Russian MiniLessons: Renting Housing in Russia and Related Russian Vocabulary

Apartment building in Moscow

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

When it comes to renting an apartment or a room, Russians do not make a distinction between a landlord and a host, they both are called хозяин/хозяйка. Apartment leasing companies in Russia are extremely rare (companies who own a whole building, for instance, and rent all apartments within it). Thus, people who want to rent an apartment generally have to deal with the владелец квартиры, either через агентство or напрямую. Most often, both parties prefer to rent без агентства  as an agent often takes a комиссионное вознаграждение equal to one month’s rent.

A foreigner who intends to rent a living space in Russia, should know some basic vocabulary related to the topic, such as жилец (also sometimes “съемщик“) or арендатор, снять or арендовать, арендодатель and договор.

There are several questions you should ask the landlord before renting.

Two of these include: Какая арендная плата в месяц? Какой залог? and Мы заключим договор? Landlords often “unofficially” rent their apartments to avoid paying taxes on the income (which are a prohibitive 30%). This can sometimes cause problems for a tenant – such as in registering your address with the authorities – required of all foreigners and Russians alike. We will discuss this more later.

Another important question is: Коммуналка / коммунальные платежи включены в плату? As a rule, платежи за электроэнергию and платежи за воду are paid separately by the tenant, according to показания счетчика, while платежи за тепло оплачиваются хозяевами. However, every situation will be different. Electricity and water bills can amount to 500-1,000 rubles (~$16-33) per month, while the heat bill can be 2,000 rubles or more. These costs tend to rise substantially each year. Sometimes landlords will pay the bills for you, but then expect you to возмещать им затраты ежемесячно или раз в несколько месяцев – this is often true of landlords cautious of creating any paper trail showing that they have a tenant living at their property.

A fairly common question might be: Какой день оплаты/В какое число нужно будет платить? However, it is best to avoid a question like: Если я не смогу уплатить вовремя, есть ли какие-либо штрафы? This will generally make the landlord suspicious about the tenant’s credibility. Generally, an instance or two of slightly late rent with a good excuse, while damaging to the relations between a жилец and a хозяин, will generally be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Because “unofficial” renting is so common in Russia, if a tenant does not pay rent on time, the process of выселение is often also more unofficial: the landlord will simply tell the tenant to leave and if the tenant does not, the landlord will sometimes arrive with friends or relatives to request again or arrive and change the locks. There have been cases when a tenant barricades himself in the apartment or the house and refuses to leave, then police interference is required. However, it is generally avoided, particularly if there is no contract.

Other basic questions include:

На какой срок? The most common minimum term is one year. If you rent самостоятельно there might not be a contract. Sometimes, a landlord can just issue a tenant a расписка.

Квартира меблирована? Лифт есть? When moving into an unfurnished apartment, there is generally no service elevator for the moving process. Russian apartment building often have only a very small elevator designed to carry no more than 2-3 passengers at a time or might not have an elevator at all. A tenant can нанять грузчиков to move his/her furniture in however, note that you will most likely be charged for each floor the movers will have to ascend.

Можно ли держать животных? There are no fixed rules regarding pets, it depends on the landlord’s preferences. Sometimes a landlord may allow a tenant to keep even a big dog in the apartment.

Что делать, если что-то в квартире сломается? К кому мне нужно обращаться? As landlords often only own 1-2 apartments and rarely is an entire building owned by a single entity, there is usually no комендант. Most Russians rely on the services of the ЖКХ (жилищно-коммунальное хозяйство). Most neighborhoods have one of these, usually privatized, state-supported enterprises which grew out the Soviet system of handyman brigades charged with maintaining soviet housing stock. The landlord might also leave a список телефонов аварийных служб for the tenant for such occasions. Often a landlord covers the expenses if the damages произошли не по вине жильца.

Куда выбрасывать мусор? Most apartment units with more than five floors have a мусоропровод in the stairway. Often there are контейнеры для мусора outside as well.

Есть место для парковки машины? As a rule, есть только уличная парковка.

The question “Вода идет с хорошим давлением?” is relevant for smaller towns where the водоснабжение is not as good as in bigger cities.

If you are planning on seeking roommates, you might ask: Могу ли я сдавать свободные комнаты в субаренду или для этого нужно спрашивать Ваше разрешение? Depending on the visa status of your potential roommates, you may need the owner of the apartment to register them.

Other pertinent questions include: Это хороший район? Где ближайшая остановка общественного транспорта? От квартиры до метро легко дойти пешком?  Какие магазины есть в пешей доступности? Рядом есть парк/игровая площадка?

Легко подключить в квартире интернет? Кабельное телевидение?

Я могу менять интерьер квартиры, например, перекрасить? Я могу установить полки? Мне нужно спрашивать разрешение, чтобы поменять что-либо в квартире?

В квартире можно курить?

The registration process for foreign tenants is complicated. A tenant must go to the ФМС or the почта upon his/her arrival in Russia and inquire about the details of the process. The process changes frequently, so be sure to get the most updated information.

Finally, a foreign tenant should also realize that the relationship between tenants and landlords is often different in Russia. The whole concept of renting is a relatively new one for Russia, where until the 1990s, the state owned all housing.

Some landlords might expect to be able to держать вещи в квартире, especially на балконе. Some may expect to maintain a personal relationship with a tenant, and often stop by for tea. Some may expect to retain some personal use over the space, to the extent that they might feel entitled to stop by and let themselves in to use the bathroom. Some may or may not abide by the rules spelled out in the contract or agreed to early on and insist on повысить арендную плату произвольно, often pointing to “рыночные цены” which they may have heard from friends and which may or may not have anything to do with the actual condition, size, and location of the apartment you are renting.

A prospective tenant should keep in mind that many Moscow landlords do not like to rent their places to tenants from Asia or the Caucasus, due to the influx of migrants from these regions in recent years. Some landlords may not be comfortable with black tenants. On the other hand, hosts are generally comfortable with Americans or people from other Western countries, as they consider such tenants заслуживающие доверия and платежеспособные

About the Author

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov has reported on political and social issues for the Russian press as well as American outlets such as Russian Life, Worldpress.org, and Triangle Free Press. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the "real Russia" which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and went on to study TESOL and teach Russian at West Virginia University. He is currently working on an MA from St. Petersburg State in International Relations. Andrei contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS site, and is an overall linguistics and research resource. He additionally helps coordinate activities for our students in Moscow.

Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad and Challenge Grant scholarship writing programs.