THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE SIGNING A RENTAL CONTRACT IN COLOMBIA
If you’re going to rent an apartment here in Barranquilla, chances are good you’re going to be asked to sign a contract first and some of them can be multiple pages long and full of legalese. If you’re doing this on your own, here are some things to consider.
First off, a contract represents the legal basis for disputes. As anyone who has undergone such a dispute can attest to, a good contract can be worth its’ weight in gold. You want to be sure the contract outlines ALL the variables. The document exists to protect both your rights and those of the landlord. A solid contract should define:
As an expat in a foreign country, it’s relatively easy to fall astray of the local regulations, especially in a financial or legal capacity, each of which are inherently confusing, even for natives. If you’re going to rent an apartment, you’ll want to be absolutely sure your actions are above-board and that you have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed. In the following article, we’ll provide a brief summary a typical rental contract, regulated by law 820 of 2003.
It’s important to get everything into the contract so there are no disagreements down the road. At the very least, yours should contain the following:
- the affected parties (tenants and landlords),
- the use-type of the property (dwelling or commercial),
- the rental period and give detail on how the term is defined,
- the rental cost and method of payment along with any additional fees,
- the tenancy start date, and the variables of term extensions,
- policies of the landlord such as whether animals are permitted,
- the condition of the apartment before you take possession (the tenant is usually liable to pay for damages to the apartment once they take possession)
- whether or not subletting is permitted.
Colombia is big on paperwork and rental agreements are no exception. Before you rent an apartment, you should have all the following documents ready:
- Identification (cedula or passport).
- Proof of income (a letter from your company or, if you own a company, a certificate from the Chamber of Commerce, or if you’re a pensioner, a document to prove it).
- Criminal background check.
- The identification and proof of income of a guarantor who can financially back your lease.
- From time to time, landlords will ask for various additional documents.
There are five general situations in which a rental agreement can be terminated:
- Consensual agreement: When mutual consent exists, the contract can be terminated at anytime.
- At the request of the landlord: If for some reason the tenant fails to comply with the agreement’s terms, the landlord can break the lease immediately, without taking on any risk. This could happen in such cases as; the tenant fails to pay rent or the tenant makes changes to or sublets the property without permission.
- At the request of the tenant: In the case that the landlord fails to comply with the agreement’s terms, the tenant can break the lease immediately, without taking on any risk. This could happen in such cases as; the landlord fails to pay property taxes or fails to perform property maintenance tasks as agreed to in the contract.
- With 3 months’ notice: A contract can be terminated early if either party gives the other written notice of intent to leave at least 3 month’s prior to the departure date.
- Normal term conclusion: The terms of the contract will terminate naturally on the end date stipulated in the agreement. If no end date has been set, the contract will automatically be extended on an annual basis (or as defined in the contract).
It’s a good idea to speak with a professional before signing any kind of agreement in Colombia. This is especially true if you don’t speak Spanish (all agreements are normally in Spanish). If you have any questions about your rights and/or if you need help negotiating or dealing with a rental difficulty, you’ll definitely want to have someone on hand who speaks English, knows the local laws, and who can advise you. Give me a call; I’ll be glad to help out!
Roger Schmidt is this month’s guest author. A certified accountant from Basel, Switzerland, Roger has substantial experience in both international finance and law. For the last few years, he has been building a legal enterprise in nearby Medellin from which he serves all of Latin America. You can reach Roger at his firm, Autarchy S.A.S., by sending him an email or by calling his office (+57 319 551-1587), or alternatively, you can check out his website here.