Facts and misconceptions about renting during the time of the pandemic

Can anyone be evicted from their private rental during the pandemic? Can the landlord/owner unilaterally raise the rent? Do you have to pay the rent if you were sent on an unpaid leave? What happens if you lose your job and cannot pay the rent? 

In the below summary the Streetlawyers collected information about how the pandemic affects the rental relationship. It is regularly updated. 

Important: this post was written based on the laws and regulations in effect on 2 April 2020, and while we strive to regularly monitor the legal developments and to update this text accordingly, because of the current situation, it is advisable to get information from other sources too. This post cannot be considered as a legal advice, its contents reflect the best of knowledge and legal analysis of the team of the Streetlawyers, and it was put together to enable a better understanding of the current complex and rapidly changing legal rules. With individual cases and queries please turn to us through the contacts listed at the end of this post. 

What has NOT changed with the pandemic?  

The main regulations about renting haven’t changed due to the pandemic situation. Below we list the main regulations that are relevant, without giving a complete overview:

  1. The tenant is still obliged to pay the amount of rent and at the time as it is agreed in the rental contract. The landlord – without the unnecessary disturbance of the tenant – can still check the appropriate usage of the rental property. 
  2. Tenants can still register their address at the rental property without the permission of the landlord/owner. The registration of the address does not entitle the tenant to freely dispose of the rental, and does not create tax-payment obligations for the landlord/owner. These rights/obligations stem from the title of using the rental, and not from the registration of the address itself. 
  3. If the tenant/landlord seeks from the tenant proof of ability to pay, they can request deposit or proof of income. However, they cannot make the rental contract dependent upon the future tenant’s family status or occupation. The landlord/owner can only determine maximum how many people can live in the rental at the same time. 
  4. The tenant can only accommodate someone into the rental with the prior written permission of the landlord/owner, or if there is, that of the co-tenant. Exception from this is the tenant’s minor children and tenant’s child’s child (the tenant’s grandchild) the latter only if the child was born during the time of living in the rental. 

In the municipal rentals the tenants are allowed to accommodate their spouse, children, adopted children, and their parents without the permission of the lesser or the co-tenant. 

  1.  When the rent comes to an end, the tenant is obliged to give back the rental property, the premises belonging to the rental and the furniture to the landlord/owner in a proper state. Everything that was set up in the rental at the tenant’s own cost can be dismantled and taken away by the tenant. If the tenants want to leave these items behind, they can ask for its costs from the landlord/owner, unless otherwise agreed in the rental contract. 

Legal sources: 

  • No. LXXVIII. Act of 1993 on the renting and selling of housing and premises (art. 12. (1), (4), art. 17., art. 21.)
  • No. LXVI. Act of 1992 on the registration of the personal data and address of citizens (art. 26.) 
  • No. CXXV. Act of 2005 on the equal treatment and the furthering of equal opportunities (art. 5 (a), art. 17/A (a))
  • No. V. Act on the Civil Code (art. 6:79)

What has changed at the time of the state of danger due to the pandemic?

  1. Modified rules of eviction: 

Rules normally, when there is no state of danger because of the pandemic:

The only lawful form of eviction is carried out by an independent judicial bailiff based on an official bailiff authorization (court decision or notary’s document). Any other forms of eviction are unlawful. 

Evictions cannot be carried out between 15 November and 30 April each year. The only exception during this period is the eviction of illegal house occupiers, as they can be evicted even during the moratorium on evictions. 

Legal source: 

  • The Act on the implementation of judicial decisions (art. 182/A)

Modified rules during the state of danger because of the pandemic:

Evictions cannot be carried out at all – not even by an independent judicial bailiff – during this time, not even the eviction of illegal house occupiers is allowed. Evictions can be re-started 15 days after the end of the “state of danger”. If this period falls in the normal moratorium time (between 15. November and 30. April) evictions can only re-start 15 days after 30. April. 

Legal source: 

  • III. Government Decree of 57/2020 (III. 23.) on the measures regarding enforcement during the state of danger that was ordered to prevent and to address the causes of the pandemic creating mass sickness and endangering lives and livelihoods, and to safeguard the health and lives of Hungarian citizens. (art. 3.)

The modified rules during the “state of danger” regarding the public utility costs differ among the service providers

E.ON does not turn off electricity at any private citizens household because of non-payment. This decision took effect immediately, and will be in force until withdrawn. 

More information available here: eon.hu/hu/rolunk/sajtoszoba/sajtokozlemenyek/kikapcsolasi-moratorium.html

The ELMŰ/ÉMÁSZ also decided not to switch off the electricity during this period. 

More information available here: elmuemasz.hu/egyetemes-szolgaltatas/tudnivalok/hasznos-informaciok/rendkivuli-helyzettel-kapcsolatos-tudnivalok-az-ugyintezesrol

The NKM National Public Utility Company also suspended all switch-offs of electricity and gas during the “state of danger”. The decision is in force until it is withdrawn. The suspension is in place not only for the “protected consumers”, but for all who accumulated payment debt for more than 60 days. The decision however, does not help those whose utility had already been switched off before. 

More information available here: nkmenergia.hu/aram/pages/aloldal.jsp?id=7608738

These changes do not apply to those consumers who use pre-paid, card operated meters, and who are usually the so-called „protected consumers”.  

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Can the landlord/owner raise the price of the rent unilaterally? Can they refer to the pandemic situation as an excuse to raise the rent? 

As a matter of principle, they cannot raise the rent. The general rules of the contracts are still applicable to the rental contract, which means that the rental contract can only be amended and the rent can only be raised by mutual agreement of the tenant and the landlord/owner. 

