Renting in Kigali: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re an expat moving to Kigali and looking for a place to live, finding a house or apartment to rent can be tricky – especially if you don’t know the city well. In this guide, I’ll help you find a home in Kigali, based on my many years living and renting here, including: 

  • The types of homes available
  • Where to start your search 
  • Working with estate agents
  • Dealing with your landlord or landlady
  • What to look for in a rental property 
  • How to avoid scams 

Let’s get started!

Note: This guide is a collaboration between numerous team members and a quick poll of Living in Kigali Community members. You can see their advice directly here

7 Quick Tips For Renting in Kigali

If you’re looking for a house to rent in Kigali, here are a few things to keep in mind before and during your search: 

  1. Create a list of strict conditions. This should include things like budget, location, number of bedrooms, amenities, internet, closeby services, etc. Use this when speaking to agents and owners so you don’t waste time viewing places you’ll never live in. 
  2. If you are on a fixed budget, you may have to compromise on some things. Some unfurnished houses in Kigali are very cheap, but you’ll spend a lot on furniture, hiring cleaning and security staff, etc. Furnished homes are more expensive, but a lot more convenient.  
  3. Closely review the contract like vacation notice of not less than 30 days. Unfortunately, landlords in Kigali have a habit of kicking tenants out with no notice if they find someone willing to pay more. 
  4. Visit the site before signing any contract. We once saw a beautiful house on one of the Kigali house listing websites, and upon visiting the site, we were very disappointed to find the house advertised was different from what we saw in reality. To make it worse, the owner was hiking up the price when she detected that I was a foreigner.
  5. When working with a broker, agree on a set fee in advance. You may be shocked by the high prices asked after seeing a house you like. More than one broker tried to charge me 50% of the deposit I was to pay for a house, plus transport fees for taking me around from house to house. 
  6. Visit the property in the rain and on a weekend night. This will help you identify any leaks, water damage, or noise issues from nearby bars. 

Types of Homes Available in Kigali

Generally speaking, the types of homes available to rent in Kigali can be broken down into the following categories: 

  • House shares with other expats
  • Homestays with a live-in landlord 
  • Renting an entire house or compound
  • Unfurnished or furnished apartments
  • Highend serviced apartments 

House Shares

Most house shares in Kigali target expats and students, as Rwandans generally don’t rent with friends or strangers. 

Sharing a house means you’ll get to live with people from all over the world – the Kigali expat community is incredibly diverse and international. It’s also the best value and most convenient option for single people and couples, as you share costs and the running of the household. 

You’ll usually find the following setups for house shares in Kigali: 

  1. Multiple occupants live in a large house together, usually 3-5 bedrooms, renting from the owner who lives elsewhere. 
  2. You rent a room or section within the owner’s house or compound, sometimes living with their family.
  3. Renting a room in a 2-3 bedroom apartment.

A room in a shared house is usually furnished, as are the common areas, kitchen, etc. In most cases, a cleaning person and security guards will already be hired before you move in.  

Pros of house shares

  • Shared costs – House shares are great for saving money, as you don’t need to buy furniture and costs and bills are pooled amongst the tenants. 
  • Convenience – You can basically turn up and move in, without needing to scavenge for furniture, organise staff, internet, bills, etc. 
  • Good landlords Most house shares will have had the same landlord for years, who’s used to renting to multiple tenants and having a good relationship with them. They’re often the most responsive to emergencies or repairs. 
  • Making friends – Having housemates means you can start building friendships from home, making moving to a new city much less lonely. 

Cons of house shares

  • Fluctuating costs – Sometimes you’ll struggle to find housemates staying for the same amount of time as you, and may need to cover the extra costs incurred when you’re in between housemates, for instance.
  • Privacy – 

If sharing a house with other people is just not for you, you can opt for renting a whole house.

Renting a Whole House

Renting a whole house in Kigali varies in many ways. You may find houses in Kigali with really simple designs, including those without built-in kitchen cabinets, closets, and gardens. 

The first house we rented had a huge garden which had some strips of weeds that I didn’t like because it was hard to maintain. I later turned the parts I hated into a kitchen garden. That’s the first kind of whole house renting, where you may need to improve a couple of things in the house.

You may also find house designs where the kitchen is a separate building. This is a traditional Rwandan way of building homes that is slowly being replaced by the more modern kitchen in-house way we’re used to seeing. Such house designs are why you need to see the house before committing to it in any way. Yes, I have seen pictures that didn’t show the kitchen as a separate building, only to discover that it is while on site.

