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Don’t Get Screwed On Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals – Part 3

As I’m sitting here writing and remembering our experiences in Puerto Rico, I’m missing our friends. Tim and I both miss them dearly and it makes me sad. But, that’s life, I guess. We hope to be able to go back soon and visit everybody. Moving on to the topic at hand: Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals.

This post is going to be about our own experience and what we’ve learned. I will also throw in some tips on how to avoid getting screwed on getting a long term rental (more than a month). If you haven’t already, check out the other posts in this series: Real Estate In Puerto Rico – Part 1, Renting Apartments – Part 2a, and Renting Apartments – Part 2b.

Our Experience With Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals

First Apartment: 

When we decided to give Puerto Rico a try, we didn’t have a clue on how to find an apartment in Puerto Rico. We didn’t know anyone on the island. We had heard that Rincón was a cool place to live with lots of Americans but that’s about it. But, we didn’t know anything else. A few web searches later, we quickly figured out that ClasificadosOnline Website was a good place for apartment finding. As was Puerto Rico’s Craigslist. So, we began daily searches of those two sources and many more.

Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals

Puerto Rico apartment Rentals Tip #1 – Get familiar with local prices

Right upfront, we narrowed down our needs and came up with the following:

  • We wanted to be on or near the beach – otherwise there would be no point to moving to an island for us.
  • We had a certain price range in mind after doing extensive research on what the going rates were.
  • Also, we wanted to have certain things in the apartment. Namely, a washer and dryer were a must and so was air conditioning. We also wanted some outside space.
  • We needed a furnished unit and hoped for one that included utilities.

Everything else outside of that list, was optional. Location on the island wasn’t really a factor because we figured if we can find what’s on our list, we’d be fine. Our original plan was to spend six months in Puerto Rico and see if we like it. If not, we’d move on to Panama or somewhere else.

Puerto Rico apartment Rentals Tip #2 – Figure out what you want/need

Armed with those parameters in mind, we began searching in earnest. We found one place in Cabo Rojo that seemed cool but it was unfurnished and had no washer and dryer, so we passed on it. We continued the search.

About a week into this quest, I came across an apartment on Craigslist that met all of our requirements. Hmmmm…..

So, I contacted the owner (actually it was the owner’s daughter). She responded quickly and send us more pictures. It was a 1 bedroom unit, on the beach, in Luquillo for $800/mo. This included all of the utilities, except cable. We had no idea where in Luquillo it was because we had only been there once and it was to the Food Kiosks, never the local neighborhoods. But after a few emails back and forth the landlord agreed to a short lease of three months to start with.

apartment

Tim and I looked at each other and said: How bad can it be for three months? Let’s do it.

We agreed to pay a deposit of $400 via Paypal and set a move-in date. And that was it; we got ourselves an apartment… site unseen.

Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals Tip #3 – Don’t Do What We Did!

I highly recommend that you don’t do what we did. Seriously, it worked out for us but only because we got VERY lucky. We ended up with a decent, kind, and honest landlord that was willing to work with us. But, I can tell you countless stories of why this was a bad idea – please read the other posts in this series.

Needless to say, we were a bit nervous but our circumstances were such that we simply didn’t have the time to go on a scouting trip and we took a chance. About a month later, we arrived at our new apartment.

Upon walking in, we knew we had made the right decision! It was a simple little place, totally homey, and right on the beach. We really loved it. The landlord was a very nice man as well. He met us in San Juan with his daughter and we followed him to Luquillo. The apartment was their vacation condo, and we were the first renters they had in the 30 years they’d owned it. His wife passed away the year before, and they basically stopped using it as a result, so they were very eager to make us happy and comfortable.

We thought we were in heaven!

Over the next few days, we settled in and tested out everything in the apartment. We found everything to be “just a little bit broken.” First thing was that refrigerator was leaking. Then when I went to use the washer, water poured out all over the floor of the apartment. Then we had a problem with one of the stove burners not working. Here was the lucky part: our landlord dispatched someone the next day to fix things, each time we discovered something was broken.

By the way, our experience was very typical of renting a unit that has been empty for a while. Things simply break when they are not being used.

All in all, it took us about two months to get everything working properly. We were so enamored with the location of our place that we didn’t mind too much and, as I said, we got lucky with the landlord. In fact, we liked the place so much we extended our lease from 3 months to six months.

House Number 2: 

mountains

Tim has always been more of a “mountain guy” and so the beach was a compromise. We knew that at one point, we’d want to try the mountains and living in the rain forest. So, when our beach lease was coming to an end, we began searching for a new place. See our post on Beach vs. Mountains. At this point we’d made quite a few friends and an opportunity came up for us to “house sit” for a nice American couple we met. They only used their house (yes, this was a house, not an apartment), for 5-6 months out of a year and needed someone to house sit while they were gone.

