Rental laws

Furnished or Unfurnished?

We brought a bunch of stuff with us but didn't want to have to worry about all the details of setting up a house in Uruguay, so we opted for a furnished rental.  I am so happy that we did.  

kitchen- A night viewFurnished apartments/houses generally come with everything from furniture to artwork, dishes to brooms.  Ours was no different.   There were things here that I never would have expected in the house we rented: curtains on every window, a vacuum, new kitchen towels, place mats and tablecloths, a bucket, gardening tools just to name a few. I figured that furnished meant just furnished. I did not  think that furnished meant EVERYTHING!  Most of the items in our place are new as well, so I can't complain. Our landlord keeps asking us if we need anything else.  We purchased a clothes line to string in the back courtyard and then learned that he would have taken care of it. 

On the flip side, UNfurnished means that it includes nothing.  Usually that also means no appliances.  Yep. The previous renters/owners take the appliances when they move out.  All of them.  Range, refrigerator, washer: all gone. Many houses that we've seen do not have clothes dryers or dishwasher, so I guess that is a few less appliances that you have to worry about replacing.  

We looked at unfurnished places but the thought of renting (there are a few furniture/appliance rental resources here) or acquiring all of the necessary items to furnish and equip a house was so daunting, we very quickly decided on furnished and I am so happy that we did (yes, I had to say it again).  

As advised by people already living in Uruguay, we brought bedding with us from the USA along with a few towels (have to get a few more) and favorite pieces of cookware/kitchenware.  We've been in the house for two weeks and feel that we are nearly completely set up and can focus on other things (like working, setting up daycare, getting health insurance, having long lunches out with new friends.  You know, important stuff!!)

Our Little House

So today was the big day. We got the keys to the house. Easy enough. Sign some papers hand over the money and in return, a set a keys. Well, it's a bit more complicated than that in Uruguay. All in all, really it's not that hard, just very time consuming. The papers are very similar to the contracts that you might see in the States as a rental agreement. We also received a six page inventory addendum detailing absolutely every little thing included in the rental (since it is furnished and equipped) down the color and number of forks in the kitchen. In our case, we received this list in advance via email so we were able to review ahead of time.

The detailed addendum contained too many household items to know all of them in Spanish, even if your Spanish is quite good. We just pasted the text of the Word doc text into Google Translate. This site is a fantasitic tool. It will translate a word or entire websites while keeping you on the site. Want to read the local paper El Pais? Just pop the URL into Translate and it will almost comes across as though it were written in English. It's not perfect, but if you know some Spanish you can clean up the translation afterward. Anyway, fantastic tool. Use it for all of your translating needs.

Armed with this inventory list, we were picked up by Jorge at the aparthotel at 12:40. An odd time you say? Not exactly. The banks in Uruguay open to the public at 1pm and most close at 5pm. (You thought bankers' hours were nice in the States and elsewhere!) This gave us enough time to stop at the house where we were given the keys by the other rental agent, Andrea  and received a few additional details. Then off I went to the bank (Itaú) with Jorge while Lisa and Geneva stayed at the new house to review the checklist.  Andrea went to the Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay (BHU), where we'd be meeting her later.

The Banking:

Half the keys we received


Lisa detailed this the other day. We had wired money from our Credit Union in MN that posted to Jorge's business account in 1 day. We're were told it would take two or three days, but expected four or five. We expected the worst, but in the end very simple very easy.  Now it gets complicated. The process is well defined, but certainly different.  Try to keep up.

We had to withdraw a ridiculous sum of money for all of the different payments we had to make today, which of course had to be approved by several people at the bank. Thankfully, I was wearing my jeans (jeans = lots of good pockets). I ended up with a pocket for each sum. One pocket for the deposit (the equivalent of five months rent...again weird laws thus the strange practice.  I think we put down less when we closed on our house in MN!) to be held in escrow at the one bank in town that does this...BHU where Andrea was already waiting with the number that held our place in line (otherwise it would really take all day to complete the transaction). This main sum for the deposit had to be in pesos. Jorge had already called his friend at the bank while we were driving there. We were given a rate nearly a point better than that posted. Not bad. It pays to know someone.  In such a small country, everyone knows someone. So deposit money one pocket in Pesos. Second pocket the 1st month rent in US Dollars for Andrea. Third pocket the equivalent of 1 month's rent plus the taxes of 22% for Jorge and all his work....and he deserves every penny. Then the little extra so I could buy a pack of gum in the final pocket. It was more than that but I was feeling a little house poor at that point.