Houses usually range from:

  • Unfurnished houses with kitchen cabinets and closets 
  • Unfurnished homes without kitchen sinks, kitchen cabinets and closets, some missing fixtures like curtain rods
  • Furnished houses with gyms, pools, very huge gardens, and recently some have introduced prices inclusive rental car

Unfurnished Apartments

Unfurnished apartments are available in Kigali for tenants, which vary based on budget, location, and the minimum requirements you expect to find in an unfurnished apartment. 

Some unfurnished apartments are bare, a thing that caught me by surprise. You may even find homes without curtain rods and kitchen sinks.  Of course, you would need to renovate such homes, a factor to include in your decision.

For unfurnished apartments, you would also need to get basic appliances such as a fridge, washing machine, and cooker. You’ll find that most unfurnished houses don’t include these appliances.

Pros of Renting Unfurnished Apartments

  • Affordable pricing – Unfurnished apartments have a lower price range than furnished apartments
  • Your style is your choice – You have the chance to furnish the apartment to your desired taste.
  • It’s ideal for long-term stays

Cons of Unfurnished Apartments

  • Moving out hassle – Apart from the expenses involved in moving out, you’ll also take longer to get everything ready for the move
  • Location – Some unfurnished apartments are often found far from the main roads, and where there may not be access to fiber internet.
  • Extra costs – In an unfurnished apartment, one could incur additional fees like security service, gardening, and housekeeping, as well as possible home enhancements that include buying wardrobes for your clothes, depending on the house you choose.

Furnished Apartments

Furnished apartments tend to have different levels of furniture depending on the landlord. You’ll find some with only the basics, like a couch, kitchen appliances, a bed, and a desk and chair. Others will come with extras like carpets and decor, cutlery, a TV, and internet pre-installed.

Be aware of some furnished apartments you may find that have squeaky doors and dark, poorly lit rooms charging you money that is not worth the house.

You may find stylish and trending furnishings in one house, while the other has vintage styles and themes. Furnished apartments are also more likely to be located in secure places with beautiful views and closer to amenities than unfurnished apartments. 

Pros of furnished apartments

  • Save costs – You can save on costs by accessing all the furniture you need to live comfortably without having to spend large amounts of money at once to furnish the house
  • Ease of moving out – When you decide to move out from the apartment, all you’d need to carry are your clothes and personal items, saving you loads on moving fees
  • Live in Hotspot areas – Most furnished apartments are in hotspot areas of Kigali where security is critical. You’ll find them close to the city, shopping centers and hospitals or schools
  • Ideal for short-term stays – you can spend as little as a few days or a few months comfortably without having to live in a hotel

Cons of furnished apartments

  • Deposit worries – It’s one thing to enjoy living the lavish lifestyles and another when an accident happens, and you are liable to replace the property or lose your deposit.

Serviced Apartments

Serviced apartments are often found close to business centers and tourist sites around Kigali. 

Most serviced apartments feature modern equipment, including dishwashers, washing machines, and electric ovens. You also benefit from 24-hour security with monitored security systems and housekeeping.

Pros of Serviced Apartments

  • No deposits – In comparison to renting houses, serviced apartments don’t require deposits for one to be a tenant
  • Convenience – Most serviced apartments have fully equipped facilities that you need daily, including security and periodic housekeeping service
  • Long-term stays – It’s economical for long-term stays 
  • Maintenance – Upkeep of the property is the owner’s responsibility
  • Ideal for business travels, staycations, tourists and even employees relocating for work 

Cons of Serviced Apartments

  • Expensive – You will need to pay a higher price for the extra services that come with serviced apartments
Airbnb Kigali

Renting on Airbnb

Airbnb is a great option to find a short term home while you settle into Kigali and look for something long term. There are a number of benefits to renting on Airbnb when you first arrive: 

  • Convenience – You can book a stay for one night, a few weeks, or a couple of months, with everything included in the price (furniture, bills, etc.). And you can pay using you credit or debit card. 
  • Reliability – Check the reviews before booknig a stay and speak to the owners directly from within the app. 
  • Accountability – If you have any problems during your stay, you can raise them with Airbnb directly and hopefully get a refund if you move out early. 

In Kigali, you can find Airbnb prices as low as 10$ per night or slightly above 300$ per month to 40$ per night or slightly above 1,200$ per month.

Before booking an Airbnb, I always check the reviews to see what to expect from my host. Primarily if s/he responds to texts and emergencies quickly.

Renting on Airbnb for long-term can be a solution. However, the risk could be if the host is operating improperly, it could inconvenience you as a guest.

Lastly, remember the Airbnb policy of long-term stays need to pay each month upfront and give 30 days’ notice if you wish to cancel the booking to receive a full refund. 