We thought this was a great opportunity to experience life in the mountains, in a local neighborhood, and away from the beach. So, we agreed.

The house was lovely, with truly amazing views of Luquillo and its beaches. But, it was away from the beach (I know, I know, it was only a 15 minute drive) and that proved to be problematic in many different ways for us. It also didn’t have air conditioning.

Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals Tip #4 – You absolutely need air conditioning in the summer months

Unless you are right on the beach, where the breeze is constant, you will definitely need air conditioning. The house we were in, heated to over 100 degrees every night that summer. The cement walls would absorb the heat during the day and then radiate it inside at night. You can only do so much with a fan, trust me, get a place with air conditioning. By the end of the summer, we could not wait to get back to the beach!

Rental Number 3:

After we returned from a summer in Europe, we stayed at friends’ condo while we looked for another apartment. We could not go back to our first beach apartment, because, sadly, our landlord had passed away – we were heart broken, he was such a lovely man.

However, it was a chance to get a taste of living in the 21-story condo towers in Luquillo. They had a pool, tennis courts, etc, and we thought maybe we could live there.

apartment number 3

After about two weeks, we decided it wasn’t for us. There is absolutely no privacy in those places. You need to have both doors and windows open to get the cross breeze and people (usually vacation renters) go by and look into your apartment. The apartment next door to us, got regular vacationers and they would be loud and kids would run up and down the hallways at all hours. The bedrooms were placed so close to the entrance hallway that you could hear people walking by in all hours of the night. Nope, this was not for us.

So, we decided to try a beach neighborhood for our third place. We worked with a realtor that someone recommended, to find a 2-bedroom house. This time, no utilities included, for $750/month. It was a cute little place in a gated development about three blocks from the beach.

Although the place was really nicely furnished, it turned out to be the worst experience we had with Puerto Rico apartment rentals.

Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals Tip #5 – Always switch your own utilities!

The apartment was “managed” by a realty company. But all they really did is collect our rent. They were supposed to switch our utilities to our name – this took 2.5 months! In the mean time, we were told to pay the landlord’s bills for electricity, cable, water but the bills were texted to the realtor and not readable. In fact, after we moved out, they charged us for a bill we already paid – again. We didn’t even fight it because, frankly, there was no accountability and they knew we moved off the island.

Some of the problems we had with the property:

  1. Broken screen door that we ended up fixing ourselves after 2 months of waiting and handing the realtor the bill.
  2. Dripping water through the air conditioner, every time it rained. The landlord looked at it and deemed it fine but it continued to rain into the living room.
  3. A burning smell in the “office” bedroom, every time we turned on the AC.
  4. A shower that leaked everywhere from day one.
  5. Shower nobs that exploded off the wall, while I was taking a shower. Not fun, though Tim thought it was funny at the time as I was dripping wet and hoping around the bathroom.
  6. The security gate guards turned out to be a royal pain in the arse.

Etc, etc, etc. There were lots more but I won’t list them all here. You get the idea.

apartment

Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals Tip #6 – Ask for the landlord’s direct contact information.

Essentially, the realtor was supposed to notify the landlord any time we had a problem. Whether he did or not, I’m not sure, but nothing ever got fixed. When things exploded or could not be ignored any longer, the realtor would send someone that worked for him.

They would take between 1 day – 2 weeks to fix any problem because they never came prepared with the right tools or parts. Then the day after the repair was supposedly done, the problem would return and may even be worse. We had them come out a total of 5 times to fix the leaky shower alone and it never got fixed properly. When we moved out, we showed them that the shower was still leaking everywhere, as it did when we moved in.

After complaining to all of our friends about the situation, we later learned, that this particular realty was known for running this scam:  sending their own maintenance guys in that didn’t know what they were doing. Charging the landlord premium $$ for the repairs. And, then never notifying them that the problem still existed. So, they could keep doing it again and again. SHEESH!

Puerto Rico Apartment Rentals Tip #7 – It is best to avoid third parties.

Upon move-out from that last rental, the landlord agreed to refund our deposit. It was to be processed by the realty. It took more than two months and me threatening to write a post about it, before we received the refund, minus the bill I mentioned above (that we already paid) and minus a $75 cleaning fee that was never mentioned in a lease or anywhere else. We left the place spotless, and even had the realtor inspect it when we left, but they still charged the cleaning fee. We didn’t argue, we were just glad to be out of that situation.

OK, so now you have an idea of what our own experiences were with Puerto Rico apartment rentals. We learned from each experience. We would never again get an apartment without AC in Puerto Rico and we would never again go through a realtor. I hope that this hopes helps show you what to avoid, as well.

PS. Three months in Arizona and we are still waiting for deposit refunds from electric and water companies.

Cheers!

Joanna-

 

About Joanna Rolston

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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