I have read and heard many horror stories of renters not getting their security deposit returned at the end of a lease. I am not an attorney and I am not providing legal advice, but rather sharing my personal experience as it pertains to my curiosity of how leases and rental deposits function here in Cuenca.
In a conversation I recently had with Monica Gonzaga, a facilitator with whom I work, I was educated on a few recommendations to tighten up a lease to improve the odds of getting a deposit returned or getting some value for it at the end of the lease. Here are a few of those tips; I hope you find them helpful.
The lease must be in Spanish to be a binding contract.
Put in the lease agreement that the deposit is to be used as the last month’s rent to avoid possibly having to haggle over getting it returned. I have been told that many a landlord can come up with an infinite number of reasons not to return the deposit.
Make sure the lease addresses that the landlord is responsible for repairing any damages caused by roof leaks, flooding, faulty appliances or electrical etc. Make sure there is a working telephone number and an address so the landlord can be contacted regarding any repairs that may be needed. In order to protect the tenant, add a clause to the contract stating that in the event any repairs need to be done with any aspect of the property (including appliances) and the landlord does not respond and make in good and workmanlike order within a specific period of time, the tenant reserves the right to hire a contractor at tenant’s expense and either deduct the fee from the next month’s rent or use the deposit as the last month’s rent.
When renting a furnished property, be sure to take photos of all the rooms of the home and the condition of the furnishings. Also take photos of any cookware, dishware, linens, existing holes in the walls or items that appear to need repairs, etc.
Prepare or obtain an inventory checklist of all items included in the furnished rental and the condition of each items: good, fair, poor, etc.
Regarding utilities – If your rent does not include utilities, offer in the lease to pre-pay the estimated amount of utilities that will be due on the home prior to vacating the property. You can calculate an average of the utilities you have been paying and offer to pay that prior to vacating the property so that the landlord does not have outstanding bills for services the tenant incurs giving the landlord the right to withhold returning the rent deposit. Keep receipts of everything to show that you have paid the utilities.
If you do not want the lease to automatically renew, make sure that clause is in the lease. Also be sure to check how many days advance notice you need to give the landlord prior to vacating or cancelling the lease.
Finally, make sure you receive a signed copy or second properly executed copy of the lease and that it is filed with the Juzgado de Inquilinato. If the lease is not filed with the Juzgado de Inquilinato, it is not valid in Ecuador and you may have a difficult time enforcing your rights. The office is located in the Complejo Judicial De Cuenca (located across from Millenium Mall), 4th floor office number 407. Here is a photo of the building. By the way, we spoke directly with one of the employees at the Juzgado de Inquilinato and he confirmed that a lease can be for any period of time, i.e. six months, a year or longer. The rumor that all leases have to be for two years or longer is not true.
Please feel free to send me any topics you might like addressed in future columns. Ciao for now.
Rick Duda, International Realtor and Relocation Consultant
Maximum One Realty and Granda y Tinoco Inmobiliarios
0968166179 Claro Ecuador Line
404-855-6013 International Line Magic Jack