How to Find Houses and Apartments to Rent in Kigali

Now that you know the kind of housing options you have in Kigali, let’s look at how and where to find your next apartment.

Facebook Groups

Find local Facebook groups and request to join. You’ll find groups where members post houses for rent, or you can even ask in the group and get help from other members who live in or know about the area. 

Edit your Facebook profile on where you live to avoid being filtered out or identified as spam

Facebook Groups in Kigali to try are 

How to Search for an Apartment on Facebook

While house hunting through Facebook, I would recommend having patience because the search process could take some time. Remember, there could be scammers on there as well, so do your research and don’t make any payments before physically visiting the house.

Vibe house rentals Kigali

Property Listing Websites

Several websites in Kigali have houses to rent. They have professional teams who help you find houses for rent. The filters to search in these websites are neighborhood, price range, the number of bedrooms, furnished/unfurnished, and facilities to find in these marketed houses.

Here are a few you can use for your house search:

Estate Agents and Commissionaires

I have met two types of estate agents and commissionaires in Kigali. Those who call themselves “brokers” and those who provide the service professionally.

Professional commissionaires work for a company and don’t overcharge or charge you money upfront for their transportation. They will listen to your request and take you to sites close to or matching your house requirements. Some companies have a transparent commission structure, and you know what to expect before committing yourself. I liked one whose contract stated you only pay when you find the house you want.

Some common issues scams:

The second category is just regular brokers. Some do this as part of their extra side hustle job, while for others, it’s their primary source of income. Some will charge you money upfront for their transportation and, in addition, charge you the visitation site fee. The advantage of this category is the price is negotiable. However, they may take you to places that don’t match your house requirements for them to get more money from you. Ensure you agree on conditions that favor you.

When working with commissionaires/agents in Kigali, you will be dealing with price and trust-related issues.

Some agents request a 50% commission of the monthly rent and transportation fees, while others will rip you off to the last penny depending on how cunning they could be. 

If you are lucky to meet a transparent one, you will have a smooth experience.

Unfortunately, there are no fixed rules when dealing with commissionaires here in Kigali.

Things you should describe for the house requirements while dealing with a commissionaire when house hunting to save you headaches:

  • Preferred location with approximate distance to the main road, gym, school, hospital, or any amenity that is very important to you
  • Your budget for the commission and house rent willing to pay
  • Number of rooms whether furnished or unfurnished
  • Do you want to be alone in the compound or prefer to share?

These tips will save you from having a forced tour of the hills of Rwanda that you had not signed up for.

Common Scams and Problems

It’s unfortunate that someone new to Kigali can be a perfect victim of scams and problems associated with commissionaires. Here are a few red flags:

  1. If the commission structure is not transparent, avoid committing yourself to regrettable choices
  2. You’re requested to pay physical cash in a foreign currency because you’re identified as a foreigner.
  3. Don’t pay a deposit before a previous tenant has vacated. You can’t be quite certain when the tenant will be vacating.
  4. Don’t book a house before you see it physically. You could be paying for an unavailable house.
  5. If the photos don’t match the property description upon arrival at the site, there could be a scam brewing.
  6. Be aware of commissionaires rushing you into making your decision. 
  7. Some commissionaires will not give you the house owner’s contact information until you pay their high commission rates.
  8. Some commissionaires are not honest in giving detailed information. You may think you have found the house and paid a considerable commission rate only to find that the house owner had a specific condition that is not favorable to you, yet the commissionaire was aware of it.
  9. Do not accept to pay for unnecessary house viewings after giving precise details of the house requirements you want.

Friends and Colleagues

Referrals are the typical way most locals survive in the house hunting period here in Kigali. They rely on friends and colleagues to recommend a commissionaire who once helped them find a solution in the past. Depending on your agreement, these referrals would still request the visitation fee, which is negotiable. This method was frankly relatively easier for me when we used it. 

And, if you’re new to town and don’t know anyone, you can take advantage of social media. Join the Facebook groups mentioned above, go through previous conversations on houses, and reach out to someone you think could refer a commissionaire to help you.

What to Check When Viewing a House or Apartment

When visiting sites, some things are challenging to compromise despite having different lifestyles.

After learning the hard way, here are a few tips on what to check when viewing a house or apartment in Kigali:

  1. Check newly painted walls. Some Kigali landlords are temporarily covering up dampness.
  2. If you are in a shared compound, confirm how you will pay the electricity and water bills. Especially if the meter numbers are not separated.  
  3. If it’s raining, you are in luck to watch out for leaks and any other repairs that need to be rectified before moving in
  4. If you prefer a quiet place, visit the site during peak hours to see how noisy it can be. You could find your future neighbors enjoy partying a lot or could be close to a noisy bar.

