Abusive landlords in Ecuador: Ecuador Rental Law

“Come on man, help me grab her washing machine.” My Ecuadorian friend (and roomate at the time) yelled.

“Naw man, even if she did screw me, and I don’t mean that in the positive sense, I’m not about stealing people’s shit.” I responded.

“Thats how we do it in Ecuador.” He responded.

You see, recently a good local friend of mine and myself were renting an apartment in Quito, and the landlord upon finding out we were going to unoccupy the apartment refused to give us back our security deposit.

So my Ecuadorian friend planned on cleaning her out by taking her microwave, washing machine and random other things… but I eventually talked him out of it.

But as a renter in Ecuador, excuse me, as a FOREIGN renter in Ecuador, its important you know your rights cause a lot of people will try to take advantage of you.

It is what it is.

So what exactly are your rights as a renter in Ecuador? 

Well, this week I was interviewing a friend in the Rental Court of Ecuador (Juzgado de inquilinato) in Quito asking just that.

Me: Security deposits, how much should they be, what is legal?

Response: There is no legal limit as of yet but most folks with nicer properties charge two months worth of rent as the security deposit.

My take: Use your status as a foreigner (us foreigners have a good rep of being good renters so use that as you negotiate) and often you can get the landlord down to accepting one month worth of rent.  Some don’t ask any deposit.

If a property owner doesn’t mention a security deposit, DON’T mention it yourself!  If there is no way around a hefty security deposit but you really want the place, most landlords will accept, and I suggest, that you pay half the security deposit up front and the other half after a month or two, this gives you time to evaluate the property.

Me: If I leave my contract early, does a landlord have the right to keep my security deposit?  

Response:  No, absoutely not, not in Ecuador.

Me: If I leave my contract before it expires, and unoccupy the property, can the landlord come after me for the unused time on the contract?

Response:  No, not in Ecuador, generally, if you notify you’re leaving, unoccupy and stop paying, its over.

Me: What can I do if a landlord doesn’t want to return my security deposit?  

Response: Most Ecuadorians just occupy the property for the amount of time the security deposit would buy them, and leave it at that.  You could also sue them through this office (Juzgado de Inquilinato) and you could get a judge verdict within 3-6 months.

Me:  Switching sides a bit, if you as the owner of a real property in ecuador are renting to someone who stops paying their rent, how quickly can you legally evict them and what is the process?  

Response:  Well, its more complicated than in the US where I’ve heard in many states by the 10th day of non-payment you can get the police to come and get  the tenants stuff placed on the front lawn.

Here after two complete months of non-payment you can file a complaint through this office and within another 1-3 months get a verdict to have them legally booted from your property.  In Ecuador, you can not get someone booted from your property just by going to the police, you need a court order.  If the case goes to the court the judge will order the tenant to pay you for all the time they spent in your property without paying.

Me:  Most foreign investors, like myself, are weary of places (like Costa Rica) where squatters or in this case folks that rent your property for a really long time can eventually gain some sort of legal right of ownership of your property?  True in Ecuador or not?  

Response:  No, not in Ecuador, there is not this risk when renting property in Ecuador.  You may run into this a bit when dealing with seemingly deserted, unoccupied land several people claim title too, but not when renting residences or commercial property in Ecuador.

Me: How can you legally register a rental contract in Ecuador?

Response:  By getting a few copies of the signed contract and copies of both parties’ legal ID and bringing it to your nearest JUZGADO DE INQUILINATO, once here we can give you more specific details or requirements you need to register the contract.

That’s it, now hopefully you won’t find yourself trying to lift someone elses washing machine!

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