Renting in Mexico: Everything you need to know

26.09.17
10 minute read
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The climate, beaches and culture have been drawing foreigners to Mexico for a long time. It’s a popular place for a vacation, but also as a home base, for retirees, students and those looking to work in one of Mexico’s rapidly developing cities.

Your first priority, if you’re considering a move to Mexico, is likely to be finding a place to live. The good news is that it’s common to rent your home in Mexico - which means that there’s plenty of housing available in most areas.

In Mexico city, there are a huge number of international businesses. American giants such as Citigroup, Walmart, Apple and GE have a presence here, drawing in expat employees and contributing to the vibrant and mixed local community. In Mexico City, the average price for a one bed apartment in the city centre is $463, with the same place outside of the centre costing under $300 on average. Of course, the cost will depend very much on the neighbourhood you choose, and quite how well connected it is.

Jump to Mexico’s second biggest city, Ecatepec, and a one bed city apartment is around $160 a month. Rental prices here are on average nearly 70% lower than in the capital.

In the ‘Gateway to Mexico’, Tijuana, a one bed place in the city centre is likely to set you back about $250, and outside the city centre you can find a similar pad for $170. As in most cases, if you move away from the city, and into the more rural areas, you’ll be able to find properties for much lower rents.

Because of the range of choices available and some quirks of the local rental market, it’s worth doing your homework before you choose a home. If you’re thinking of moving to Mexico for work or study, then check out this guide to renting in Mexico.

How does the rental process work?

Renting a property in Mexico is fairly straight forward, and the details will likely be hammered out by yourself and your agent or with the landlord directly. You can find properties online, through an agent or simply by spotting a ‘to let’ sign.

If you’re renting in one of the larger cities or through agents, you might need to do some referencing or credit checks. There aren’t mandated by law, however.

Alternatively, in certain places, and especially in Mexico City, some owners will ask for someone to cosign your lease, known as a fiador. This can be tricky for an expat, as the fiador must live in the same city and own an unmortgaged property there. If this is the case, you can ask your employer to act in this capacity, or suggest to the landlord that you pay a higher deposit amount instead of finding a fiador.

Real estate agents or brokers

Properties for rental in Mexico might be offered through an agent, or direct from owner. You can call into a realtor office to talk about what properties are available in the area. However, if you’re walking round a neighbourhood and see a ‘to let’ sign, you can also simply call and, often the landlord will let you view the place directly.

Most agents work on a local basis, and have personal relationships with landlords in the area. They can offer invaluable advice about which neighbourhoods to choose (and avoid).

If you employ a realtor, then there’ll be a fee to pay. This is usually about a month’s worth of rent, but you should make sure you check before you agree to anything. Occasionally agents take an ongoing fee to manage your rental, which can be pricey over time.

To check the credentials of an agent you’re considering, you can look at the National Association of Realtors. The national organisation is then split down into regional bodies covering different geographies, and although not all realtors are members, it’s a good measure of quality and experience.

Are flats generally furnished or unfurnished?

You’ll find a mix of properties in Mexico with places offered furnished or unfurnished. Unfurnished is a cheaper option - but it’s worth checking with the property owner or agent what condition the property will be in when you take it on. Many unfurnished places are literally shells, with no stove or refrigerator in the kitchen, no window treatments or floor coverings. While this can save a bit on rent, buying all you need to make the place habitable isn’t cheap.

If you prefer, there are furnished places, which range from basic furniture supplied to something more like a suite, fully fitted with literally everything you need to move right in.

What do I need to know about renting in Mexico?

The rental market in Mexico might not be quite the same as in your home country. Avoid any nasty surprises by doing a little research before you make your move.

Tenant laws and rights

As a tenant in Mexico you have rights which are legally protected. However, each Mexican state has its own civil laws, so you must make sure you know the provisions which apply to the state you live in.

In general terms, a tenancy contract can’t be terminated by either side without giving notice. However, how long that notice needs to be depends on the type of contract and the details you agreed to. In some open ended contracts, the notice period for either side could be as little as 15 days, so it’s worth making sure you know what wording was used in your tenancy agreement.

If you have a time limited contract, and your landlord doesn’t ask you to renew your lease or give notice at the end of it, it’s assumed the contract is renewed under the existing terms.

General rental property rules and regulations

Before you choose a new home in Mexico, you should make sure you know exactly what state the property will be in when you move in (and in what condition it must be returned).

Usually, your contract will require that you look after minor repairs during your tenancy, but you shouldn’t be charged or penalised for reasonable wear and tear. However, check the wording in the tenancy agreement as some unscrupulous landlords might ask for the property to be handed back in ‘perfect’ condition rather than simply stating it should be given back as you found it.

Contracts and deposits

The exact terms of a contract can vary, and be agreed between the tenant and the landlord or agent. Contacts might have a fixed end date or be open ended. Notice periods, if not specified, are usually one month.

Deposits are generally the equivalent of one month of rent paid at the same time as you make the advance payment of your first month’s rent. You should never hand over cash as a deposit - use a bank transfer. If you’re making an international money transfer that includes currency conversion, it’s worth finding the best possible deal with a company like TransferWise so you don’t get slapped with poor exchange rates. More to come about paying from abroad in a later section.

Utilities and bills the renter is responsible for

Before you finalise a rental agreement, you should make sure you’re clear on the terms. In most cases, phone, electricity, gas and water bills will be paid by the tenant although your landlord can give you an idea of the average costs.

