Many foreigners have difficulty dealing with their landlords in Cairo. Given the difference in language and culture, it can be difficult to make sure you are not taken advantage of. As a real estate agent and lawyer who works with foreign clients in Egypt, I have seen many problems arise that could have been prevented. To help protect yourself and maintain your rights, there are a number of things you should remember to do when negotiating and signing the contract. I will also provide you with some suggestions about how to resolve misunderstandings with your landlord.
- From my experience, it is always better to sign a contract written in English so that you know exactly what is included in the contract. You can buy a contract in English from any stationary shop. If your landlord does not want to sign in English, be firm and have your real estate agent translate the contract for the landlord. Because it is a standard form that can be found in any shop, he should accept it.
- Be sure to clarify if you will pay by day or by month, so that the landlord doesn’t ask for money for extra days in months with 31 days. This can be confusing and is especially important if you are staying a short period between two months or if you have an irregular start date for your contract.
If you have some complaints about the flat and you have asked the landlord to change things or fix things, make sure it is written in the contract. This is because sometimes after the contract is signed, the landlord will try not to do what he promised. If the changes are listed in the contract, you will have a legal basis to complain so that he will carry out his promise. If he will not, it is always best to talk to him. You can ask your real estate agent to help you with this problem or have an Egyptian friend talk with him. If nothing works, then you can go to the police. They will fix the problem, but the police can often be rude and it may embarrass the owner, so he might start problems with you. This is not the accepted practice, so weigh this decision carefully first before you decide to go to the police.
- Be sure to change the lock after you move in your rented apartment, and this is especially important if you will stay long term. It is your right and very common to ask the landlord to do this. What is more, it is very cheap, so he should not complain. You do not know who else has a copy of the key, so it is important to protect yourself.
- If the landlord tries to pressure you to increase the price after you have signed the contract or demand unnecessary things, first tell him you will complain at the police station or at your embassy. This is also why it is important to have a good real estate agent who can intercede on your behalf and speak with the landlord. In reality, the embassy will probably not help you, but you can ask the police for help if problems continue. However, you will likely have a bad relationship with the landlord if you stay. In this case, you might want to change your flat, because it could be dangerous or bothersome for you. Be sure to ask your real estate agent to help you get your deposit back.
- Usually you will have to pay a deposit. The landlord will ask you to pay one month’s rent, or up to two month’s rent if it is a luxurious flat. This is his guarantee if you break something in the flat, fail to pay expenses like electricity or the water bill, or if you don’t pay your final month’s rent. But it is your right to take all of the deposit back at the end of the rental period if you pay all your expenses and do not break anything.
- Make sure the deposit amount is written in the contract so that you can get it back when your lease is over. It is important to speak with the owner several days before you leave to give him time to prepare the money and also to check if you think he will cheat you. If you are afraid he won’t give the deposit back, first call your real estate agent and explain in detail what happened to make you think so. Ask the agent to fix the problem, and check back the next day or in two days. If he was not able to fix the problem, you will still have time to go to the police to complain. You will need the original contract if you go to the police station. If you have stayed in the flat for a long time, it is likely the owner will ask for some money from your deposit for repairs. This is accepted practice, but make sure the prices stated are logical.
- Be sure to pay your rent on time. This is your responsibility and key to maintaining a good relationship with your landlord.
- Try to write in the contract all of the furniture and items from the flat so that you are able to prove to your landlord at the end of the rental period that nothing is missing. This will help you to get all of your deposit back. If you see the furniture is old and you are afraid it will break, you can ask the landlord to remove it from the apartment. By Egyptian law, if something breaks in your apartment, you are required to fix or replace it even if it was not your fault that it broke. So this is something to bear in mind if you rent a very old apartment. However, you are not required to buy a new item, so you can replace something expensive, like an oven or refrigerator with another used appliance. You can try to negotiate with your landlord when you sign the contract, but it might make him worried that you will break something and refuse to pay. If you do break something and it is commonly found in the market, you may want to replace it yourself. Otherwise, speak with the owner and you can consult an expert if you think his price is too high. In severe cases, you can go to an Egyptian lawyer or the police.
- You have the right to receive guests in your flat if you do not bother others. However, in practice, religious owners may ask you not to accept guests of the opposite sex. If you do not agree, it is better to find another flat rather than ignoring the owner’s wishes, because this can create problems with the owner and he can find ways to bother you.
- After you sign the contract, write down the number from the electricity meter on the contract, and make sure the landlord sees the number. There are two ways of payment – you can receive the bill and pay it yourself, or you write subtract the old number from the new number and multiply the result by the cost of electricity. One kilo is around 25-35 piastres. If you think you will pay too much because you are afraid of receiving the bill for clients before you, it is better to pay by the second method. Agree on the payment method when you sign the contract with the landlord. If you think the price of the bill you have received is incorrect, if you have the numbers from the electricity meter you will be prepared to speak with your landlord or the electricity company about it.
- The landlord will ask for a copy of your passport. This is ok to do and a requirement by law. The landlord is required to give a copy of your passport to the police station for that area of the city.
- It is also your right to ask the owner for a copy of his identity card and to see the contract for the flat if you suspect he is not the real owner. These documents will be in Arabic, so if you don’t read Arabic, ask someone you trust to help you. Sometimes the owner will ask a friend or family member to manage the flat for him. He may also have the real estate agent sign the contract if he is unable to attend. These are all legal things to do, but you should be clear about who is the real owner, and you should be clear about who is the responsible contact to call when you have a problem. You should also know who is responsible to return your deposit when you leave.
- Keep all of your bills until the end of the rental contract so that you can show them to prove payment, if necessary. This can help you to get all of your deposit back.
- If you sign the contract for a long period and for some reason you have to leave the flat, tell the landlord before you leave to give him a chance to find another leasee. Otherwise you will lose your deposit. If you or he finds another renter, you can get your deposit back.
- If you do not pay your rent for three months, the landlord has the right to end your contract.
- Try to get a written receipt of payment for each month that you pay so that you can prove this afterwards. Make sure the receipt is dated.
- Remind your landlord several days beforehand that you will leave the flat so that he has time to prepare your money. Remind him how much money he owes you. This will also allow you the chance to determine if you think he will cheat you, so you can call the real estate agent or friends to speak with the landlord if necessary.
Remember it is important to use a good real estate agent who is willing and able to help you or give you suggestions if you have a problem. This is one reason why it can be worth it to use a real estate agent, because then you have someone with influence on the owner to negotiate for you – after all, once you leave, the owner will need the agent’s help to find a new client, and he does not want to be disgraced in the community. Most agents are honest and will help you if the owner demands too much money. But be respectful, it is not the requirement of the real estate agent by law to help you or to fix things in your apartment, he does this out of good conscience and a desire to help.
_______________________ If you have any questions about real estate or legal matters, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or+2 0109495716. Best of luck, Mohamed