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Guide to Finding Accommodation in Poland

May 18, 2021

So you’ve decided to move to Poland! You’ve done all your research and decided on where you’ll be working, what city you’ll be living in, and maybe even what neighborhood you’d like to live in and where to find the best hidden cafes. But did you forget about needing a roof over your head?

English Wizards offers premium support services to help you find the apartment that is right for you

Introduction

Finding accommodation is one of the most important steps of relocating to a new country, and for a good reason. While hostels, hotels, and Airbnbs are very affordable by Western standards and can be tempting for expats to rely on, if you plan on living in Poland long-term, you’re going to need to rent a room or apartment off the local market.

English Wizards does offer premium support service for helping our Wizards find accommodation, but for everyone else, the good news is that finding accommodation in Poland – even as a foreigner with zero Polish language skills – is nothing to be scared about. Along with Poland’s booming economy, Poland’s real estate market has been rapidly developing over the past decades. With a steady supply of new apartments hitting the market year-round, you’ll have plenty of options available to you no matter where or when you’ll be moving.

However, it is important to remember that, as a guest in a foreign country, you’re playing by Poland’s rules. So it is important to be aware of how the apartment rental market works in Poland, and how it may be different from what you’re used to back home.

The language of life in Poland is Polish, and although you won’t struggle to find an apartment without speaking Polish, it is important to have a grasp of the terminology Poles use to describe apartments so that your request for a bathtub and sofa doesn’t get “lost in translation.” For this reason, we have included the appropriate Polish terminology in this guide, accompanied of course by the familiar English translation.

Use filters such as room size, type of apartment and approximate location to narrow down your search

What to Look For?

Types of Apartments

Accommodation offers in Poland can, as a rule of thumb, be divided into three distinct categories. Most classified sites will have simple filters to filter by your preferred category.

Room

A pokoj refers to a bedroom room in a shared apartment. Depending on the apartment’s layout, you may be sharing the common kitchen with as few as one flatmate, or as many as a half dozen others. Typically the bathroom will be shared, but often more modern pokoje may offer private bathrooms.

If you’re okay with sacrificing a little privacy, renting a room in a shared apartment can be a great way to not only cut down on costs, but also meet locals and get settled in faster. Presumably, your flatmates will have already setup WiFi and utilities, and likely will also have a fully stocked kitchen, which will all translate to less headaches of getting setup during your first week.

Studio

A studio (kawalerka or studio) is usually a very basic and small studio apartment, often with only a kitchenette and not a full kitchen. An excellent option if you’re on a tight budget but want more privacy. Single-room flats including full kitchens and sofas that are commonly listed as studios in Western countries will more commonly be found under the next category in Poland.

Apartment

Once you pass the size that apartments are large enough to have fully complete and separated kitchens, sofas, and a living area, you’ll see them listed as an apartment (mieszkanie or apartment).

An important distinction between mieszkanie listings in Poland compared to apartment listings in most Western countries is that the number counts the total number of rooms and not only bedrooms. As such, an apartment with one bedroom and a separate living room would be listed as a 2-Pokoje, and a similar apartment with two bedrooms and a living room will be listed as 3-Pokoje. A 1-Pokoj refers to a one-room apartment with a full kitchen, bed, and living area all together (commonly classified as a studio in Western Europe and the US).

This distinction exists largely because, until recently, living rooms were not common in Polish apartments. An apartment for a family of three would simply consist of two bedrooms, a combined kitchen/dining area, and a bathroom. Though this is changing, and more and more modern apartments are being developed with separate living rooms, the terminology hasn’t caught up yet. So be careful – you’ll definitely want to know if that 2-Pokoj you’re looking at is two separate bedrooms, or a bedroom and a living room.

Types of Landlords

Equally important to knowing what type of apartment to look for is to know what type of landlord you’re dealing with – or if you’re even dealing with a landlord at all!

Owner / Landlord

An individual who owns an apartment and puts it up for rent on the market (Właściciel). The most simple – and best – source of a long-term apartment.