There are few exceptions from these, which are the following: 

  1. In case the rental contract allows for the unilateral amendment of the conditions, including the changing of the rental price, or 
  2. if the tenant becomes a user without entitlement, which happens if the rental only lasted for a fixed-term, it came to an end and it was not extended. In this case the tenant has to pay a so-called “usage fee”, which the landlord/owner can raise two months after the rental entitlement runs out. 

The pandemic situation itself cannot be a legitimate excuse for the raise or the lowering of the rental fees. There is a possibility to lower or to forego the rental fee, but only by mutual agreement of the tenant and the landlord/owner. 

Legal sources:  

  • Act V on the Civil Code (art. 6:191)
  • Act LXXVIII of 1993 on the renting and selling of housing and premises (art. 20. (1), (2))

Can the rental agreement be terminated by only one of the parties with reference to the pandemic situation? 

The rental agreement can be terminated at any time by mutual agreement of the parties. 

The rules regarding the unilateral break-up of the agreement depend on whether the rental contract is fixed term or non-fixed term. 

In case of non-fixed term contracts, each party can terminate it based on what is laid out in the contract, with an adequate termination time. If the contract does not regulate it otherwise, each party can terminate it until the 15th day of a month, taking effect from the end of the next month. If the termination is only made after the 15th day of a month, it will only take effect from the end of the second month. (For example, if someone announces the termination on 3 April, it will take effect from 31 May, and if the termination is done on 16 April, it will only take effect from 30 June)   

In case of fixed term contracts the rental can only be terminated before the fix term runs out, if the tenant breaches the contract or if there is a possibility for that in the contract. It can be considered a breach of contract if the tenant does not pay the rent, behaves in a way that egregiously violates the community rules, or if the rental unit is not used in an adequate manner and according to the contract. An example for the latter can be if someone on purpose damages the rental unit.       

The pandemic itself cannot be considered a special reason to terminate the rental contract. 

In case, one of the parties would like to terminate the fixed-term rental agreement before it is due, the rules laid down in the contract should be applied. If the tenant terminates the tenure this way, the landlord/owner can withhold the deposit, if there is a possibility for that according to the contract. 

Legal sources: 

  • Act V on the Civil Code (art. 6:347, art. 6:348)
  • Act LXXVIII of 1993 on the renting and selling of housing and premises (art. 23. (2))

Can the tenants suspend the rent because they cannot use the rental unit during the pandemic? 

There are no specific rules in the law regarding the suspension of the rental relationship, so in this case again what was agreed in the rental contract should apply. 

By mutual agreement (as stated under 1.) the rental contract can be changed at any time. So the parties can agree on what to do with the rental unit and the rent until the tenant cannot live in it due to the pandemic. 

Rentals belonging to the municipality can be an exception from this. Municipalities can make it a condition that the tenant must live in the rental unit habitually. In case the tenant cannot live in the flat habitually because of the pandemic situation, it is advisable to contact the municipality to get information about the possible consequences. 

Legal sources: 

  • Act V on the Civil Code (art. 6:191)
  • Act LXXVIII of 1993 on the renting and selling of housing and premises (art. 3. (2))

Can the tenants suspend the rental relationship if they cannot use the rental property (regulations regarding non-residential premises)?

The suspension of rent in case of non-residential premises should be based on the agreement between the renter and the lesser. In case of municipality owned non-residential premises, the local municipality decrees regulate the suspension. So that needs to be taken into account. Additionally the parties can also at any time modify the rental contract by mutual agreement, and can decide to terminate the rent. 

Legal sources: 

  • Act V on the Civil Code (art. 6:191)
  • Act LXXVIII of 1993 on the renting and selling of housing and premises (art. 36. (2), art. 37.)

What can the landlord/owner do according to the modified rules if the tenant fails to pay the rent?

There are no provisions regulating this question in the government decrees brought since the introduction of the “state of danger”, so the landlord/owner can terminate the rental contract in case of non-payment still based on the relevant parts of the Act on Housing (art. 25.). In case the tenant fails to give the rental property back to the possession of the landlord/owner after the termination of the contract, they will be obliged to pay “user fees”. 

What can a tenant do if the landlord/owner calls on the tenant to leave the rental unit, despite paying on time or not having any other extraordinary reason to terminate the rental agreement? 

The tenant can inform the landlord/owner that leaving the rental unit can only take place as it is regulated by the general rules. Accordingly, the landlord/owner can only terminate the rental contract in writing, giving deadlines with regard to the type of the contract (fixed or non-fixed term), and with reference to reasons listed in the law or in the rental contract. The tenant can only be called upon to leave the rental unit after this. 

Restrictions on movement: I am not registered at the address where I actually live, what will happen now? 

The government decree regulating the restrictions on the freedom of movement raises more questions than it answers. The Streetlawyers see several problems regarding this decree, and thus have no concept yet how it will be applied in practice. We will get more answers to that dilemma in the coming days. We, however, would advise those who don’t actually live at their official address or their official place of residence to always carry a copy of their rental contract with them, so that they can prove that they live in the neighbourhood in case of a potential check up. 

Legal source: 

  • Government decree no. 71/2020 (III. 27.) on the restrictions on movement outside

I would like to move to another place. Do I violate the restrictions on movement with moving places? 

No. According to the government decree, one can leave their home for the sake of personal business, and we consider moving to fall under that category.   

Legal source: 

  • Government decree no. 71/2020 (III. 27.) on the restrictions on movement outside (art. 4. (1) (r))

The Streetlawyer Association provides free legal aid to homeless people and people living in housing poverty. In case your housing situation becomes uncertain or you experience any kind of legal violation or abuse, please contact us: 

  1. Via email at utcajogasz@gmail.com;
  2. On the phone every weekday between 5 and 8 pm on +36 20 282 3616;
  3. Or on Fridays via Facebook Messenger between 3-5 pm https://www.facebook.com/utcajogasz/