Finding and Renting An Apartment in Tallinn
My experience looking for and renting an apartment in Tallinn, Estonia
When I decide to move and settle in one place, usually the first thing that I’d do is look for a place to stay. That's also what I've been doing all this time when I migrated and moved from one city to another in Indonesia. Looking for a place to stay in another country surely provides a different experience than searching for a place in Indonesia.
In Estonia, especially in Tallinn, the process of searching for a property is relatively easy because everything can be done online. Two internet sites that you can use to search are kv.ee and City24. We’re able to find the property types that we want there, from houses, apartments, to shared houses (a house that’s shared with several tenants). Expatriates who live in Tallinn usually prefer to choose apartments to rent, because they’re located inside the city and the costs aren’t as expensive as renting houses.
Tallinn city is divided into 7 districts: Haabersti, Kristiine, Lasnamäe, Mustamäe, Põhja-Tallinn, Nõmme, and Pirita. If you want to be closer to the center of Tallinn, the usual choice will be to rent a place in Kesklinn. I personally live in Lasnamäe, but in the area bordering Kesklinn. So it’s still close to downtown, close to the airport if I need to fly abroad, and not too far if I need to go to the office which is located in Põhja-Tallinn district (about 20 minutes journey using tram).
Most of the apartments for rent in Tallinn are fully-furnished types, in another word all furniture such as fridge, induction cooker, dishwasher, oven, some basic kitchen utensils, mattress, TV, chair, dining table, and washing machine are already available. Tenants can just add additional furniture that suits their tastes. There are some things that you need to pay attention to before renting an apartment in Tallinn:
Building age and its energy class
It costs around 400€-1,000€/month to rent an apartment in Tallinn. Of course, a cheap rental price isn’t the only deciding factor. Aside from looking into the apartment unit’s condition, we also need to take into account the apartment building's age and its energy class. Energy class defines how efficient a building is consuming the energy for room heaters, water heaters, and electricity consumption. In Estonia, building energy classes are divided into 7 alphabetical categories from A to G. A means the most efficient, while G means the least efficient.
Why do we need to pay attention to this? Because as a tenant, aside from paying rent we’ll also need to pay monthly utility bills. The utility bills include gas to heat the rooms and water, also electricity bills. Utility bills could double especially in winter compared to summer. So, the worse its building energy class, the more expensive the utility bills will be. It’s not funny if we rent an apartment unit for 400€ with basic amenities and a relatively small size, but we’ll need to pay utility bills that cost almost the rent price during winter. It’s better to pay a bit more expensive rent and get good facilities, but lower utility bills because the building is already efficient. Energy classes A to C should suffice.
Usually the older the building is, the energy class tends to be not very good unless the building has been renovated by the management. Don’t worry though, this kind of information is always transparently available on property sites. Other than that, we can also ask the property agent (broker) that manages the property on average utility bills in summer and winter for the apartment unit that we want.
Prepare money three times of rental price for the first payment
The process of renting an apartment in Estonia usually involves property agents or brokers. The common process is prospective tenants will make an appointment with agents via property sites to be able to visit the apartment units they target. If prospective tenants like the units, agents will inform the property owners to make an appointment with prospective tenants.
In my experience, if I liked the apartment units, the agent would ask me to create introduction letters since property owners were too busy to meet. The form is similar to a job application letter. They also contained photos of me, my wife, and my two fur boys. In the letters, I also explained where I am working, how much I make per month, and how long I planned to stay in Estonia in the future.
If the property owners agreed to rent their apartments, the next step is to create rental contracts and make payments. In this step, we need to have money at least three times the rental costs. For example, if the rental cost of an apartment unit is 600€/month, then the tenant will need to pay 1,800€ upfront. It consists of a 600€ rental cost for the first month, 600€ agent fees, and a 600€ deposit that will be returned when the tenant terminates the rent.
That’s why it’s difficult to rent apartments directly from owners without involving an agent. From the owners’ side, they wouldn’t need to pay any costs and find tenants on their own. Agent fees that amount to one month's rental price are charged to the prospective tenants. The deposits will be returned by the end of the rental period, usually not in full because the owners will use the deposit money to fix damages happening during rent. In Estonia, the rent is paid monthly even though the contract is yearly.
If we have pets like cats or dogs, then we need to check with agents on whether the owners will allow pets on their property. Finding an apartment that allows pets tends to be a bit more difficult compared to finding an apartment that doesn’t. The rent costs also tend to be higher because property owners are concerned about furniture damages caused by pets.
Luckily I was able to find an apartment unit in the strategic area and the owner allows me to bring pets. However, I needed to put in more deposit which is more than a month of the rental cost.
And that’s the experience that I can share on finding and renting an apartment in Tallinn, Estonia.