Like elsewhere in the world, most individual landlords are ordinary locals earning a small passive income off their property. Oftentimes the owner will live in the building, or at least nearby, and will have a long, deep, connection with the property. It may have been the family apartment for generations!

The nature of Polish hospitality will present itself here; even though you are also a tenet and client of your landlord, you are also a guest on his property. And most likely he will treat you as one.

Agency or Developer

Agencies (Agencja) and developers (deweleper) are two very different categories, however we’ve included them together in this guide as when you’re looking at classifieds, it will usually be difficult to tell them apart.

A deweloper is a company that owns a collection of apartments, oftentimes a full building or collection of buildings (osiedle), and rents the apartments directly. A agencja or buiro is a company that rents individual apartments or rooms on behalf of an owner without actually owning the property themselves, usually through power of attorney.

In a nutshell, our advice for these type of apartments is simple: avoid them

Agencies and developers may be different from each other, but one thing that they have in common is that they are both profit-seeking businesses, and you are a potential source of their revenue. Of course not all businesses are evil, and we can attest that good agencje and deweloperzy do exist, but there is simply a lot more to be cautious of when dealing with a business instead of an individual.

There will likely be hidden fees you’ll encounter when dealing with these companies, such as the all-to-common “agent commission” (komisja or prowizja), where an agency will sneakily charge a month’s rent for their own pockets in addition to your first month’s rent. While a właściciel will probably be glad to help you with an emergency pipe leak, and might come by with a glass of Polish wódka to share (welcome to Poland!), an agency contract will likely have a long list of “maintenance fees” for such services.

Signing a contract with an agency that doesn’t own the property is a massive no-no for anyone looking to live and work in Poland long-term. In order to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit and register a PESEL number as a foreigner, you must have a rental agreement signed directly with the property owner. So avoid this at all costs; it only leads to trouble.

Size, number of rooms and city all affect pricing when conducting your search

Pricing

Rent

There are two major factors that affect an apartment’s price in Poland: It’s size / number of rooms (see above), and the city.

In terms of rent prices, Polish cities can be divided into three simple tiers. We’ve listed estimated rent prices for different types of apartments in each tier. Note that these are merely estimates, and may or may not include utilities (discussed below).

Utilities

Like everywhere else in the world, renting an apartment in Poland also means paying utility bills (administacja). These may include municipal taxes, heating, electricity, water, internet, and garbage collection.

The cost of administracja will almost always be listed in an apartment ad; either it will be included in the posted price, or there will be a clearly stated surcharge. Some landlords will list a flat fee for utilities and others will charge “according to consumption” and list an estimate. Others will be even more creative, and charge a flat fee for administracja and then additional costs for electricity and heating according to consumption.

In general, utilities in Poland are not expensive. Depending on how many utilities are listed under administracja and how many are included in the rent, the cost will be somewhere between 100 and 500 PLN per month.

Tier 1 – Warsaw

The capital city and economic hub of the country – Warsaw is also Poland’s most expensive rental market.

Room: 1000 – 1200 PLN

Studio: 1700 – 2100 PLN

1-Room: 2000 – 2500 PLN

2-Room: 2300 – 2800 PLN

 

Tier 2 – Kraków, Wrocław, Gdansk, Poznan, and other cities popular among foreigners
Like everywhere in the world, tourist dollars drive the price of rent up. Poland’s cities that are popular destinations for foreigner visitors will see higher priced rents than the rest of the country.

Room: 800 – 1100 PLN

Studio: 1300 – 1800 PLN

1-Room: 1800 – 2500 PLN

2-Room: 2000 – 2800 PLN

 

Tier 3 – Everywhere else

Once you’re away from the masses of other foreign tourists and expats, rent prices drop considerably. Whether you’re moving to a small town, mid-sized city, or even a less popular major city such as Łódź or Katowice, rent prices will be considerably lower.

Room: 500 – 800 PLN

Studio: 800 – 1200 PLN

1-Room: 1000 – 1500 PLN

2-Room: 1300 – 2000 PLN

 

Unlike elsewhere in the world, one thing that doesn’t have a massive affect on rent prices is an apartment’s location within a city. While you might expect an apartment right off the medieval Market Square of Kraków to be considerably more expensive than a similar place in a quiet, residential neighborhood on the city outskirts, this is usually not the case in Poland. In fact, often the opposite is true.

