Accommodation in Libya has evolved over the years as expat demand has increased. Now, many more options for fancy facilities and modern villas exist within the major cities of Tripoli and Janzour. In many cases, employers arrange accommodation for their expat employees prior to their arrival in Libya. Housing prices vary depending on the area one chooses to live in.
Except for citizens from Malta, it isn’t possible for foreigners to own property in Libya.
Types of accommodation in Libya
The housing market in Libya has seen great development over the last few years. Expats looking for accommodation have a wide variety of options to choose from.
Libya’s capital city, Tripoli, has an abundance of apartments. Apartment blocks can range from smaller two- or three-storey buildings to large 10-storeys. Apartments are highly popular and usually don’t stay on the market very long.
In Libya, the term 'villa' refers to what most Westerners would think of as a typical house. There is no standard size or layout for villas. In cities such as Janzour, villas with multiple levels, large yards and landscaping are typical. Some may even have private swimming pools. In larger cities such as Tripoli, yards will typically be much smaller, but will still be enclosed by a wall or fence.
Expats hoping for cheaper accommodation may consider renting a traditional house called a hosh. These houses tend to be older and rarely stand alone. A hosh may lack the luxurious finishes associated with villas, but they stay much cooler during the hot Libyan summers.
Finally, the most expensive option for foreigners is gated communities. These can range from large communities, such as Palm City, to smaller compounds that contain 10 to 15 villas. Gated communities often have their own shops, restaurants and supermarkets as well as shared facilities such as swimming pools.
Gated communities are usually preferred by expats as there is a built-in feeling of security and community. It also gives expats an area where they can freely mingle with other foreigners, and it reduces the feelings of alienation.
Finding accommodation in Libya
At first, finding accommodation in Libya may seem a daunting task. If at all possible, expats should ask their employer to help them find safe and suitable accommodation. If an expat doesn’t speak Arabic or French, the language barrier may make the process difficult.
The best approach to finding accommodation in Libya is by approaching a real-estate agent. There are many established companies who have experience with helping foreigners find housing. Expats should ensure they understand the agent’s fees and conditions before they start looking for properties. Typically, an agent’s commission is the equivalent of one month's rent on a one-year lease and half a month's rent on a six-month lease.
Word of mouth is also a popular way of getting things done in Libya. Expats who have friends or colleagues already living in the country should not be shy to use these contacts to find housing. Alternatively, in recent years, Libya has seen an increase in online property sites. Expats should note though that many of these sites don’t keep their listings current, and many properties may already have been rented out. Social media is another powerful resource that expats can employ during their house hunt. Local neighbourhood groups often have listings, so expats should check the group for the specific neighbourhoods they want to live in.
Furnished vs unfurnished
House hunters will need to decide whether they want a furnished or unfurnished accommodation. Those who are pressed for time and would prefer to move in immediately would be well suited for furnished housing. The only disadvantage to this option is the cost, which is often much higher than unfurnished housing.
Furnished housing will typically include everything from furniture such as couches and beds to appliances such as stoves and refrigerators. Some luxury furnished properties will even come with decor items such as lamps and paintings. Whereas unfurnished accommodation will typically include cupboards, mattresses and bed frames only.
Most expats who move to Libya for a short-term assignment prefer renting fully furnished accommodation, as this is the most convenient option for them. Those who are in the country long term will usually opt for the unfurnished option, which gives them the opportunity to curate the space and make it their own.
Short lets and temporary housing
Many new arrivals in Libya choose to stay in temporary housing while securing long-term house. It is usually a more cost effective and convenient alternative to hotels. Holiday rental sites such as Airbnb are a fantastic option for fully furnished and serviced short-term rentals.
Signing a lease
Rental contracts in Libya vary quite dramatically. It is important that expats fully understand the terms of the lease they are signing. It is recommended that expats ask a friend or colleague who understands Arabic to look over the contract before signing anything. Most housing contracts in Libya are for six months and above, though one-year leases are preferred. Homeowners also appreciate payment of the entire contract in advance. However, there are possibilities to negotiate alternative payment plans.
Renters are usually required to pay a security deposit to secure the property and compensate for any damage that may be caused. The deposit is returned at the end of the lease, provided that the property is left in a suitable condition.
Many families in Libya do not keep pets, especially dogs. Those who do keep pets generally keep cats, birds or fish. That said, a few apartment buildings, gated communities and villas allow pets. It is best to consult with the landlord and obtain written consent to keep a pet.
Expats should discuss with their landlord who is responsible for utilities during the rental contract negotiations. If they are responsible, it is essential that they take a picture of the meter to record the usage when they move in and make sure all electricity bills are up-to-date. They should also ask to see if another tenant is sharing their meter. Electricity bills weren't paid during the revolution, so expats should ensure they are not paying for services they did not use.
Water is free of charge in Libya, so expats will only have to budget for electricity, internet and cable costs. It is also important to secure a generator for the country's frequent power cuts.
Termination of the lease
Tenants should ensure they clean the property thoroughly and return it in the same condition as far as possible, this includes fixing broken appliances. Landlords in Libya tend to deduct from a tenant's deposit if anything in the property is not functional, even as a result of normal wear and tear. This is however not always the case, but it is something expats should be prepared for.
If, after inspection, the property is found to be in a satisfactory condition, expats can expect to receive their full deposit back within seven to 14 days of vacating the house or apartment.
►Shipping and Removals in Libya provides expats an overview of moving possessions to Libya
"The renting market is difficult here because there is more demand than what's on offer. It is fairly easy to rent a flat for a single person but it gets complicated for a family house. Besides, many companies offer accommodation to their employees as part of their salary packages. The standards of newly built accommodation are very high. Libya is a rich country and people like their comfort."
Read more about French expat Jameela's experiences in Libya.
Are you an expat living in Libya?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Libya. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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