Finding a home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a key part of settling into expat life here. When househunting, new arrivals are often shocked at how expensive accommodation is, particularly in the capital Kinshasa.
Fortunately for many expats, housing costs, including rent, electricity and other utilities, may be covered by their employer. We advise expats moving to the DRC as part of corporate relocation to ensure that their employment package provides for the high accommodation costs or includes secure housing.
Types of accommodation in the DRC
The standard of housing in the DRC is variable, ranging from very poor to exclusive and exorbitantly priced.
For expats moving to the DRC on a short-term contract, a hotel is a good option. More and more hotels are springing up in Kinshasa, and Lubumbashi also has a few hotels that offer decent accommodation.
Expats living in the DRC for a longer period could be housed in a secure gated complex. These are essentially gated areas with standalone houses, townhouses and apartments. Residents may also have access to shared amenities, such as a swimming pool and garden.
Gated compounds that offer exclusive and high-end accommodation will be pricey. Fortunately, this type of housing is generally provided and paid for by an expat's employer.
Safety is a major concern when searching for accommodation in the DRC, in some areas more than others. Burglaries and other petty crimes are common in Kinshasa, while conflict continues to plague the eastern provinces. So, it's recommended that expats seek secure accommodation, preferably within a gated expat compound with 24/7 guards and access control.
Expats may also move into a standalone house. These properties generally have walls around them, and expats are encouraged to explore safety and security measures.
Furnished vs unfurnished
Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Kinshasa, although furnishings may still be quite minimal in homes marketed as 'furnished'. The quality of the furniture could also be hit and miss, so it's worth checking this when signing a lease agreement.
Finding accommodation in the DRC
Many expats in the DRC will have the support of an employing company when looking for a place to live. Whether the organisation pays for and provides a property, they will be a good point of reference when starting the househunt.
Online forums and property listings on portals such as IMCogno and 9flats.com are also helpful. Bear in mind that prospective tenants could negotiate the cost of the property to get a better deal than what is listed online.
Going through a real-estate agent is also often recommended. These professionals can help new arrivals find a property in the DRC that suits their budget, lifestyle and preferences.
Renting accommodation in the DRC
Housing could be arranged through an expat's employer. If not, navigating the housing market in the DRC can be overwhelming for a new arrival. Enlisting the services of a real estate agent can help to ensure the rights of the landlord and prospective tenant.
We recommend expats go through their tenancy agreements carefully. If these are provided in French, it's worth getting the paperwork translated.
Given the short-term nature of an expat's stay, properties can be rented on a monthly or yearly basis. Properties can typically be rented for up to three years. Some new arrivals may prefer to rent a property through Airbnb, as this often avoids extra hassles with paperwork while allowing greater flexibility in terms of duration of stay.
Landlords should not ask for over three months' rental for a security deposit.
The cost of utilities is often added to basic rental costs in the DRC. However, in some apartments and gated complexes, utilities may be included. We recommend expats ask about the electricity and water supply, as well as water pressure and heating in the building.