The central neighborhoods of most Polish cities were developed hundreds of years ago, long before modern concepts of urban planning existed. As such, you will typically find a city’s business complexes, universities, parks, and administrative buildings in outer neighborhoods rather than in the center. As most modern Poles are more interested in living near a park or university instead of a 15th century gothic church – apartments in the center are usually less attractive to locals.

Also, remember that the central district of most Polish cities is called the Old Town (stare miasto) for a reason – the buildings are old! You certainly won’t find modern condominium developments right in the historic center. This further contributes to the relatively inexpensive prices you’ll find around the city center.

An exception to this rule is Warsaw, which does have a modern business downtown (śródmieście) in the center, and thus the central śródmieście neighborhood is very expensive.

Classified sites and Facebook groups are great resources to help you find an apartment

Finding Apartments

We have one piece of advice to share here: think like a local.

Too often, expats will look for apartments by simply going on Google and searching “apartment rentals in Poland” or even “expat apartments in Poland.” By searching this way, you’re limiting yourself to agencies that are specifically targeting expats by advertising on Google in English, and are bound to charge you significantly more than they’d charge a local for the same apartment.

We’ve already discussed why you should avoid real estate agencies…but real estate agencies for expats? That just smells like a rip-off!

Instead, you should be looking on the same websites and pages that local Poles use when they’re looking for a new place to live. Search like a local, and pay the local rate!

Classified Sites

Poland has its share of classified sites that allow both individual landlords and agencies to advertise rentals. Among the most popular include:

OLX

Gumtree

Otodom

Gratka

 

Unfortunately, these sites are only available in Polish, so be sure to have a browser translator (and this guide!) handy. However, in the major cities you will see many bilingual listings stating “ENGLISH BELOW,” as more and more landlords try to attract non-Polish speaking tenants.

You will typically be able to use filters to find listings in your desired city, neighborhood, and apartment type. Most sites also allow you to filter out ads posted by agencies – though be careful as agencies can be sneaky!

Facebook Groups

Facebook is massive in Poland, and Facebook groups are where most younger Poles will go for just about anything. Virtually every mid-to-large city in Poland will have multiple apartment-specific Facebook groups which allow both landlords to place ads, and potential tenants to make “looking for a flat” or “looking for roommates” posts.

Unsurprisingly, most groups will be in Polish, but in big cities like Warsaw and Kraków, you’ll find English-language groups as well. Though don’t be shy to join a Polish-language group even if you don’t speak Polish!

There are far too many groups like this in Poland for us to list them all, but they are easy enough to find. Simply go to the Facebook search bar and type in the name of your desired city and “apartments” or “rooms.” Or try the Polish equivalent: “mieszkanie” or “pokoje.

Viewing Apartments

So now you’ve found an ad for an apartment that looks attractive. The ad may or may not be in English, but you’ve figured it out. Now what?

The next step is to reach out to the landlord and setup a viewing of the apartment, or if you’re not in Poland yet, a call with the landlord.

Don’t be shy to contact landlords who advertise in Polish!!

According to a study released by Education First last year, almost 60% of Polish adults claim to speak some level of English. In the bigger cities, this number is likely well above 80%. But overall, there is a more-than-probable chance that the landlord you reach out to will be able to communicate with you in English.

Start with a simple message saying something along the lines of “Hello, is the apartment advertised on XXX.pl still available?” You’ll be surprised how many responses you’ll get in excellent English! Sure, some landlords will ignore you and others will reply with “No English sorry,” but finding an apartment is a bit of a numbers game. You won’t win them all!

The majority of landlords will want to meet you in person before renting their place to you – and presumably you also want to see the place you’ll be living before moving in! So once you’ve made contact, agree on a time to meet the landlord at the apartment. From here on, it’s virtually the same as viewing an apartment anywhere in the world!

