How to rent an apartment in Brazil
Once you decided to set up your Internet business in Brazil you might want to move to the country yourself or send one or more representatives to manage the business for you on the ground. Besides all the visa and immigration procedures you will also need to look for a place to live, usually an apartment in the city of your choice.
What documents do you need to rent an apartment in Brazil?
In case you are coming for a short visit before you have applied for or received your work permit and the temporary or permanent visa you will probably take a first look at your new city by traveling to the country with a tourist visa. As you might have guessed already, renting a regular apartment with a tourist visa is a difficult task. At least if you want a regular longterm rental agreement. As a visitor on a tourist visa, you will have to use the common visitor options like hotels or temporary flats, tourist apartments and similar options. In some (rare) cases, landlords might be willing to rent out their apartments on a regular basis to people without a temporary or permanent visa. These, however, are exceptions and require personal connections and friendships or special deals for example with people who pay several months in advance or who clarify that they are frequently traveling to Brazil and therefore want to rent a place where they can stay at any time. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, these kinds of arrangements are not occurring too often since most landlords prefer to have all the documents and rent out on a standard contract. Especially property management companies work with regular contracts and give little space to very special deals. That means, to rent an apartment in Brazil on a regular contract you first need your temporary or permanent visa. A tourist visa will not be very helpful.
Once you or your employees have received their visa you (or they) will also need a Brazilian tax number called CPF which is required in almost every moment when it comes to sign up for services, make contracts etc. The application for a CPF number occurs directly in Brazil, for example at a post office or certain banks. I will not go into further details about CPF applications here. It is not very difficult but should be treated in a separate article. Having the CPF number and your visa on hand you are ready to sign a rental contract. Of course, you need a couple more documents but they are much easier to arrange. Usually, these are
- an income declaration from Brazil or the extraction of a Brazilian or foreign bank account (you need to prove an income three times as much as the rent),
- a Brazilian ID card (visa and Brazilian ID card are usually the same document) or a foreign passport,
- a document proving your current address (usually an electricity bill or similar, for foreigners that are new in the country this is usually not required since they do not have an address in Brazil, if necessary this can be substituted by a simple document that says in which hotel or address you are currently staying)
And you need to provide some type of insurance that the landlord is asking for. The most common types of insurances you will find in the price section below.
Types of apartments
Now look for your new place by using some of the best real estate search engines in Brazil. Once you found a few interesting options you need to call or send a message to the property management company, the broker or sometimes the owner who will then arrange a day for you to visit the place. In Brazil, apartment viewings are on an individual basis, you will not find yourself in a place with 10 or more other people, there are no queues in front of the door as it is the case sometimes in other countries. It will be you and the broker or the owner. Sometimes you can also pass by and just pick up the key with the concierge and visit the apartment on your own. All this will be clarified directly by contacting the broker/owner.
Standard apartments in Brazil are defined by the number of bedrooms. Not the total number of rooms. Depending on your country of origin you might count kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms as “rooms” as well. This is not the case in Brazil. The Brazilian standard apartment has one living room, one kitchen, one bathroom (sometimes more) plus a number of bedrooms. This means a 2-rooms apartment (apartamento de dois quartos) has 2 bedrooms plus all the others mentioned before. Modern bedrooms often have a standard size of about 3×3 meters. Enough for a double bed, a closet and a chair and/or a shelf. Bigger rooms can be found in older buildings and family homes.
Apartment buildings constructed in the past few decades (let’s say since the 1990s) are very economical when it comes to space. Bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms are now smaller than in older buildings. The value per square meter has remarkably increased over the last 20 years. And besides that, the condomínio fee, which is the monthly charge for building services like corridor cleaning, concierge, building illumination etc is lower for buildings with little public space that needs to be taken care of by building employees or external service companies. The condomínio fee also depends on the number of apartments per building. Older buildings with generous spaces and few apartments per floor have a higher condomínio fee. Sometimes, you will also find public spaces abandoned like the gym in case there is no proper maintenance. Due to increasing values, some older buildings with a lot of public space have entered into a vicious circle of charging high condomínio fees per apartment to bear the basic cost of cleaning and repairing generous public spaces but on the other hand, do not have enough resources to maintain and equip parts of these spaces like the gym, the playground etc. So if you enjoy the charm of an older building to have bigger rooms, for example, make sure the public space on the property is not too big and is properly taken care of.
For newer buildings, the situation is different. Since everything was precisely calculated on the basis of current values per square meter, there are a lot of buildings that offer just a minimum of public space which can appropriately be maintained. That means, the gym has new equipment which will be repaired if necessary, the pool (if available) is taken care of on a regular basis, the barbecue area is clean and functional etc.
