Persons granted refugee or humanitarian status need to leave the centers of the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) within 14 days after the receipt of the decision granting international protection. The Agency could decide upon its discretion to extend this period in cases of vulnerable individuals and families.
In accordance with the law, you have the right to request financial assistance for housing for a period of up to 6 months as from the date of entry into force of the decision for granting international protection. If your application for financial assistance is rejected, you may search for legal aid (for organizations which provide free legal aid, see section XII. Non-governmental Organizations).
Renting an apartment is the most common option for newly recognized refugees and humanitarian status holders. In order to do that, you need to find a flat or house and sign a rental contract with the owner of the property.
As a standard practice, upon the conclusion of the contract, the first month’s fee and a deposit equaling the amount of a monthly fee is paid. That means that you need to have the resources covering two monthly rents when signing the contract (unless the landlord agrees on a different arrangement).
Keep in mind that you also need to separately cover the monthly bills for electricity, water, heating (if relevant) which vary significantly according to the property. Ask the landlord for the average amount of all bills for utilities per month.
Finding a rented accommodation
There are several ways to find a flat/house: online through specialized websites, through a real estate agency, with the help of non-governmental organizations or through friends, employers or other contact persons.
- Websites with rental announcements
Specialized websites are used by the Bulgarian citizens to publish and search for rented apartments throughout the country. Usually, the offers contain the location of the flat, surface area, number of rooms, pictures, monthly rental fee and contact information of the landlord. Once you get in touch with the owner, usually a visit to inspect the rented property is organized.
Some of the most popular websites with rental announcements are:
- Real Estate Agency
The real estate agency could assist you in finding a flat that meets your requirements and needs. Usually a representative of the agency accompanies you during inspection visits to properties suggested by the agency itself. As some of the real Estate Agencies charge a fee for organizing the visits, you should inquire in advance about the conditions for their organization. The Agency will charge a commission fee only if a rental contract is concluded. The commission fee usually equals half of the rent, but this practice varies among the agencies.
Some of the popular estate agencies are:
- Non-governmental Organizations
Caritas Sofia and the Bulgarian Red Cross could assist you with finding a flat. Social workers in the integration centers run by the two organizations have databases with landlords who rent out to refugees and humanitarian status holders (for contacts of the two centers, see section XII. Non-governmental Organizations).
Other options for accommodation
- State Facilities
Refugees and humanitarian status holders have the right to be accommodated in temporary shelters. Two types of facilities are available: centers for temporary accommodation and shelters for homeless individuals. You should check in whether such services are available in your municipality with the local Directorate for Social Assistance or directly at the municipality.
Centers for temporary accommodation could provide shelter for up to three months in one calendar year with the possibility for extension for another three months. In order to apply, you need to visit the Directorate for Social Assistance in the municipality where you are registered. You need personal identity documents in order to apply for the service.
Shelters provide accommodation only during winter time (generally between December and March) and only for overnight (from 17.00 in the afternoon until 10.00 on the next morning). Most of the shelters require identity documents in order for a person to be accommodated, but exceptions are possible.
- Emergency shelter by NGOs
In exceptional cases, Caritas Sofia and the Bulgarian Red Cross provide emergency shelter for up to two weeks to vulnerable individuals facing a risk of homelessness. Information on those options could be received in the two integration centers. You are considered vulnerable if you are below 18 years old, a child unaccompanied by your parents, an elderly person, a pregnant woman, a single parent with underage children, a victim of human trafficking, a person with serious health problems and/or mental disorders, a person who is a victim of torture, rape or other serious forms of mental, physical or sexual violence.