So off  to the BHU to meet Andrea. Just a couple things to accomplish here. Sign the contracts which took about three minutes and place the deposit. This is the painful part....for everyone. It's a huge bank. I envisioned about 500 people standing outside the door ready to rush in like like a store the day after thanksgiving or worse Filene's Basement the day of the bridal dress sale.

I am pretty certain that each banker processes 4 to 5 transactions in the 4 hours that they are open to the public. We waited about 45 minutes to get from number 21 (the number we saw when Jorge and I arrived) to number 33--us. Mind you there are about 30 or 40 desks that--in theory--could help us. So we waited. Signed the papers and I gave Andrea the first month of rent. We chatted. We commiserated about this bank. It went fairly quickly. Andrea had already completed most of the form to create the deposit account. Yea! Finally 33! We go to one of the desks. They hand the banker the paperwork. Almost nothing is said. The gentleman types away while we chat. 20 minutes later. He's done and prints off a form with our new account number. That's wasn't so bad. Oh, we're not done?? We have to go to the teller (caja) to put in the money in the bank. 35 minutes in line and we're at the counter. We deposit our funds less 2% for the bank for the priviledge of them holding our money. Jorge tells me it used to be interest bearing account but that practice had ended. BHU does however pay back the money at the end of the term at the rate of inflation. So one's money is at least worth what it was when it went in. In pesos anyway. So money is in. Now we walk back over to the first desk where Andrea had been patiently waiting. They verifiy the details and we're done. In all, about two hours were spent at the bank. Good times. Then back to the house to see how Lisa and Geneva made out go over a few more details and discuss the urgent need to grab a drink and celebrate. Whew!

Oh that's right, we have to take care of Jorge. We give Jorge his agency's fee plus the taxes and we're set.

I'll let Lisa describe some of the "fun" and "interesting" features of the new house in an upcoming edition, like the grasera, tiny propane range and the 200-some keys we were handed (not quite, but close!).

Housing - Parte Dos

Well, our offer on the little house was accepted. We had a meeting a week ago with the owner and both Inmobiliarios (rental agents) to sign preliminary paperwork, sort of an agreement to agree/letter of intent with the basic terms and information spelled out. Now for the details to fall into place. One of the big coordination issues is the cash. As mentioned in the last housing entry, 5 months rent (in UY pesos) is required to go into an escrow account, one month to the rental agent and then the first month rent payable to the landlord. That is 7 months rent up front! We could take money out of our accounts via the cash machine but the quantity needed, along with our daily limits, would require a visit to the cash machine every day for weeks. We do not have a bank account in Uruguay yet, which makes wiring money from our MN accounts difficult. We could possible write a personal check, but it is not known how much time that might take to clear.  With so many unknowns, we discussed this with our wonderful rental agent who agreed to let us wire to his company account in order to expedite the process.  After a  few phone calls and emails to get account numbers, and a visit by Brad to the local bank in UY which the money will be going to, the wire request from our MN bank was made and the money is on its way.

Honestly, the whole "wire" process is a bit backwards to me. In this time of instantaneous transactions, wiring money (which can take up to a week or longer in some cases) is supposed to be the fast way to transfer money. Fast?  Maybe in 1950!!!! But I digress....

When the money gets to the Uruguayan bank, it will be withdrawn in dollars, we will exchange it for pesos at another location to get the best exchange rate and then take it to another bank, the Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay (BHU) which is the only one in the city that handles this type of rental escrow account.  Banks open at 1 PM and we are told to plan to be there for a while because the whole process may take up to 2 hours. At that time, both the landlord and the renter sign the account and the lease paperwork. Keys are given out and when it is done, we have a place to live and can move right in.

The whole bank process is scheduled to happen on Monday the 20th, barring any delays in the money wire from MN. It is possible that we will be moving into the house on Monday evening!!