Hi y’all! It is time for the second part of my series on renting apartments in Puerto Rico. When I began writing about real estate on the island, I didn’t realize just how much we’ve learned while living there. So, I had to break this up into multiple parts. Hence, you’re getting a pretty long, and thorough, series. Hopefully, it will be helpful to you.
In my last post in the Real Estate In Puerto Series, I covered where to rent and how to find apartments. In this post, I will talk about the common pitfalls of renting apartments in Puerto Rico, some recommended things to do, and how to set your expectations.
OK, here it goes…
Common Pitfalls Of Renting Apartments In Puerto Rico
Renting site-unseen – We actually did this with our first apartment and got very, very lucky. That is not the norm. If you rent a place without seeing it, be prepared to lose your money or be disappointed with what you got. Everything looks better in pictures. But, really, more than anything, if you haven’t been in the apartment before, you may fall for one of the pitfalls below.
Neighbors – I can’t tell you how important this is in Puerto Rico. I say this because whatever expectations you had in the mainland USA, do not apply here. Puerto Ricans, as a rule, are not quiet people. They love to party, play loud music, have loudly barking dogs, roosters, etc. etc. I highly recommend you check out the neighbors before you sign a lease.
Neighborhoods – The same as the neighbors, the neighborhood itself is important. You may move into a nice condo but right next door you’ll have an abandoned building where the homeless drug addicts live, hangout, urinate, or whatever.
Apartment Condition – Check the apartment carefully! And ask to have it ALL fixed before you move in! Go back multiple times. Seriously. In Puerto Rico, you are usually expected to fix any problems that occur with the apartment on your own. I’m talking about long-term rentals here. Trust me, you don’t want a rental with a broken fridge that you’ll have to fix. Or washer that doesn’t drain. How about an air conditioner that pours water into the living room every time it rains, or a shower that explodes on you when you’re in it?
All of these have happened to us, by the way.
Lack of Careful Research – I know this is not PC to say but there are many ways you can get screwed on apartments in Puerto Rico. Unpaid property mortgages, someone else’s utilities, deposits, and so on. Don’t be person that gets screwed and do your research before renting.
What To Do When Renting Apartments In Puerto Rico
Check references of the landlord – In the mainland US, we are so used to being on the receiving end of reference checks that it’s completely out of our paradigm to ask for references from the landlord. Trust me, we learned that this is a very smart thing to do. Ask to speak to someone that rented from them before. And, ask other people in the area what they know of the landlord. You may save yourself a lot of headache down the road.
Ask to verify that the mortgage is up-to-date – I have a friend that rented a beautiful house on a 1 year lease, only to be evicted a few months later because, although the landlord was collecting rent, he wasn’t paying the mortgage. So, the bank repossessed the house and removed the tenants.
Ask to verify that utilities are up-to-date – If you’re expected to pay the utilities, call the utility companies and verify that they are up to date. Otherwise, you may move in and be without utilities for up to a couple of weeks. Not to mention that it will probably cost you some money in legal fees to certify that you are not the person responsible for paying them. Yes, we do know someone this exact scenario happened to.
Deposits – Deposits are tricky in Puerto Rico. In theory, and legally, you are supposed to get them back. In reality – not so much. We got partially screwed on our deposit from our last rental. You’ll find that if you’re moving off the island, or some distance from your current location in PR, landlords are very likely to drag their feet on refunds….indefinitely. And really, what recourse do you have? If you’re moving locally, this can still be a problem. Best thing to do, is to negotiate your deposit down and simply expect that you’ll never see it again.
Having Realistic Expectations
Beach is going to be more expensive – Folks go online and see whole houses for rent for $500/mo. That’s cheap! And they do indeed exist. However, they do not exist on the beach. For that price, you’ll be living in a local neighborhood in an unfurnished unit. A beach apartment, depending on the area you’re in, will cost you between $800-$2,000+ for a long-term rental. It is very rare to find anything cheaper.
Furnished apartments in Puerto Rico are more expensive – The reality is that locals don’t typically rent furnished apartments, so furnished units will be geared toward tourists and therefore be much more expensive. Usually around double the cost, maybe more. The furnished rentals are usually set up for short-term, and therefore will want to charge you per day or week, i.e. more money.
NOTE: Furnished cheaper, apartments will likely have outdated furniture and decor.
Unfurnished Apartments – Often when you get an “unfurnished apartments” in Puerto Rico, it means that they do not come with appliances. That’s right. You’ll have to get your own fridge, oven, washer/dry and so on. So, you should keep that in mind when considering renting an unfurnished place for the first time. At the very least, ask if those things are already in place or not.
Apartment Repairs – Be sure you understand the expectations of your landlord when it comes to repairs. Usually, on a long-term rental, the renter is responsible for fixing things. Sometimes this means fixing everything and sometimes it means that you are responsible for the “small things” and the landlord the “big things”. Be sure you agree on the difference. Renting is quite a bit different than in the States. In our current apartment, we call the landlord for anything and he quickly fixes it, if this is what you’re used to, you may be in for a surprise.
That’s it for this post. I covered many of the common pitfalls, things to do when renting apartments in Puerto Rico, and having realistic expectations. In my next post in the series, I will cover our own experience of renting in PR and some of the mistakes we’ve made. Hopefully, it will help you avoid doing the same 🙂
Check out my posts: Real Estate In Puerto Rico Part 1- Is This A Good Time To Buy? and Renting Apartments – Real Estate Part 2a