Is there such a thing as a typical apartment for rent in Poland? What is the standard, and what could be a surprise to foreigners coming to our country? And what do you need to consider when searching for the perfect place to rent?
Anyone who has even once attempted to find an apartment for rent knows it can be a complex issue. What one person takes for granted, as fundamental requirements, will be merely optional for another. The situation is more complicated when there are cultural differences in play: they affect one’s daily needs and habits, even the way we name certain things could change. How often were you surprised staying in a vacation apartment abroad? The untypical layout of rooms, unknown appliances and systems, or the lack of the absolutely basic (in your mind) furnishings. On vacation, you’ll look the other way, but in a rental apartment nothing should take you by surprise. Unless it’s a positive surprise, of course.
Fully equipped – the Polish version
The ad will usually inform you that the apartment for rent is “fully equipped”. But what does it actually mean in Poland? So: there will always be a fridge, a cooktop/hob (electric or induction, less commonly gas), also usually an oven and a washing machine. A dishwasher can be expected in newly built or recently renovated flats; the older ones might simply lack the space to install it. You’ll probably not find a coffee maker, but you can surely expect an electric kettle – which is not obvious to those from Southern nations who simply don’t drink tea.
If the landlord has detailed all the available appliances and amenities, you can verify and possibly further equip the apartment on your own. The worst case is when the place lacks something you find absolutely necessary, but is difficult to add, e.g. a washing machine or an oven. An iron or an ironing board are easy to buy, but if you move quite often, carrying all your possessions around is problematic if not impossible.
Simply ask about such things as the previously mentioned iron, mop and bucket, vacuum cleaner, or kitchenware (pots and pans, dishes, and silverware). The very fact that water or wine glasses are featured in the apartment photos doesn’t mean they are included. If you’re not sure, ask away.
Many of the dissimilarities in the apartment furnishings don’t come from the ill will or skimpiness of the landlord, but simply result from cultural or language differences. Let’s use the example of the size and layout of the apartment: in a Polish advertisement, the number of rooms refers to their actual number; consequently, an apartment with a living room and a bedroom will be rented out as a 2-room apartment. In English, it will be a 1-bedroom apartment. Quite often, Polish shared apartments don’t have a common space (living room), but simply – individual rooms. In such an apartment the kitchen is usually small and separate, and all the tenants share one bathroom.
Another popular cultural “misunderstanding” is a laundry rack, called a dryer in Polish. A tumble dryer isn’t common even in private houses. We each have a drying rack to be put up in the bathroom, laundry room or wherever we have enough space. When an ad informs you about a “dryer”, make sure what exactly the landlord has in mind. And searching to find the washing machine promised by the ad, take a look in the kitchen. Instead of in a small bathroom, it will sometimes be situated with the kitchen appliances.
Knowing the differences in appliances and how they work is necessary to avoid any malfunctions and guarantees they properly work throughout the rental period. Our sinks (usually without garbage disposal) won’t deal with large leftovers, and the toilet can only flush toilet paper. One more thing! The dish soap, typically put on the sink, can’t be used for the dishwasher. Used instead of a dishwasher tablet, it will give your kitchen a pretty foamy bath.
Fear not winter cold
Good news for all the chilly people anxious about cold Polish winters: central heating is standard in every apartment. Obviously, you should make sure that the heating in your rental apartment is functional and efficient, because it also impacts the total cost of your utility bills.
The most popular heating systems are: central gas or external heating providers [city regulated]. City regulated heating is often included in the rent which makes its price fixed and predictable. Central gas heating system translates into the quantity of gas you use and consequently – the total monthly gas bill. Remember that it’ll be higher in the winter months. Its advantage, on the other hand, is that when the weather gets colder, a building with a central system can decide to start the heating earlier. In the case of the external system, the heating season is regulated and usually lasts from October to April. Although it doesn’t get frosty in September, the possibility of turning the heat up on a chilly rainy day can be really tempting but is impossible.
If the apartment is equipped with a dual function air conditioner/heater you can always use it to warm up, but… these units are standard in commercial and service premises, but not in residential ones. New buildings include such an amenity at the design stage, but rentals are usually existing apartments, where these units are still rare. However, it’s not impossible – landlords are increasingly adding them because our summers are becoming hotter as well and the AC function is nice.
Mind the utilities
The utility bills are a very important aspect of an apartment rental. This monthly cost can significantly influence the total rental price, so it’s good to make sure you know what you’ll actually pay for. Water, electricity, waste disposal, internet – these are the most common components of the utility charge. Additionally, it can include gas (e.g. in the case of the previously mentioned gas central heating, water heater or, less commonly, gas cooktop).
When choosing an apartment make sure who is responsible for signing the contract with the utility supplier. In Poland, as regards to long-term rentals, this obligation often applies to the tenant. Without a doubt, however, it’ll be much more convenient if the landlord takes on this duty and you settle the accounts according to usage.
If you work remotely or often contact your family and friends in another city or abroad, a fast and stable internet connection will be important as well. And who can imagine life without it anyway? In most places in Poland fast internet isn’t a problem and there are several service providers to choose from. Here, as much as with other utilities, it’ll be best if the contract is signed by the landlord. When owning or managing a number of apartments and concluding long-term agreements, they’ll be able to negotiate better prices than you could on your own. Connecting with the world is so important that efficient WiFi has become standard on the rental market. Demand it.
The waste collection cost is included in the utility charge, as mentioned before, but the very subject of recycling is significant and worth another thought. Since 2020 recycling has been mandatory and enforced by the cities and local governments (yes, it hasn’t been long, but better late than never).
Those who recycle correctly pay preferential collection fees and others must pay much higher charges. For example: in Katowice, the recyclables collection fee is 21.30 PLN per person and the unsorted waste collection costs 42.60 PLN – twice as much.
Waste can be pre-sorted in your apartment or directly in the garbage container at your apartment building. Caution! If a single person in the entire building fails to comply with the recycling rules, the city can impose a fine and raise the fee for all the residents. It’s worth considering not only one’s own finances but also the whole community. To learn more about recycling, read this guide.
Welcome to a Polish home!
As far as the standard of living is concerned we are surely catching up with the West. We live in much prettier and more comfortable spaces than a few years ago and the availability of long-term rentals is expanding and close to world-class standards. Still, all countries and cultures have their characteristic qualities reflected in furnishings and living habits.
One of the typical Polish features is a garbage can hidden in the cabinet under the sink. The recycling obligation made us put containers for glass or paper in other places, but in 99% of Polish households you’ll find the general garbage can in this spot.
It’s also a Polish habit to take your shoes off right after entering the apartment. No matter if we are at home or pay someone a visit, taking your shoes off is a natural reflex and we do it without thinking. Hence the importance of the entry area, where you will always find a doormat and a shoe rack.
Another motif characteristic of Polish households are shaded windows. A grandmas’ apartment will have dense netted sheers, and the more modern places – curtains or, most commonly, roller blinds, closed tightly after dark. We don’t want anybody peeking into our homes.
There’s also the must-have sweet treat to go with coffee in case of a drop-in, as it’s beyond argument in Poland to give your guests a treat. The good hosting duties are all up to you 🙂