts can only be terminated if this option is expressly stipulated in the contractual agreement.
There are several obligatory registrations in Austria relating to the issue of living in Austria:
Anmeldung eines neuen Hauptwohnsitzes oder "Nebenwohnsitzes" (Registration of a new permanent or secondary place of residence)
Ummeldung – bisheriger Hauptwohnsitz soll zum "Nebenwohnsitz" werden oder umgekehrt (change of registration - previous permanent place or residence will beomce the secondary place of residence or vice-versa)
Abmeldung eines bestehenden Hauptwohnsitzes oder "Nebenwohnsitzes" (cancellation of an existing permanent or secondary place of residence)
As soon as an apartment is rented, the tenant must also register with an energy supply company of his or her choice in order to be able to be supplied with gas, electricity or district heat.
If the apartment has a radio or a television inside, a so-called television or radio license fee must be paid. In this case, it is necessary for the tenant to register with the Gebühren Info Service (fee information service)
A person with a low income may be eligible for exemption from payment of the television or radio license fee: www.gis.at.
Rental apartments are the dominant form of residence in the country’s largest cities. Nevertheless, if sufficient funds are available, it may make sense from an investment perspective to purchase the apartment. The first step in buying real estate is to have a look at the land use and zoning plans to find out if and when it is allowed to build anything on the desired piece of land. These plans are available for general inspection in the respective Gemeindeämtern (municipal offices) or the municipal authority MA 21 in Vienna.
On the basis of an up-to-date excerpt from the land register, all legal requirements, rights and restrictions as well as the ownership status of the seller, mortgages, property liens, pre-emption rights on property, information on the rights of way, sewers, pipelines, streams etc. should be checked. Such an excerpt is available on every property in Austria and can be obtained from every Bezirksgericht (district court) or Vermessungsamt (surveyor’s office). For a free, the excerpt from the land register is also accessible via the Internet.
It is also important to consider that every piece of land upon which a building is to be constructed must first be developed. This can relate to the following: water (waterworks), electricity (electric power plants), gas (gas plants), district heating (municipality), telephone (telecom operator), wastewater (municipality) and waste disposal (municipality).
In any case, information should be obtained from building authorities before purchasing land.
It is possible to independently draft a purchase agreement (including the registration clause or Aufsandungserklärung*) on the basis of available sample documents or to go with the contractual partner to a notary public or district court for the purpose of obtaining official certification of signatures.
However, due to the complexity of legal issues relating to acquiring property, it is recommended to draft the contract with the help of a notary public or a lawyer and to ensure the proper registration of the transfer of property in the land register.
One should reckon with ancillary costs in acquiring apartments to the amount of ten percent of the purchase prices. These expenses are for the notary public, taxes, fees, financing costs, real estate broker etc.
* The “explicit declaration” of a person certified by a notary public or court that he or she approves the entry into the land register of a contractual change to his or her rights.
Acquiring property or the co-ownership of property by foreigners must be approved by the relevant public authorities. Exceptions are citizens of EU member states or contractual partners of the European Economic Area. These individuals are entitled to be treated in the same manner as Austrian nationals. Approval procedures must be carried out for third-country nationals.
The precise regulations pertaining to the acquisition of property by foreigners are contained in the Law on the Purchase of Real Property by Nonnationals of the respective federal states. The responsible body is the office of the respective state government or the district administrative authority.
Before concluding a rental or purchase agreement, one can obtain advice from various organisations (e.g. tenancy associations, the Tenants Protection Association, Austrian Consumer Association, Austrian Chamber of Labour) and have the lawfulness of a rental or purchase agreement checked.