I wanted to continue with the next column in the series Living in Mexico. However, I am still in such a snit over the fiasco with our previous landlord, I thought I should write part three in the series on renting a house in Mexico.
If you decide you indeed want to spend the rest of your days in Mexico, you will want to rent a place before deciding if you want to buy or not.
In our books, we recommend rent first, buy later. This is the smart way to go for so many reasons. The main reason is if you don’t have even a smattering of Spanish, how will you know who you can trust? You will be forced to depend on someone you don’t know well (or at all) to tell you the truth. If you think renting in Mexico is a Gringo-rip-off-racket, wait until I tell you about buying.
Anyway, before renting any place in Mexico-anywhere – here is what you need to ask, do, and insist upon to keep yourself from being ripped off by Mexican landlords. The following is what I wished someone had told us BEFORE we moved to Mexico:
1. Go to Spanish language schools and ask the person who coordinates the housing for their students about the housing situation. They will be in the know on who is trustworthy and who is not. They will not deal with the known shysters because this would be bad for their Language School business. If an American student gets screwed by one of the home stays or apartment rental arrangements, then that American will sing like a canary when he or she gets home. He or she may even create a website mean-mouthing the school. So, the schools are a good source for housing information.
2. When viewing an apartment for rent, you need to have a checklist either memorized or written out. Always have in the forefront of your mind that a Mexican landlord sees an American renter as a fabulous, endless source of funds for remodeling his apartment or house. At the end of your lease, you will be told that you broke everything from the plumbing to the electricity. You will be told that you will receive NOT ONE THIN DIME (peso) back of your rental deposit. I am not making this up-TRUST ME. So, to try to head this off at the pass, you need to use to following as a checklist. It is not a bad idea to have the potential landlord actually sign something agreeing to the faults that exist before you take possession of the property.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Check the hot water heater. Make the property owner light it to show that it works. Ask the age of it and write it down. Have the landlord initial it.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Go immediately to the shower and turn on the hot water. Clock how long it takes-if ever-for the hot water to come through. Check ALL faucets. This is a favorite ploy. The landlord will know the thing doesn’t work. He or she will have tried to harass the last occupant into paying for brand-new plumbing. He or she will have kept the deposit claiming the previous occupant “broke the plumbing”. He or she plans to do the same to you. If the hot water heater nor the hot water faucets do not work, and you like the place, tell him or her you will rent the place WHEN and IF the hot water situation is fixed.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Check all the chairs. Check the dining room, bedroom, patio-anywhere there is a chair. Look for aging. Look for wear and tear. This is another one of the ploys to refurnish the apartment or house. He or she will put in furniture that Christ probably sat on at the last supper. It will be so old that just looking at it the wrong way will cause it to crumble into a pile of rubbish. The landlord will claim that you used it as a trampoline and broke it and will charge you for it. If you find a micro fissure in anything in the house, point this out and demand it be taken out of the house and NOT included in the inventory or in the rental contract.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Check all glasses, dishes, silverware, appliances, and pots and pans for fissures, fractures, scratches or anything that looks like it might cause something to shatter. Make sure all appliances work properly. Point out any defects. In our previous house, the glasses provided by the landlady were so fragile, they broke the first time we used them. We had to buy her all new glasses.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Check, try, turn on and off all the lights, verify, lay on the beds, do whatever it takes to route out defects that are already in the property BEFORE signing a lease. If you like the apartment and want it, then tell the landlord that you will rent it, CASH ON THE LINE, if he or she fixes the peccadilloes you just found with your cool checklist. Here is what will happen next.
You will be told the Spanish equivalent of, “Don’t let the screen door hit you where the dog should have bit you.”
You will be told this after witnessing the most riotous laughter you have ever heard in your life. You might even be chased out of the house with the owner setting the hounds after you.
Here is the thing. The potential Mexican Landlord will not submit to a Gringo-especially an American one-telling them that such-and-such will have to be fixed before you move into their property. The reason is simple. They will be able to find any number of sucker Americans, Canadians, Europeans, or Orientals who will gladly fork over whatever excessively inflated price the Mexicans are asking for the place and then fork over their deposit, at the end of their lease, when the landlord claims they broke the electricity!
That is how it is and you cannot change it! When it comes to most everything in Mexico, not one shred of ethics or logic applies-ever!
Since there will always be some Gringo ready to cave in to Mexican Landlord’s aberrant behavior, that behavior will always be reinforced and will never change.
An ethic of honesty and fair play does not seem to apply when it comes to a Mexican’s dealing with Gringos.
It just doesn’t!