Most foreigners who temporarily live in Lithuania do so in rental apartments. To be a tenant is easier than to be a lessor. However, apartment rent is rather unpopular among Lithuanians themselves and therefore less regulated by state than in many Western countries. Here are the legal issues you need to know when renting an apartment in Lithuania.
How to ensure you are not evicted?
An apartment rent contract must be written when it has a fixed term (e.g. „Rent for 1 year“) or you rent an apartment from a company. Otherwise, it may be unwritten. If there is no fixed term it means that the lessor may cancel the agreement any time by informing the tenant 6 months in advance.
It is common that the lessors do not want to sign any written agreement as they avoid taxes. Tenants in such apartments risk being evicted even if it was agreed otherwise. It may happen that the lessor will deny altogether that he/she rented an apartment. Of course, such scams are rare, but a written contract largely prevents them. Therefore signing a contract is good even when it is not necessary (but it may mean a slightly more expensive rent).
However, even if the apartment rent contract is signed it may be so that the tenant will be evicted. This can happen if the lessor will transfer (sell or gift) the apartment to somebody else. The new owner may then evict the tenant and tenant‘s rights would be limited to demanding compensation from the previous owner if the contract was breached.
However, if the apartment rent contract is registered in the Real Estate Registry of Lithuania then it will be impossible for the new owner to evict the tenant so easily. The contract registration costs money however and a tenant will likely have to pay for it.
Eviction is also possible when the tenant breaches the contract and/or harms the apartment.
What should be written in an apartment rent contract?
Lithuanian apartment rent contract is required by law to have at least the following things mentioned: address, the number of rooms, the rights to shared rooms, rental price and terms to pay it, additional price to be paid for utilities (usually dependent on true usage).
In Lithuania many apartment buildings have their own Community established and the articles of incorporation of such Community should be given to a tenant (they will be Lithuanian-only however).
Some clauses are not required to be specified in the contract but if they are not specified then clauses described in law will hold. For example, if the contract does not specify when to pay for apartment rent the tenant has to pay until the 20th day of every month.
Illegal clauses in apartment rent contract
It is assumed that tenant is „the weaker part“ of the contract and the following clauses are banned:
a)Tenant‘s responsibility without guilt (e.g. that the tenant has to compensate damage if the apartment will burn in a fire started by neighbors) or a responsibility larger than true damage (e.g. „ the tenant clogs the toilet he would not only have to unclog it but also pay a fine“).
b)Lessor‘s right to unilaterally change the terms of the contract (e.g. „the lessor has a right to raise the rental price at any time“) or a lessor‘s right to unilaterally decide that the apartment is liveable (e.g. after a fire).
c)Altering tenant‘s rights based on his family size if the apartment is large enough (e.g. „the contract ends in case the tenant has another child“).
d)Removing tenant‘s ability to choose where to buy things/services (e.g. „tenant must use only IKEA furniture“).
e)Requiring the tenant to pay for entire rent after being late once.
Moreover, while it is permitted to rent rooms of the same apartment separately it is not permitted to rent a room that must be passed to reach another tenant‘s room or to rent a non-residential room (WC, kitchen) separately.
The tenant (and his/her family members) are responsible for the damage they do (or the people they let inside do) but are not responsible for the damages from elsewhere (e.g. done by neighbors).
Who could live in a rented apartment?
The tenant may invite other temporary residents to the rental flat only when the lessor agrees.
The leased apartment may be subleased only with a permission as well.
When the rental contract ends all the people who lived there loses their right to do that.
When the contract ends
If the ending date of the contract has been agreed upon the contract ends up on that date if either tenant or lessor wishes so. If nobody wishes that the contract continues to be in power the same way as if it would be signed without specifying the term.
The rental conditions may be changed by lessor when the term ends. However, the new conditions must be first offered to the existing tenant and only if he/she refuses could they be offered to someone else.
If the contract end term has not been specified the contract ends after the lessor writes a termination letter to the tenant. However, this letter must be written not earlier than 6 months before the termination date.
The tenant is always able to cancel the rental agreement by informing the lessor 1 months in advance (regardless of whether the ending term has been specified). He/she may also retract the termination letter if he/she changes his/her mind however if the lessor would have already agreed to rent the apartment to someone else such retraction would not work.
It is harder for the lessor to cancel the apartment rent contract. He/she may only do so if the tenant fails to pay the rental fee for 3 months, fails to pay for utilities, damages the apartment or misuses it (e.g. uses it for business).
The tenant must return the apartment as he received it.
If he made something worse (e.g. damaged the walls) then the tenant must repair or compensate the damage.
If the tenant improved the apartment he could take back the improvements after the apartment rent contract ends if these improvements can be taken away. Otherwise, the improvements become a property of lessor and only if the lessor agreed to make such improvements he/she would be obliged to compensate the tenant. For example, the tenant may easily remove a new lamp he bought (and place back the old lessor‘s lamp) but he may not be able to get any compensation for the wall paint.