Gas is often bought by the cylinder, rather than run into the home directly, and you might find that there’s no phone line in place at the property. Because some landlords might be anxious about tenants vacating the property and leaving huge phone bills behind, you might have to pay a deposit to cover your final phone bill, if there’s a landline installed.

If you have a garden you are obliged to look after it, and you might need to pay for the upkeep of communal areas if you're in a flat. Tenants are typically responsible for much of the upkeep of a home they rent in Mexico, including small repair jobs.

Can I negotiate the rent with the landlord?

The exact terms on which you take a rental property will be agreed in conversation with the landlord or agent - so it’s okay to negotiate on the rental cost. It’s not seen as rude in the slightest. It’s well worth, however, trying to make a good first impression on the landlord. If you seem like a responsible and responsive tenant, you have more chance of winning them over in negotiations.

Unless you have specified otherwise, the chances are your rent will rise every year, more or less in line with inflation. You can agree this with your landlord when you renew the contract.

Can I get an apartment without a job?

There’s no legal reason why you can’t get a flat without a job. However, landlords will certainly want to check that you’re able to pay the rent for the duration of the lease. In some cases they will ask for pay slips to show your income. As such, if you don’t have a job yet, you might need to offer additional proof in order to rent.

What are the documents or requirements for renting?

What specific documents you’ll need to finalise a rental agreement will depend on your landlord, or the process your agent uses. However, it’s not set in stone. In general, though, you’ll have to prove your residency status, identity and that you’ll be earning enough to cover your costs and service any outstanding debt.

You can often prove you’re capable of paying the rent by providing paperwork showing you have adequate savings, by showing a letter from your employer detailing your salary, or by having your boss act as a guarantor on your behalf.

What types of rental agreements are there?

The rental market in Mexico is unregulated, so there’s no standard contract form, although the civil code does specify the rights and obligations of both landlord and tenant. Landlords might simply choose a template of a tenancy agreement online and use that. Agents are likely to have their own standard contract which is used for all of the rentals they represent.

To protect your interests, you should make sure you sign a contract which covers, at the very least the following:

  • The names and signatures of all parties involved, including the fiador (guarantor) if needed.
  • Confirmation of location and description of the property.
  • Limits of permitted use for the property.
  • Any other terms and conditions agreed like a break clause, or terms of subletting.

Before signing you should check the credentials of the landlord. Only the owner of the property (or someone with power of attorney to act on his behalf) can let it. You should ask to see the landlord’s ID, and the property deed specifying ownership. If you have any concerns about the content of the contract, have a solicitor look it over for you to check. Doing some due diligence in advance is significantly less troublesome than fixing a problem after the fact.

Because the contract is unique to you, you might be able to negotiate on the terms that are included. For example, you can ask for a break clause if you have to move suddenly for work purposes. Make sure you see (and have someone help you translate) a Spanish copy of the contract, even if you’re asked to sign an English version.

Monthly rentals can be arranged through specialist short term agencies but come at a premium.

Can I pay my bills from abroad?

Many expats tend to travel back home frequently, and there’ll be times when you need to pay your rent or bills, but might be out of the country. You might even find that you have to pay a deposit or fees to secure your rental before you’ve opened a local bank account or moved to Mexico. If you’re making an international money transfer to cover your costs, then it’s worth remembering that your home bank might not offer you the best deal.

Banks tend to include almost carefully hidden administration fees and hide their cut in a poor exchange rate when transferring your money across borders. A specialist provider like TransferWise moves your money using the real exchange rate you find on Google. Not to mention, fees are clearly laid out and quite transparent. Leaving you with a fairer, cheaper, and likely faster option.

What are the best sites to find a place to live?

The best way to get a head start on finding a place to rent in Mexico is to look online. Most realtors cover one region only, so you might need to choose a local specialist if you’re not in one of the major cities. Great websites to find a house or apartment to rent include:

  • Point 2 Homes covers the whole country, with some 1,500 properties to choose from
  • Century 21 cover much of Mexico, across all property types
  • Rojkind Inmobiliaria have apartments and homes to rent, mainly in Mexico City

To find a shared home, you might be best asking around your office or group of friends for recommendations. Otherwise, the best websites to find a flatshare, room rental or roommate, include:

  • Airbnb is worth a look. Many homeowners list their rooms here, and might be willing to have a tenant stay over the longer term.
  • Craigslist is a good start - but exercise caution.
  • Facebook has a huge number of rooms advertised across dozens of different groups based on location. Search for the area you want to move and find yourself a new roommate. Groups like Foreigners in Mexico City might give you the lead you need.

Finally, how can I make sure I'm not being scammed?

Like anywhere else in the world, you might encounter issues when renting a place in Mexico.

One important point is to always check what you’re signing in the original Spanish. You might find that you’re provided with an English version of the contract you’re taking on, but if you have a dispute then the Spanish copy will be the only one that counts.

In general terms, it’s worth making an effort to keep on good terms with your landlord. Not least because he will have a sum of your money held back as a deposit. When it comes to leave, you’ll have to negotiate what portion (if any) is withheld. Because it’s your responsibility to maintain the property while you live there, you should keep a record of any work you have to do or pay for during your tenancy. If your landlord wishes to withhold some or all of your deposit when you leave, you can use this record of time and cash invested in the property to make your case for getting your deposit returned.

Good luck, and enjoy your new life in Mexico!

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