Housing problem in Armenia: who is unable to rent a home in Yerevan and why?
Housing issue in Yerevan
If you are a young couple without children and animals, born and raised in Armenia, do not smoke or drink and do not have friends who want to visit – welcome to Yerevan. If not, be prepared for problems with renting an apartment in the capital.
About half of the inhabitants of Armenia live in Yerevan – more than 1 million people. In 2020, 52% of total apartment rental transactions were concluded in Yerevan. However, here you can face serious problems in finding and renting apartments, especially given the ever-growing prices for rental apartments. This has become an intractable problem for people with the minimum wage, and a heavy burden for those who do not have the highest incomes.
At the same time, unlike purchase and sale transactions, lease transactions in Armenia are usually concluded without contracts. The relationship between the tenant and the owner remains “in the shadows” – at the level of verbal agreements. This allows apartment owners not only to set any amount for rent and not pay taxes, but also to discriminate against potential customers.
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“Karabakh people should live in Artsakh”
Lusine Davtyan is from Stepanakert. After her marriage, in 2013 she moved from Nagorno-Karabakh to Yerevan, but she never adapted to life there. In 2019, Lusine returned to Nagorno-Karabakh, but in the fall of 2020, the war in Karabakh began, and her family was forced to move back to Yerevan.
She says that during the war she easily managed to find an apartment for rent, but the owner soon returned from abroad, and a 4-5-month search for another house began.
“I heard several times from brokers that owners don’t want to rent an apartment to the Karabakh people. No one explained to us what the matter was, we communicated through brokers. I would not want to rent an apartment from such people․․․ For several months I could not find an apartment, so we lived in the suburbs”, says Lusine.
In her opinion, the reason lies in the state policy of Armenia, which implies that “Karabakh people should live in Artsakh, not in Armenia”.
The most popular way to find an apartment in Armenia is to search on the List.am website. It is here that both apartment owners and brokers most often place information. But Lusine has already found out for herself that there are a lot of useless ads here – apartments that are already occupied or will be vacant in a few months.
“I called everyone, first of all, they asked who would move in, how old the children were. Also, it was always apartments with Soviet renovation and furniture of the same period, not made according to the latest standards. That’s the problem – they want to receive the maximum payment, but with the minimum use of the apartment. The preferred option is a single working woman or a young couple who do not yet have children”, says Lusine.
“Families with children, do not give up!”
Meruz Tashchyan is an economist, he is 29 years old. He needed an apartment a few years ago, when his son was just born. This period is already in the past for him, now he lives in his own house with his wife and 3-year-old child. With a smile oh his face, he recalls the days when, with a newborn in her arms, they were looking for an apartment in Yerevan. Meruj remembers what one of the owners said when he refused to rent an apartment to him:
“He explained to us that he has new furniture and fresh renovation of the apartment, a child can ruin it, break it, the house can burn down in a fire … Then we rented the apartment of our friends, avoiding unnecessary headaches and interpersonal problems.
I noticed the following pattern: when a person renovates an apartment with their last savings and puts it out for rent, they demand the maximum price. And in the case of renting apartments for 150,000 drams (more than $300) and above, no such tendencies are observed”.
“No single men allowed”
Single men are also not favored by apartment owners, especially if they have pets.
“They don’t rent an apartment to single men, because they are afraid that they will ruin everything in it, and the house itself will be turned into a brothel. Not to mention a dog- I had to hide the fact that I had one, had to hide it in the house”, says Emin Oganjanyan.
He began to live in rented housing about 3 years ago and he has already changed apartments three times.
“When you go to see apartments, the first question the owner usually asks is how you will live – alone or with your family. A lot depends on this answer. Several times I answered that I would live alone, and from their reaction I understood that they would refuse me.
Therefore, in the future, I began to say that I would live with my girlfriend. Sometimes, even in this case, they did not agree to rent an apartment. So I began to say that she was my bride, this was an acceptable option for them”, says Emin and sighs with relief – now he and his wife live in their own house, which is also more suitable for their dog.
“We don’t rent to young girls”
Aghavni Navasardyan is a photographer who moved to Armenia from Russia two years ago. She started looking for an apartment when she realized that she was going to stay here for a long time.
“The first thing they asked was who would live in the apartment. When I answered that it was only me, they refused: “We don’t rent an apartment to single girls”, one of the owners even said. “I’m not crazy – they’ll make a mess in my house, they’ll bring some shady men over, and there will be rumors about my apartment”, Agavni recalls.
Moreover, the owners, keep the apartment itself and its inhabitants under constant control.
With difficulty, Aghavni managed to convince one landlord to rent an apartment to her, after which she had to prove to the neighbors and the owner of the house that she was a girl “adhering to high moral values”.
“When I first moved in, everyone in the building looked askance at me. Someone was smoking in our entrance, and a neighbor on the site hinted to me that I should warn my guests not to smoke here – although I never had any guests. All this ended with me speaking directly with my neighbors about everything. After that, I began to participate in the life of the building, solve problems important for residents … Now, I can say that we have become a little more friendly”, says Agavni.
“Cats don’t belong here”
“We are a young couple and we have a cat. For the second month my husband and I have been trying to find an apartment. We tried everything – both online ads and different brokers, but to no end”, complains Nush Abyan.
Nush works in the field of digital technologies, is engaged in design and animation and says that an apartment cannot be found “because of the owners, who are disgusted by cats”.
“As soon as they find out about the cat, they say: “There will be no cat in my house”, and hang up. We try to explain that we are responsible for our pet, that there will definitely be a compensation clause in the contract, we will return the apartment in the same condition we got it. They answer: “No, I hate cats, they shed hairs everywhere”. But it’s not you, dear, who will live in this apartment, and the cat’s hair will not touch you in any way. Cats are the cleanest animals, as far as I know”.
Nush is outraged by this intolerance towards pets, saying that in Russia, the situation is radically different:
“In summer we went to St. Petersburg. All our friends there live in rented apartments and they have various pets. We also worked and lived there for a while. When we asked friends to find us an apartment, all the owners, without even thinking, agreed to rent an apartment to us. There is a special attitude towards animals there.
Nush argues that the culture of relations between landlords and renters in Armenia is still at a very low level, and recalls the words of one of the brokers:
“He said that no one wants to let a cat into their renovated apartment. That is, if you have a pet, then you either have to stay on the street, or live in a wreck without normal communal amenities. And the price of it, for some reason, will not differ from the renovated apartment. Not to mention crazy neighbors who might threaten to kill your cat”.
Nush believes that if this continues, then animal lovers will simply have to leave their country:
“In your own country, you actually feel superfluous, you seem to have nowhere to live, and there is no hope that anything will ever change. And not everyone manages to buy their own apartment at the age of 25-26, although we strive for this. It is sad that I have to leave my country, even if temporarily”.