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Bulgaria - Renting Property
As a mountainous country, Bulgaria has some significant weather changes during the year, and winter can be quite cold even on the Black Sea coast. This means that it is important to visit a property during the cold season as well as in the summer. It is smart to think about the weather during the whole year and to consider central heating, although air-conditioning is really a luxury.
Central heating systems in Bulgaria are usually powered by electricity, gas, oil, solid fuel or solar power. Most rural properties use fire wood and an electric boiler as a back-up. Whatever form of heating is used, it’s essential to have good insulation. Without it up to 60 per cent of heat generated can be lost through the walls and roof.
In larger towns, houses and apartments are heated by hot water which is pumped by the local heating company. The system is still quite inefficient, although the municipal government subsidises the cost to consumers. It is done mainly to ensure that low-income tenants, mostly pensioners, can afford to keep their homes warm during the wintertime.
Since the country switched to a market economy, electricity prices have substantially risen, and homeowners should prepare around 300 lev (€150) per month to heat an average two-bedroom house in winter, compared to around 100 lev (€50) when using an oil-fired system or 50 lev (€25) when using a wood-fired system. As a result, many Bulgarians have recently switched to wood-fired heating systems to save money.
Electricity prices have significantly risen after the switch to a market-based economy and are now quite similar to those in the UK at 0.17 lev (€0.08) per kilowatt hour (kWh). Night-time rates are lower in most areas. Most people who live in apartments in larger towns use a combination of oil-fired heaters and electricity if not supplied by the district heating company. Off-peak storage heaters are an economical solution for smaller, well insulated properties.
Gas central heating is common in the cities and towns where mains gas systems are available, but in rural areas wood burning heaters are more popular. For those who have access to mains gas, it’s usually the best choice for heating, as it’s clean, economical and efficient. A gas-fired boiler is usually quite small and can easily be mounted on a wall. In areas without a mains gas system, homeowners can use a gas tank installed on their property or use gas that is delivered in bottles. In these cases, additional space for the tank is needed and piping will add to the already considerable cost of a gas tank. This heating system also requires regular maintenance and tends to increase the household insurance.
Heating oil costs have risen along with the worldwide rise in crude oil prices, making it an expensive option for Bulgarians. In rural areas it is not common for people to use oil to heat their homes, mainly because wood is cheaper. Those who live in remote areas or have properties that are difficult to access should be aware that fuel companies may not be able to get delivery trucks to their houses. Roughly calculated, homeowners would require around 1,000 litres of oil to heat a two-bedroom house through the year. At the current price, which is around 1.7 lev per litre, it costs around 1,700 lev (€850) per year.
The gas network in Bulgaria is considered to be small, with only 500km of pipeline, although the process of "gasification" is slowly growing. Only 30 towns are currently served by the gas network. Those are Bourgas, Kyustendil, Pleven, Plovdiv, Ruse, Shumen, Sliven, Stara Zagora, Varna and Vratsa. Villages that are close to these towns can also have mains gas access much more easily than some remote rural areas.
Many rural homes have cookers and some water heaters that use bottled gas. When moving into a new property it is smart to check if the gas bottle is full. Keeping a spare bottle or two can be quite handy if there's a need to change the bottles, which can be quite a complicated procedure.
The water supply in Bulgaria has suffered from years of underdevelopment. For example, the main cities suffer massive water leaks due to ageing pipes, while in the countryside over a third of rural properties aren’t even connected to mains water. Only one in ten towns has a sewerage system. Nevertheless, mains water is safe to drink in the cities, although many people in rural areas choose to drink bottled water and use tap water only for washing up and watering the garden.
Mains water costs always depend on the location of the property, although it's usually no more than 25 to 35 lev (€12–17) per month. Homeowners don’t pay water charges for well water or water from a stream or river running through their property.
Taking your pets to Bulgaria
If expats wish to take their pets to Bulgaria, it’s important that they check the latest regulations. They should make sure they have the correct papers, not just for Bulgaria but for all the countries they must pass through to get there.
If exporting a cat, dog, rabbit, guinea pig, mouse or ferret to Bulgaria from the UK, people should have their pets microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and blood tested at least a month after the rabies vaccination, just to be sure that the animal has sufficient protection against the disease. These pets will need to stay a minimum of 30 days in Bulgaria after the blood test to make sure they haven’t contracted rabies. If returning with a pet from Bulgaria to an EU country owners need to obtain a "pet passport", details of which are available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Rabies is endemic in Bulgaria, especially in rural areas, so every pet will need evidence of a rabies vaccination to enter this country. Resident dogs need an annual rabies booster and it is recommended that they are also vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Adenovirus or canine hepatitis – an acute viral disease which attacks the liver;
- Distemper – a potentially fatal viral infection;
- Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease which can be transmitted to humans and can be fatal;
- Lyme disease – a parasitic disease carried by ticks which can also be transmitted to humans;
- Parvovirus or Parvo – an intestinal virus;
- Tracheobronchitis – known as kennel cough and one of the most common canine diseases, which can lead to fatal complications.
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