Keep an out for red flags before you sign a rental agreement

Sealing the Deal – The Rental Agreement

Once you’ve found your dream apartment, met with the landlord, and decided that this is the place to live, the final step is to confirm everything with an apartment rental agreement (umowa o najem mieszkania).

But hold up before you sign! There are some important things to look out for. In fact, you should be keeping your eye out for these red flags through the entire process as well – especially if you are dealing with an agency or developer.

What to Look Out For

Deposit

Rental deposits (kaucja) in Poland are typically one month’s rent, paid upfront upon signing the contract. If the landlord or agent is asking for a higher deposit, or for some other form of deposit such as a guarantor (gwarant) – this is a red flag. The contract should also clearly state when the deposit will be returned, and conditions for returning it (or not returning it).

Hidden Fees

We already mentioned the infamous “agency commission” (komisja or prowizja) which are unfortunately extremely common – yet easily avoided – in the Polish market. Sadly this is only one of the many hidden fees that you may encounter when dealing with agencies, and sometimes landlords as well. Other fees include some form of cleaning fee, maintenance fee, disturbance fee, overnight guest fee, or early termination penalty.

We advise strongly against signing a contract that includes any sort of fees or penalties. If the landlord isn’t willing to take them out of the contract, it’s best to move on.

Extra Caution for Foreigners

In many countries, there are numerous hoops that foreigners must jump through in order to rent an apartment. This is not the case in Poland, and most landlords will be happy to rent to a foreigner without asking for any documentation other than your passport and (rarely) your work contract.

However, you may encounter some agents and landlords that will demand a foreigner provide them with this document, that document, and this other weird form in order to prove that you’re legally in the country and won’t just hop away on a moment’s notice. Sometimes they may even ask for a higher deposit due to “extra risks” of renting to a foreigner.

Anything like this is a massive red flag. The overwhelming majority of Poles are extremely welcoming and hospitable to foreigners; don’t waste your time dealing with someone who sees you as only a “high risk client.”

Notice Period / Termination Clause

Let’s be honest, you probably aren’t looking to move to Poland forever. If you’re coming to teach English in Poland, you’ll very likely be moving here in September and leaving at the end of the academic year in June.

There’s nothing wrong with this of course, however very few landlords will agree to sign a contract for a period of less than one year. So the reality is, even if you only plan to spend 6 months in Poland, you’ll have to sign a contract for a full year. This is why it’s important to make sure your rental agreement allows for early termination – usually 1 month’s notice is the norm – and make sure there are no penalties for doing this.

English vs Polish Contracts

If your landlord is nice enough, he’ll provide you with a rental agreement in English. While this is a very nice gesture, and you should thank him, in order to apply for a PESEL number and Temporary Residence Permit you will need a rental agreement in Polish. So, kindly ask for him to provide a Polish copy as well.

If your landlord has only provided you with a contract in Polish, it goes without saying that you should ask a trusted Polish-speaking friend to read over the contract to make sure nothing gets lost in translation.

Furnishings

The overwhelming majority of rental apartments in Poland of all sizes come fully furnished (umeblowany). Unless you fancy spending thousands of złoty at IKEA on furniture that will probably go to waste when you leave Poland – don’t bother with apartments that don’t come furnished or charge you extra for furnishing.

Although this isn’t the norm, there are some apartments that will come with bedding, dishes, cutlery, and kitchen appliances such as a microwave, toaster, or kettle. Ask your landlord about all this – they might be nice enough to lend you some spares!

If you’re coming to Poland with English Wizards you’ll have access to our support staff to help you step by step through this process

Need Extra Help?

 

Finding an apartment in Poland as a foreigner is not a difficult task, however we understand that trying to negotiate your way through the rental market in a new country where you don’t speak the language can be scary.

For this reason, if you’re coming to Poland with English Wizards, you’ll have access to our support staff to walk you through the process. Our Polish-speaking staff will take care of the legwork of finding available apartments to match your tastes, making contact with landlords, helping you finalize the deal, and translating your rental contract into English if necessary.

We work exclusively with direct landlords (no agents) to find the best deals for all of our Wizards. This service is included as part of the tuition for all of our Internship Programs, and is available as part of our Arrival Support Package for other Wizards.

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