I have rented in Moscow for a long time and, fortunately, been lucky with my landlords but I know from my friends’ experiences and stories that renting in Moscow can be like a monthly gang rape of the financial variety.
The first thing to expect, this being Moscow and all, is paying more for less. Now this point I covered in my post on 5 annoying things about living in Moscow. Expect to rent something of less quality for a lot more money than you would in your home country. My friend lived in a filth hole that resembled something out of a 1960s horror movie and was paying 28000 roubles for it. This place was like a Soviet Union time warp, the cooker alone had to have been 30 years old...
Generally there exists the concept of ‘evro remont’, i.e. Western-style quality and this is fine and the standard is good, but get your ass ready (both metaphorically and physically) to cough up some serious cash. These two words, ‘evro remont’ should act as your financial alarm bell. I can safely say that you won’t be getting a sweet rent deal in Moscow.
First thing to get straight is that, to them, you are a human rouble piñata that is to be squeezed and beaten dry. Most landlords aren’t letting as a professional type addition to their income, they just want easy money from a spare apartment. When choosing a place to live, you can expect to be greeted by a lot of the owner’s stuff taking up space in the apartment. Not only does the apartment act as a cash earner, it also serves as a storage space. If you ask, the owner will probably move some of their stuff, but not all of it. If you get very lucky the only place that will be harbouring the owner’s shit will be the balcony.
Other landlord horror stories include owners showing up, uninvited, letting themselves in and drinking the tenant’s coffee. Screw your privacy. This happens and is not an exception so try to be careful choosing your landlord if you have the choice.
Normally the owner will either come to collect the rent or you will have to meet them. Forget about a direct debit payment in Russia for a good few years.
Often a landlord will not want to fix or replace anything, even if you didn’t break it. They view their apartments as palaces where everything is amazing and where nothing needs to be replaced. Ever. Oh, you thought that good ole’ landlord Sergey would replace that 50-year-old fridge? Ha, no way my friend. I mean after all, actually maintaining a property and keeping it up-to-date would mean actually spending some of those golden expat rent dollars.
Real estate agents
Well, real estate agents all over the world evoke rage from me, as do most commission-based cock sucker salesmen, but Russian agents are really unscrupulous. If you have to use a real estate agent, try to use a trusted one that a friend or someone has used before. Also, don’t say you are foreign beforehand, the price will magically increase by 25-50%, funny that. Get a Russian friend to handle any phone or personal negotiations, it will cost you less.
One point, most of the time a landlord will not want to register you and you will be lucky, very lucky, if a landlord agrees to a lease contract, although this is not impossible.
Generally you will be expected to pay the agent up to 100% of a month’s rent (yes, they manage to financially fuck both parties), a deposit (which the landlords normally spend) and sometimes a month’s rent upfront too. In the best case scenario, expect to pay at least two month’s rent upfront (if you go via an agent) and if I’m wrong and you pay less, consider it a refreshing financial surprise courtesy of Moscow. I can tell you now that you won’t be getting many of these, comrade.
So there you have it and let me tell you, this is not bias - this is the way it is. Get ready to pay a lot of money for not a lot, possibly lose your deposit and deal with some potentially outrageous landlords.
A nod to the expat landlords
Now I have never had an expat landlord, although I wanted to mention my friend’s old landlord. He was American guy who has lived in Moscow for about 15 years who bought a few bits of property for dirt cheap in the chaos of the 90s. Now these places are worth, close to a million I would say, just because of location, but that’s not the point. This sleaze bag would rent to Russian women, mainly those who were in Moscow working but who came from other towns and offer them discounts for sexual favours. Yes, that’s right. Because a lot of Russians’ salaries are way smaller than they should be and rent is way higher than in should be. This 50+ dirt bag has managed to find a way to have sex with 18 year-old girls for free. I know another girl he used to rent to who moved out because he kept hitting on her. Imagine the scene, an elderly American pervert who speaks not a word of Russian, trying to solicit sex from his tenant.
But there it is, fucked up things like this happen in Russia (and you wondered why Russian literature was depressing?).