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Ecuador - Renting Property
It’s easy to look on Craigslist for Ecuador and decide that that beautiful seafront apartment you’ve seen must be snapped up now, just to discover there are major flaws with the accommodation that you can’t identify from a picture.
As Canadian expat Leigh Anderson explained, the first apartment she rented with her sister in Quito had some major flaws which they did not anticipate. “The apartment we had rented sight-unseen was in a small town with no other foreigners. In addition to being a complete spectacle and the target of some unwanted attention wherever we went, we also realized that we were not compatible with the landlord and her family, who lived below us and felt at liberty to come and go through our apartment at any time of the day!”
Spending hours commuting to work or being unable to sleep because of the noisy bar underneath your floorboards also will not help you settle into a new country.
By looking for long-term accommodation once you are in Ecuador, you have the chance to ask colleagues and friendly local people what they think of particular areas. Someone might know of a vacant apartment in their block or put you in contact with a relative who can help.
If you are living in Ecuador on a tight budget, stay away from seafront views, big architectural homes with swimming pools and city centre penthouse suites as these will be expensive. You can rent cheaply if you use a householder’s spare room or find someone to share with, but you will of course have to comply with someone else’s rules.
A neighbourhood with a bad reputation is rarely worth the risk for a new expat. If you move into an expat area, the accommodation cost will be a premium, but you may make friends more quickly. In most areas of Ecuador, you’ll find neighbourhoods with very reasonable accommodation costs and no high crime rates to worry you.
Furnished And Unfurnished Accommodation
It is possible to find furnished rental accommodation in Ecuador, usually with a slightly higher monthly rental cost than similar unfurnished properties. The furniture may not be to your individual taste, but if you are staying in the country for a short time, you may be happy to put up with this in the name of convenience.
However, do check the contents that will be provided as well as their size. You might be shown a furnished flat only to discover when you move in that most of the furniture has gone as it wasn’t part of the landlord’s package.
Moreover, be aware that local people tend to have a much smaller frame than many Westerners, which means beds and chairs might be an uncomfortable fit for you.
If furniture and fixtures are part of the rental, they should be specified on an inventory. On the day you move in, you and the landlord should both sign the inventory to agree the list is accurate and that none of the items are damaged. Use your phone to take photos if anything needs replacing so you don’t get charged for it later.
If you are staying longer term or are more concerned about what your home environment looks like, you will have plenty of unfurnished properties to choose from.
However, the term ‘unfurnished’ can mean a variety of things in Ecuador. An absence of curtains, curtain rods, dishwasher and furniture is standard, but often a boiler, oven or fridge also aren’t provided, and sometimes even the kitchen cabinets are missing.
This means you may have to find the money to pull an entire property together. If you then leave Ecuador, you’ll have to work out how to sell all these items.
Luckily, tenants don’t have to paint the walls of rental properties, and landlords often arrange decorators to do this when marketing a new let. However, Bryan Haines, a US expat who runs the blog gringosabroad https://gringosabroad.com/what-to-expect-when-renting-a-house-in-ecuador/ had a landlord drop off some paint with the clear expectation he would himself cover an unpainted part of the stairwell. Unexpected situations may arise, but if you maintain a cheerful attitude towards them as Brian does, your relationship with the landlord should be a good one.
Where To Buy Furniture
Furniture shops can be found in most areas of Ecuador unless you are in a remote location. Given the natural resources available in the country, you won’t be surprised to learn that solid wood furniture is standard. It is often to an excellent standard and usually affordable.
As you would expect, you can source furniture for different budgets in Quito.
At the top end, you find stores such as Sukasa which offers furniture as part of its department store offerings. Guayaquil, Manta and Playas are also popular locations for upmarket furniture and departmental stores.
The San Roque market in Quito will appeal to bargain hunters. Take your time to assess each piece for its quality and size. This is a different experience to browsing in a department store and may be intimidating on the first visit, but the low costs make the effort worthwhile.
You will also find local furniture makers happy to make custom built furniture from local wood. Obviously, this requires some negotiation of price, but means you will own a unique piece of furniture which meets your individual requirements.
Always Insist On A Tenancy Agreement
Wherever you are renting a property, you must sign a tenancy agreement. Some landlords claim these aren’t necessary, but since they set out the terms and conditions to which you and the landlord are bound, they are essential. Otherwise, you later risk the landlord charging you for items or services you didn’t know about, or being given very little notice to leave.
As an absolute minimum, your agreement should include the names and addresses of those signing the document, the start date of the rental period, the amount to be paid and the date the money is due, as well as the length of the tenancy.
It is useful to have a break clause. If you have another nine months before your rental period ends and your employment suddenly ends or a close relative back home gets sick, you are committed to paying another nine months of rent even if you return home. A break clause usually requires three months of notice in writing (with monthly rent due during those three months as normal), which is much obviously cheaper than continuing for nine months.
The landlord may decide to add other terms and conditions. For example, pets may be forbidden, or there may be strict rules about noise or posters on walls. Landlords rarely keep duplicate keys, so if you lose one, you could be facing the personal cost of a whole new lock.
Your tenancy agreement will be in Spanish so if your language skills are not fluent, you will find the help of a friend or colleague invaluable. Don’t sign a tenancy agreement – which is a legally binding document that will be used should any court case arise – unless you have understood every sentence contained in it.
Never Pay In Cash For Your Rental Property
This is another rule that applies equally in Ecuador as anywhere else; never pay in cash for your rental property.
You will usually pay your rent on a monthly basis, in advance. When you sign the tenancy agreement and before you move in, you will be asked to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit. The amount is typically the same as the monthly rent.
Under the most secure arrangements, the landlord will place the security deposit into a separate bank account which requires you both to be present for the withdrawal of funds. However, many landlords don’t do this and will say it is unnecessary.
If your transactions with the landlord are in cash, you will not have evidence to support your claims if the they do not return your security deposit or decide to evict you and claims you didn’t pay your rent. Any receipt you were given for the cash might be disputed. A bank transfer cannot be challenged and is good evidence of your payment if any matters go to court.
When you are seeking a property, never be persuaded to pay a reservation fee, viewing fee or any other up-front costs. If these are requested in cash, you know you are about to become the victim of a scam and you must walk away immediately, even – or perhaps especially – if the property looks amazing.
Don’t Expect Ecuador To Be Like The US
Maureen Stimola spent a year living in Tena, part of the Ecuadorian Amazon. While the area sees a constant flow of international tourists, it is remote from big cities and household utility services are poor. Coming from Vermont, this was a difficult adjustment. “There is a lot of frustration with utilities failing, not having water or electricity, getting food poisoning or parasites, no internet, astronomic phone bills when a family member has a birthday, etc., you get the idea!” Maureen concludes.
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