Renting an appartment in Brussels is a bit different from most cities - it’s the tenant who is responsible for carrying out most repairs, improvements and such like during their stay. On the downside, if something breaks then the landlord is probably not going to come help out. However, this also means you can do whatever you want: paint a wall, hang shelves or even replace something like white goods.
Remember that carrying out repairs will cost you money, so try to find a flat which doesn’t look like it’s about to fall to pieces. A cheap flat where the water breaks will quickly turn into a pretty pricey one. Given that the cost of living in Brussels is already quite high, your student budget might not cope well with such added extras.
If you’re looking to bag a place in the city centre (and why wouldn’t you?) then you’re probably facing around €500-750, if you are sharing a 2-3 bed place. The further you move from the city centre, the lower prices will drop. Living in a 1-bed place, however, will always been more expensive. While you can negotiate rent in some countries, in Belgium the prices are pretty fixed, and you pay whatever is advertised (the landlord is fined if they are found to post unfair prices).
When it comes to finding a room in Brussels, there are three options:
Student-specific housing (dorms)
Furnished short-term lets (shared)
Renting a room in a house
If you communicate with your university, they will have a student housing department who can help you move, even if it’s just giving advice on where to look. Some universities actually offer student accommodation on campus, which means sharing a bathroom and kitchen area with around 10 other students. This will always be the cheapest option (as little as €250 per month for rent), but is probably also the lowest quality of living.
Exchange students usually band together. Having other people to share your wonderful, eye-opening new adventures with improves the whole experience; however, sometimes the reason is more basic - it costs less money that way. If you rent a 3-4 bedroom apartment with other students, it’ll turn into much cheaper accommodation than getting a place to yourself.
It will also be nicer than student housing, as you don’t have to share low-quality living space with a dozen other people!
It’s not uncommon to rent a room in a family home, or otherwise established household. While you’ll have access to other rooms, nothing in the household will be yours - it can be a little more restrictive, but then again, it’s also cheaper than finding a place to yourself. The Housing Anywhere Brussels page is a great way to find rooms in the homes of already-furnished flats, such as student apartments.
Explore different neighborhoods before applying - Of course, if you’re pushed for time, you might not be able to afford this luxury. If you can, it’s fun to explore the different areas in and around the city. You might find some areas are better-suited to your interests (like living near a gym or sports field) or, simply, that you like the look of a particular area. You can then tailor your searches to find somewhere you like!
Be prepared for the upfront charges - Your deposit will likely be 2-3 months’ rent (so possibly €1500 or more) and you may have to pay 1-2 month’s rent upfront. Having just landed in the country, it’s a huge amount of money to pay out, but you don’t have much choice. Budget accordingly before setting out.
Make good use of Facebook groups and social media - If you’re looking for someone to move in with, there’s no better notice board than Facebook. We run two separate groups which you can find below, each of which can help you find accommodation in Brussels. The first is targeted at ULB students, and the second for anyone looking to find affordable accommodation in Brussels.