Brazilian standard apartments have small kitchens if the building is relatively new or they have bigger kitchens if the building is at least 40 years old. In older buildings, there is also a good chance to find an extra room behind the kitchen where housemaids were living in the past. Nowadays, these rooms are used as storage since housemaids are not living any longer with families (although there are exceptions). New buildings do not have such extra rooms. New kitchens offer just enough space to put a stove, cupboards and a washing machine. Usually, there is no space for tables and chairs in the kitchen. Some kitchens come with a few cupboards, sometimes they even have a fridge, others are completely empty. In that case you are free to install whatever you want.
Independently of the age of the building, kitchens usually have two sinks. One for the dishes and one for laundry washing. Not too long ago, many families were washing laundry by hand or had a housemaid do the laundry. The laundry sink, that comes with an integrated wash board, is today used to connect the washing machines.
Same rules for the bathroom: old buildings have bigger bathroom, new buildings have smaller bathrooms. They all have showers, bathtubs are rare. They usually have a mirror installed, sometimes also a few shelves and drawers. What stands out from time to time is the lack of toilet seats and shower heads. Some Brazilian landlords have those installed, others do expect renters to install their own. In any case, shower heads are installed using electric cables which are hanging around in the shower sometimes. Also when shower heads are professionally installed, there might be cables hanging out. Do not worry about that, it is a completely normal situation in any Brazilian household. It won´t do you any harm.
When you are renting your first apartment in Brazil you probably won´t have a car with you already. However, you might want to get one in the future. Brazilian cities have public transportation systems depending on the quantity of inhabitants. Bigger cities have quite a lot of busses and the capitals and metropolises also have metro and urban railways. If you are strategically located in a city like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other large cities, you may not need a car. Nevertheless, apartments usually come with a subterranean parking garage. And in this case it is the new buildings that offer more space than the older buildings. The reasons are clear, 50-60 years ago very few people in Brazil had a car compared to the 21st century. That means, you might find older buildings that offer parking spaces for some apartments but not for all and you might find older subterranean garages that are so small you will have difficulties to maneuver your car. In new buildings, however, there is usually plenty of space to drive around even with an SUV. Bigger apartments also might come with two or more parking spaces. In any case, it is common to rent out parking spaces to neighbors if you do not use them yourself. The concierge usually takes care of that if needed.
Now coming to the important question: how much is it to rent an apartment in Brazil? This, of course, depends on a number of factors including size, location, facilities etc. Some of these factors have been addressed above. It depends on the number of rooms, service areas (gym, pool, playground, barbecue area etc), parking space etc. And it depends on the city you are moving to. The most valued apartments one can find in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília. However, in all of these cities, it is also possible to rent apartments for relatively low prices. In the end, it also depends on the living standard the individual is looking for.
As a newly arriving person on a work visa (or an investment visa if you are a founder) you are very likely to look in a middle class or upper middle class area. That means, in 2019, you can get a 1-2 bedroom apartment of a basic standard for 2000-2500 Brazilian reais (including condomínio fees). For this price you can live in a decent or nice middle class area in more expensive cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It is not the top address you will get for this price not the newest building with fancy service areas. It is the basic solution. Needless to say, there are a lot more options for higher values as well. Apartments of the same size as above but located in upper middle class areas can be rented for 4000-8000 reais (including condomínio fees).
In any case, landlords are asking for a kind of insurance before they rent out their apartments (or offices). In Brazil, the three most common types of insurance are
1) fiador, which is a warrantor who owns property in Brazil and signs a paper for the landlord guaranteeing to pay the rent in case the renter fails to do so,
2) seguro fiança, which is an insurance policy (usually at Porto Seguro insurance company) or
3) a three months deposit of the rent, condomínio fees, and a few standard bills like electricity and gas.
The fiador is very difficult to get, normally they are family members of the renter.
Seguro fiança means the renter pays 13 monthly rents per year. 12 regular payments to the landlord and about one more to the insurance company which can also be paid in 3-4 installments. To get this insurance the renter needs a number of documents including ID card or passport, CPF number, income declaration etc.
The easiest way is the three months deposit but many landlords do not accept it any longer since they believe the other options above to be more secure for them. In this context, it is important to know that quite a few renters in Brazil do not pay their rent and due to some legal circumstances landlords cannot force them to leave. This is an important reason why many landlords prefer professional documents like an insurance policy. However, it is also a regional question. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, it is much more common to negotiate certain terms of rental contracts including the insurance than for example, in São Paulo. São Paulo is the city of business and investment. Apartments are owned or administrated by companies. In Rio de Janeiro (and also in many other cities), many apartments are rented out directly by the owner who, once he met you in person, is often willing to negotiate the terms of the contract, including the insurance paragraphs.