Rental Tips: Before You Sign the Lease !

February 22, 2012



Here are a few things you should consider about rentals here at Lake Chapala.
Rule Number One: It’s much better if you come here for a few days and stay at a Bed and Breakfast place and then personally check out rentals BEFORE you sign any lease.
If you can’t do that, or it would take two trips then here’s some tips on how to avoid some hassles which far too often are part of renting.
Rental Agents
Most of the time when dealing with a rental agency you will be working with a Mexican staff person.
Although they almost all have websites, e mail addresses and local telephones you likely will find that your e mails go unanswered or they are answered incompletely.
The best solution is to spend the money and call long distance and try to speak to the rental agent.

If the person you need to speak with is not there, you can leave a return number and “HOPE” they will return your call. More often than not, they will not return the call.
Later, if you call again don’t even mention that they did not return your call. All you will get will be an excuse that they did not get the message (perhaps true or perhaps not true) or some other explanation that may or may not be true.
If you call, it’s best to get the name of the person who handles the rentals and the best time to contact them. No need to ask when they will return as the answer is a guess at best. Again, the person you’re talking to will say something like "In an hour.” or “ this afternoon” or “tomorrow”.
Don’t count on it. Again it’s best to call when they are most likely to be in the office. If you're told they open at 9 a.m.
Don’t call until at least 9:15 a.m. if you want your call answered. You will probably just get an answering machine and likely your message will go unanswered.
Typical Problems with Rentals
Often times the rentals will not be as clean as you would want and things that will not work or there will be other minor problems associated with the rental property.
For example:
All the light switches may not work, lamps that don’t work, the water system may not function correctly, a very loud pump, a broken float valve which may allow your water cistern or roof top water tank to over flow and or the pump to run constantly, no propane gas or very little in the propane tank, the smell of propane gas leaking from somewhere, a thermo coupler in the hot water heater needs adjustment or replacement, resulting in no hot water, etc. etc. etc.
Of course, all of these things should have been done before the rental unit was even put on the market.

But, many times these things are not done at all until the client arrives in the home to discover one or more such things are not done.

Yes, they told you when you asked that everything was ready or would be checked before you arrive.
Did they lie to you? In our culture, the short answer is “Yes”.
In the Mexican culture the answer is more like a “white lie”

They do not like to give negative answers because they know you don’t want to hear that anything needs to be done.

Yes, I know, you would rather hear that things don’t work or they don’t know, but will find out,  than arrive and have to deal with one or more of the above problems.
Will these things get fixed after you arrive and find things that don’t work?
Yes, they will, but you likely will spend a lot of time waiting on repairmen to show up to make the repairs. They too may show up late or nt at all on the day and time promised.

And, you will go thru the same song and dance about excuses for being late, a given part not available etc.

What you are experiencing is the circular view of time whihc is the Mexican way of relating to time. There’s an excellent explanation of this in a great book called Breaking the Culture Code.
North America Culture
North Americans have the linier view of time. No need to go into dept here. It’s just how our culture sees time and our relation to it.

 OK. So, what do you do to be sure that the rental home will in fact be ready for you to move into when you arrive and save yourself all of the potential hassle I mention above?

Understand the culture and use it to get what you want.
Here are my suggestions:
 Tell the rental staff person that you are very sensitive to dust or that you have allergies and that it’s very important to you that the home will be very clean before you arrive. And, that if it’s not that you will likely get sick and will be very unhappy.
(Remember they want to make you happy.)

Also, tell them that you will have many very important things to do after you arrive and that you just will not have time to wait on any repairs that are needed… and that if you do have to wait for even minor repairs to be done that this will be horrible for you and that again you will be very very unhappy if when you arrive that everything doesn’t work properly.

I've probably overstated the potential problems with rentals, but best to be careful so as not to have a bad experience.

All for now, Siempre tu amigo,


  • MaryAnn

    Sid, I have question about the electricity.  Is it AC or DC or AC/DC?  Is it 50 cycle or 60 cycle?  Are the outlets the same as NoB?  Will my electronics and appliances with American plugs work or will I need adapters?  

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Mary Ann, Thanks for your questions. Yes, your appliances will all work here. The plugs are either the old style 2 slot or the newer 3 slot recepticals.

    You should know however that the government electricity here will have surges in the line which may affect the operation of appliances.

    This is especially important on computers, lap tops and other sensitive electronics including Televisions.

    The solution is to use “surge protectors to even out the flow of electricity. I use them in the USA as well, but they’re more important here in Mexico.

    These come in all shapes, sizes, and price. My experience is that the more expensive
    ones are not any better (That I can tell ) than the moderate priced ones..

    They’re readily available here and in  the USA.

    Good questions. All for now, Tu amigo, Sid


  • Jack in Oregon

    Excellent article.

    I like the “reverse psychology” strategies at the end!  Never would have occurred to me.

    As a first-time renter, would you advise against renting directly from the Mexican national, or should I always go thru a rental agent?  Whenever I’ve visited, I’ve seen many “Se Renta” signs with just a phone number and no agent name.

  • MaryAnn Saffery

    This is just my personal opinion but I’d go through a rental agent.  I am new to MX and found my current house online.  My rental agent is Mexican but he speaks fluent English, the owner is Canadian.

    Also if the house needs repairs the rental agent should be prepared to take care of those issues whereas a Mexican owner may not have the resources.   Unless you can read and write Spanish I think you are safer using an agent.  An expat neighbor was evicted recently with only 30 days notice because a relative of the property owner needed the house!   Just saying..

    Sid is a good resource, he knows everyone in the area!!

    Good luck,

  • Sid Grosvenor

     Hi MaryAnn, Thanks for your kind words for me. You gave good advice. As a supplement to what you shared I’d like to add that even using an agent you must be careful.

    Some are not good about checking things out BEFORE you part with a deposit. Best, to check the place yourself with the agent present so he/she can make notes of what needs to be done.Then, recheck the house to see the
    problems if any have been corrected.

    Also remember that many rental agents double as Realtors and none are Buyer’s Only Realtors. When someone is read to look at homes to buy they really should contact me to help them so they have an experienced Buyers Only Realtor to look after their best interests.  Thanks again, Tu amigo, Sid

  • Sid Grosvenor

     Hi Jack, Good questions. Please check my reply to MaryAnn above. I just amplified her good advice.

    Let us know when we can help. Tu amigo, Sid

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