The process for renting a place to live here is definitely different than in Canada or the US. The difference is it being much easier…but you will need to know a bit of Spanish. This is not mandatory, but it will help a lot.
First, to find a local place to rent it’s best to walk or drive around areas you have already chosen. Most homeowners simply post signs in windows or will drape a large banner over the front of a home that is for rent.
If you can’t drive around or you don’t have a specific area in mind, no worries. Just hit up the Internet. This is where you will need a bit of Spanish because the descriptions will be in Spanish. For these, because the content is basic, you can use Google translate or something similar.
Tip: If the home description is written in Spanish and the price offered in peso, you will get a much better deal (financially) than if the description in written in English and the rent, given in dollars. When rents are given in dollars, they are usually in the most expensive areas of town and if you read my article on how to live here cheaply, the first piece of advice I share is to buy / pay only in peso. This is Mexico after all.
Once you find a place, you can send a message via What’s App. Everyone here is on What’s App, even businesses. Send a quick note of a few lines that you want to see the place as soon as possible. Some will reply right away and others, in a few hours. If they don’t reply, the place is rented.
The homeowner or realtor will either meet you or pick you up for a viewing. I personally prefer they come get me. It just saves time. Do note, they will be about 15 minutes late. That is a standard cultural thing here, so don’t take offense.
Also note, it’s expected that you will have pets so don’t worry about asking. If the place is pet-free (which is highly unusual and normally found in the US dollar rentals), the advertisement will say so. If it’s not mentioned, you’re good to go with your existing pets.
If you like the place, you can tell them then and there, but don’t commit to it just yet. Have them bring the original of the latest utility bills. Make sure they are paid and up to date. In Mexico, bills (except water) cannot be carried over. Bills have to be paid in full before the due date or they are cut off. No exceptions.
An unpaid water bill, for example, will be added to the next billing period, which would be your bill and which also means you’ll be responsible for paying it. An unpaid electric bill could see you left in the dark if the last tenants moved out before paying it.
Note: Everything here (expect water) is cut off electronically, meaning it’s computer scheduled. The cut off is midnight of the bill due date. This includes Telmex / Telcel.
Also, if the previous tenants had high electricity usage, the home could be in the red zone of billing, which is a significantly higher rate (it’s Mexico’s way of punishing high-consumption users). This means you will also be paying significantly higher electric rates for as long as six months.
If the utilities are high, I would question it. It’s unlikely the realtor / administrator will know anything (it’s not their bill) but I would then request to see the last six months worth of bills (you can access that information online using only the name and account number on the bill in your hand, so make a copy).
If it turns out the last renters had one or two high month usages (maybe due to an air conditioner in the hot months), then no worries. If, on the other hand, the bill is consistently high, you will need to make a decision if it’s a bill you want to pay each period because that bill will be your bill.
If you can’t sort out past unpaid utilities, walk away because you will get stuck paying them. A good homeowner will have made sure (or will make sure) to clear the bills. If you accept the place, take a photo of the water and electric meters on the day you move in. I suggest having a newspaper in the photo as well to prove the date (people love to dispute things around here).
Also, do a visual inspection of the home. Make sure what you see is what’s included (fridge, stove, washer, gas tanks if any, etc.), there are no water leaks, signs of being broken into. If there are repairs that need to be made, have them done before you move in…always. No exception. If you lag on this and move in without the repairs being done, you can now assume they are your responsibility to make and pay for.
This is common here. When I took my current house I did so knowing there was a fair amount of repair needed, but I had a few basic repairs done before I moved in. I then took the house “as is” because I got a fantastic deal on rent. I mean the deal was so incredible that I paid for, out of pocket, the things that needed doing and I did them myself over the course of several months, including painting the entire outside of the house. Now I have a million-peso house for dirt cheap rent.
If you can agree on the house, its contents, utilities and of course price, then tell them you’ll take it. They will ask to meet with you the next day for the damage deposit. That money is often used to make any repairs to the house. It is also where the realtor (or administrator, the person showing the house) gets his/her commission. Make sure you get a recepit for that damage deposit money.
Next you can decide for how long…six months is the minimum while one year+ is preferred by most but you can go longer than that if you want. Work out what you want to do but keep in mind: if you hate the place (bad neighbors, barking dogs, dirty streets, loud traffic) six months is doable, then you’re free. If it’s a steal-of-a-deal, then you may want to take it for a year or more. I took my house with a minimum 5-year agreement. Both the homeowner and I are happy.
To rent a house in Playa del Carmen, you will need the damage deposit (usually in cash) and first month’s rent. For identification, the original and a copy of your passport if you’re not a resident, otherwise a copy of your temp or permanent resident card is equal to an IFE card for them. I also like to provide a business card so they can see I’m professionally employed.
A contract will be drawn up and signed by both parties before a notary publico. The fee for this, which can range from 1,000 peso up to 8,000 or more, is payable by you the renter. Sometimes the homeowner will pick up that tab, but don’t expect it. Be prepared to pay.
If your contract is not signed and sealed by a notary, you do not have a contract. Period. Others will tell you different, but they are incorrect. According to state law, a contract is not valid until it has been signed off and sealed by a licensed notary.
This is important because it will protect you from incidences such as unlawful evictions, rent increases, illegal home entry (by the landlord). It also protects the homeowner in that he/she is owed a specific amount of rent on a specific day each month and details the overall legal agreement. Once that contract is up, you walk away or you can renew for another year.
If your new pad is unfurnished, you will need to call a mudanza and flete truck (local moving guys with a pick-up truck) to move your belongings. If your pad is furnished, then you can skip that step and head straight to your new patio to enjoy a well earned beverage.