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Renting Property

Belize - Renting Property

The official language of Belize is English, and the county’s legal system is based on English case law. As a result, all rental agreements and supporting correspondence will be in English. The independent judiciary means that any serious dispute between a landlord and tenant can be resolved through legal process without any concerns about bribes and connections affecting the judicial decisions. Belize is therefore a secure country in which to rent property.

Properties can now be easily rented directly from the owner, either through personal referrals or via websites such as Airbnb. If you choose to go via a website, take great care to ensure the property really exists and belongs to the person representing themselves as the landlord. Do not pay a security deposit and advance payment of rent in cash or by direct bank transfer before you have even seen the property. If it turns out that you have been scammed, you are extremely unlikely to recover any of the money.

Real estate agents and property management companies offer longer term rental properties than those offered on Airbnb. Using these companies can help resolve any issues more smoothly than having to deal with a landlord directly.

However, anyone can become a real estate agent in Belize. There are no training or qualification requirements, and no prior experience is needed to enter the profession. Real estate agency is based on commission payments. If you can find a real estate agency through the personal recommendation from friends or people you can trust, that is ideal. However you go about it, do your research before dealing with any agency to ensure you only spend time and money on a reputable firm.

Long-term rentals will have a cheaper weekly charge than that levied for short term holiday lets, but the lease will normally have to run for six months as a minimum. Many landlords will offer leases of twelve months, with the lease stipulating conditions for renewals and exit clauses.

When considering the length of your lease, issues such as your income, job and hopes for the future will obviously form part of your decision making. However, remember that changes in your life, health or financial circumstances can all have an impact on your ability to stick to a plan. Similarly, events back in your home country may require you to return. In any of these events, the ability to terminate the lease at an earlier stage without undue financial penalties will enable you to cope more easily with those unexpected changes.

It is a good idea to seek out your rental home during quieter times of the year. November is ideal because there are few tourists visiting. If you arrive at Semana Santa in the very busy week before Easter, access to properties becomes difficult and the accommodation costs you incur during your search will be much higher.

A security deposit equivalent to a month and a half’s rent is typically due when you sign the rental agreement. At least the first month of rent will also be paid, and your rental payments will continue to be paid in advance throughout the life of the lease.

Most of the properties offered for rental will be fairly basic, although air conditioning is normally included. If you are willing to pay more, you can find properties which include a pool and pool maintenance, caretaker, landscaped garden with grounds maintenance, boat mooring, kitchen appliances, washer and dryer, cable TV and resort amenities. These superior properties may often be found in gated communities. The rental costs will be much higher than a standard property, reflecting the additional costs that the landlord is paying and the higher value of the property. A spacious two bedroomed home at this level of the market can cost US$1,500 a month in rental charges, compared to US$500 a month for a more basic, partially furnished two bedroomed apartment.

Properties in tourist hotspots with convenient access to city centres and properties close to a beach will command premium prices for monthly rent. If you are determined to have a particular location in an expensive area and do not have a generous budget, you may need to determine the minimum number of rooms you can live in so that the rent does not eat up all your income.

Some services may be included in the marketing of the property but then need to be paid for by the tenant as a fee additional to the rental charge. Utilities and services are normally paid by the tenant. This includes electricity, which is expensive compared to the costs charges in many Western countries. Due to the range of charges and the variability of who will pay for them, it is important to check your rental agreement thoroughly before you sign it. If a service has been omitted from the contract and you are then separately billed for it, you will have difficulty making a legal challenge.

Never move into a property without a lease in place. If a colleague or acquaintance offers free use of a property for which no written evidence of the terms and conditions exists, unexpected charges might lead to disputes and could sour your relationship with the person loaning you the flat. As communities in Belize are often small, with neighbors tending to know each other’s business, a dispute of this nature may make people wary of accepting you and thus make it harder to settle into your new life in Belize.

Generally, the supply of electricity, heating, water and domestic rubbish collection services will cost a minimum of BZ$300 (Or US$150) each month. Broadband internet charges can cost about the same, as can phone and satellite TV package costs. Your monthly utilities bills can therefore quickly add up to a similar cost as your rent.

Phones and cable TV will normally take less than three days to connect after you have contacted the service provider.

Houses are often offered furnished, which means there is at least a minimum provision of furniture and fixtures, allowing a family to comfortably move in and live there straight away. Partially furnished homes will be very basically provided for, and require investment in kitchen appliances for example. Unfurnished properties will have empty rooms with the bare minimum kitchen and bathroom fittings.

Pets are rarely allowed in rental homes, because of the damage they can do to the furniture and fixtures. Sometimes pets will be permitted if they are to be kept inside. Where a landlord will allow a pet to be kept indoors, they typically stipulate that it must be a small pet only.

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