Friday, 11 February 2011

It's easier for a suitcase to pass through the eye of a needle...

Ever tried renting in Chile?  Make yourself a cup of tea, get comfortable and I'll tell you our woes.

I don’t remember any straws being brought out but I drew the short one to go and sign the lease for the apartment on Cerro Bella Vista.  Without children to carry I managed to make it across town without using the trolley bus or the ascensor and still it only took me 25 minutes.  The hills of Valpo aren’t so daunting when navigating solo.
I arrived at the Real Estate Agent’s office and the Spanish lesson commenced.  I have a feeling that during the process of working out what I was paying for, if the bond would be returned in full, is the power and water already turned on - I may have proposed to the receptionist.  I can’t think of any other reason why she showed me a picture of her fiancée.
Without sufficient language skills, renting can be a process best left to a linguistic stunt man.  I was lucky.  The agent that we’re working with does something that few Chileans do – she pronounces each word so I can hear when one word finishes and the next one begins.

Apartments in high-rise offer more security as there is usually a doorman of some sort involved and there are many neighbours.  On the other hand the cost of utilities, like water and power (agua y luz), can fluctuate monthly regardless of consumption.
The tenant pays the agent a commission.  This is usually equal to two weeks rent.  This is regardless of the length of the lease.  Rent is paid a month in advance with a month’s rent also required as bond (garantia). 
The cost of our apartment is CH$200,000 rent.  CH$200,000 bond.   CH$100,000 commission.  CH$35,000 water and power.  You can hunt around on your own and do away with the agent’s commission and also look for something smaller but with children I’d rather pay a little extra and have the job done quickly.
We moved over to Bella Vista from The Yellow House in a taxi.  The taxi quoted us CH$5,000 for the trip.  A small price when you look at how much luggage we have.  The street up to our apartment is like most others here, narrow with hairpin turns and almost impossible for the tyres to get any traction on the corners.  Our taxi driver had three attempts to get up to our street but after shaving three months worth of tread off his tyres and nearly burning his clutch plate out he rolled backwards down the hill and went up a different street to approach from the top.  Truce shouted from the back, “This is like a roller-coaster.”

It took an extra CH$1,000 to go around the block but he stuck to his original quote.  I felt so bad considering how much wear and tear his vehicle suffered just to get us here.  I think that there is a business opportunity to open up a clutch plate store here.

Ascensor building top of Bella Vista

We had troubles unlocking the door.  Two turns to the left or three turns to the right.  Is this the key for the gate, the top lock or the bottom lock?  Is the bottom lock the latch or lock?  It doesn’t matter.  Muffled instructions come from within the apartment.
Or should I say, ¿
More rapid-fire instructions make their way through the door.  We finally made it inside and establish that the Juan was the painter and he’d be there for a few days painting the outside of the building.  He seemed perplexed why we were here and with the help of a calendar we managed to confuse each other explaining why we were in the apartment at the same time.  He pointed to the first of March.  Oh well, maybe that's his birthday.  When Juan left he explained to us not to let anyone into the apartment.  A Stranger-Danger talk from the painter.  Seems logical.
We raced down to Jumbo and LaPolar, two giant stores at the end of the trolley bus line where you can buy anything that you need.  Moments after coming back to the apartment the doorbell rang.  A couple in their mid 50s were at the gate.  We dialogued from the balcony until I realised they couldn’t see my hand gestures – a vital ingredient for when I speak Spanish. Apparently they’re friends of the owner, also very confused why we were here at this time and made reference to the first of March too.  Perhaps they were going to Juan's birthday.
They wanted to come inside and collected an item of clothing.  Juan’s Stranger-Danger talk was fresh in my mind.  Could I trust this old couple?  What would Lassie do?  They told me they had a key.
Juan has a key, they have a key, who else has a key to this place?  Do they give them out with tourist maps at the bus terminal?
I explained that my family’s security is important to me and I can’t let them in.  Talluah found the shirt and we gave it to them and locked the door behind us.  Sounds like enough adventure for one day until, Martin, our host from The Yellow House came to the door as we still don’t have a phone.  (Can’t recommend the Yellow House enough)

This is the light bulb moment.  The agent was unaware that the owner has family coming on the first of March to stay here.   Even though we’ve paid for a one month we not sure if we can stay till the end of February.  We’re waiting to find out when we have to vacate.  The agent feels sorry about what is happening and is trying to find something suitable for us.

P.S.  We're borrowing our neighbour's wifi so our net connection is hit and miss at the moment.


  1. Hi!
    In Chile tenants do have rights. If you signed the contract then the owner must let you know at least one month in advance that s/he wants to terminate it.

  2. Our situation is a bit tricky where the agent didn't know that the owner had family coming. We hadn't got to the lease part yet. Thanks for pointing out the rent laws though. Always happy to learn more about Chile. I'll fix the post.

  3. I guess there was Juan too many in your apartment!!!!!!!!!!!!!! x lanskeysinbuderim