Rental Prices

The beauty of rental prices in Kigali is that they can accommodate high, average, and low-income earners. The secret to getting a house within your budget is to be patient, search in favorable locations, and be ready to sacrifice a few things such as proximity to major commercial centers if you are on a tight budget. In addition, some areas may have two sides for both high and low-income earners. 

Type of housePrice Range (RWF)Locations
Unfurnished500,000 – 2,000,000 per month150,000 – 500,000 per month70,000 – 150,000 per monthKimihurura, Nyarutarama, Kagugu, Kibagabaga, Kacyiru
Kimironko, Kicukiro, Gaculiro, Kacyiru, Remera
Gasabo, Muhima, Nyamirambo
Furnished500,000 – 2,000,000 per monthKimihurura, Nyarutarama, Kagugu, Kibagabaga, Kacyiru
House SharesApproximately 300,000 per month inclusive of utilitiesKimironko, Kimihurura, Remera, Nyarutarama, Kicukiro
Serviced Apartments450,000 – 250,000 per monthServiced apartments are located close to business and commerce centers.

Dealing with Landlords (and Landladies)

Landlords are fantastic and excited to welcome new tenants. However, this depends on the personality of the landlord. Many residents in Kigali share their grievances about how landlords would want to exploit tenants with ambiguous rent prices and ignorance of house repair requests. They prefer the house to remain vacant, which raises more questions on how the real estate market works here. 

I was lucky to find a reasonable landlord my first time renting in Kigali. Unfortunately, he sold the house to a new owner after one year. The new landlord was unwilling to follow the law and would breach the contract with no apologies, reminding us amicably that it was his premises and he would do as he wished.   

Lastly, clarify who will pay utility expenses like gardening, water, electricity, and even house repairs. I was impressed that one can still negotiate for a fixed price on these utilities if the rent is inclusive. 

Typical Deposit Expected (& How to Pay Your Deposit)

I prefer when there are standard rules, but unfortunately, there are none when paying your house deposit in Kigali. 

You may find some landlords requesting two/three/four months deposit advance, while very few don’t request the deposit at all. Try to negotiate a better deal if you can, and where the landlord refuses to budge, then consider finding a place with more favorable conditions.

When paying the deposit, I’d recommend requesting a bank account number to transfer the money and a contract to sign to make the landlord accountable in case of any disagreements. 

Repairs and Damages

The first category, whom I have miraculously met, will resolve repairs and damage issues as soon as you alert them. In the second category, some will want to negotiate with you on sharing the cost or using part of the monthly rent. Then the final category will play cat and mouse chase until you mention you want to vacate or even ignore the request and choose to find another house.

Negotiating with the landlord on who pays for the repairs and damages before moving in is wise. 

In addition, when you realize you hadn’t seen a broken pipe or any damage before moving in, tell your landlord as soon as possible. This will also save your deposit from being used on repairs that were needed before you moved into the house.

Paying Utilities and Related Costs

Depending on the type of house you choose, you will incur prepaid costs while renting in Kigali. Some houses include the utilities in your monthly rent, while others have the utilities separate. 

The utilities are:

UtilityPayment MethodPrice per month (RwF)
WaterCheck water bill online or wait for WASAC representative to come with an invoiceDial *182*3*5# and follow promptOr via pay. rw2,000 – 15,000 Price may vary depending on consumption
ElectricityFind the electricity meter number on the meter itself.Dial *720# and follow immediate responses or via pay. rw10,000 -30,000Price may vary depending on your household daily use
Garbage Collection feePay Cash or Money transfer to the representative of garbage collecting company. 2,000 – 5,000Prices are different depending on the location you live in.
Security feePay Cash or money transfer to the representative in the neighborhood2,000 – 5,000Price differ per location
Cooking gasPay Cash, or money transfer1,260 – 1,500 per KgPrices vary depending on the area
WiFiMoney Transfer16,000 – 60,000Prices vary depending on your choice of internet service provider

Moving Companies in Rwanda

Rwanda has moving companies that could offer a professional team. The teams help by providing insurance on damage, packing things in the right boxes, convenient transportation solutions, cleaning before moving into a new house, installing equipment, and arranging furniture where you may wish. Here are a few companies with a range of filters to search for apartments that suit your needs.

You also have cooperatives and freelancers that offer transport services. You may need to learn a few Kinyarwanda/French phrases to work with them. And you’ll find them near furniture markets such as at Gakinjiro, a wood and construction materials market in Gisozi, and Gasabo transport cooperative for those in the Kimironko area. Look for the parked lorries, and you can approach one of them and speak to the drivers to negotiate a fair price. 

About the Author

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *