Igor Utsumi

Igor Utsumi

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


8 Difficulties of Renting an Apartment in São Paulo

Igor Utsumi

Igor Utsumi

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Although it is the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere, it can be hard to find a residential space and even harder to deal with certain issues when living in São Paulo. This article discusses some of the main difficulties foreigners face when moving to the city.

São Paulo is a common destination for foreigners, especially the ones that come to Brazil for business. Local nuances might be challenging at first, making it hard to find residential space, as well as maintain it. The list below will cover the main issues foreigners face.

1) Residential spaces can be really expensive

São Paulo has the third most expensive square meter in Brazil, behind only to Rio de Janeiro and Brasília. However, locations in central areas or in well located neighborhoods can easily surpass the average price in any of these cities.

Rent is subsequently expensive in these districts, averaging the second highest in the country. According to São Paulo’s Trade Union of Sale, Rental and Management of Properties, called Secovi-SP, a well-located, 100-square-meter apartment, near public transit, commercial districts and various other amenities, can cost between 2,400 BRL and 3,350 BRL per month.

According to Secovi-SP, the five neighborhoods with the highest cost of living are located in São Paulo’s south and west zones. They are:

  • Jardins
  • Pinheiros
  • Vila Leopoldina
  • Perdizes
  • Moema

Areas farther from the city center are commonly less expensive to live in, but they present higher levels of violence and fewer public transportation options. The five least expensive neighborhoods in São Paulo are:

  • Itaim Paulista
  • Jardim Aricanduva
  • São Mateus
  • São Miguel Paulista
  • Sapopemba

2) The “fiador” issue

In Brazil, a fiador is required to rent a residential space. The fiador is equivalent to a rental guarantor, somebody responsible for the financial liability of the real estate, in case the renter doesn’t pay. Landlords usually require that the fiador reside in the same city as the real estate.

Foreigners coming to Brazil without knowing somebody in the country might have trouble finding a fiador. There are two options that can be used as an alternative to this requirement if both renter and landlord agree:

  • Seguro fiança. In this case, insurance companies act as the fiador on behalf of the renter. The downside is that the fee paid in this kind of agreement is non-refundable.
  • Security deposit, known as depósito caução. It is possible for the renter to make a deposit equivalent to three month’s rent in advance, as a guarantee that they will pay the total sum. This is good for the renter, since he will get his money back at the end of the contract, but landlords complain about the bureaucracy to withdraw the money, if needed.

3) The “Where Do I Begin” Issue

Another challenge faced by foreigners searching for a residential space is knowing where to begin. Walking through town without knowing what exactly you are looking for might be trouble, since São Paulo is the biggest city in the South Hemisphere. Also, contacting real estate agencies and brokers can be hard due to factors such as the language barrier, having to make frequent calls and the difficulty of comparing properties with certainty.

One enterprise, São Paulo Flat, has made a business opportunity out of this difficult process, trying to make the real estate market look and act more like a hotel market in Brazil. Companies like São Paulo Flat are establishing a bridge between foreigners looking for a place to live in the city, and residential spaces available for rent.

To do so, they offer several online booking options and instructions in several foreign languages, complete with customer reviews, digital walkthroughs via constantly updated photo and video content of their entire apartment portfolio.

4) Documentation

Some documents are needed in order to rent or buy a place in São Paulo. Some of them, like the CPF, can be acquired quite easily. The biggest problem for foreigners that have just arrived in São Paulo, is securing other paperwork, such as proof of address and proof of income. In addition, any document shown must be translated to be considered valid.

5) Landlords that do not rent for foreigners

Some landlords prefer not to rent to foreigners, afraid that the tenant might leave the country at some point without honoring their debts. This process is easier if the foreigner already has a job, for example, and harder if the registered address of the interested renter is a hotel or hostel.

6) Being fined in the building

Buildings in São Paulo normally have internal rules to make sure some safety and comfort procedures are followed. If these procedures are not followed or any irregularity is detected, the owner or renter can be fined, according to what was previously established in the building contract. The fine amount varies from one area to another. Most common fines are:

  • Disturbing the peace beyond a certain time of day.
  • Walking with pets in prohibited area.
  • Destroying the building property.
  • Making unapproved changes to the apartment.

7) Lack of zoning regulations

You will always see something being built in São Paulo, no matter which way you look. There is not a clear regulation defining what can and what cannot be built in each city area. The current São Paulo’s Plano Diretor, or zoning code, defines what kind of buildings can be constructed in which areas. The zoning code is not followed to the letter, so basically it is impossible to be completely sure that a skyscraper will not be built on the empty lot in front of your apartment. There are projects that intend to regulate this, but no real results have occurred so far.

8) Lack of renter rights

Foreigners may face difficulties due to the lack of renter’s rights. It is a common practice in Brazil to charge in advance for rental fees. Also, some fees are supposed to be paid by the landlords, but they often pass them along to the renters. Paying for renovation work due to the structural state of the building or the installation of fire safety equipment, for example, is the legal obligation of the landlord.

This article was written in collaboration with São Paulo Flat, an agency specialized in online flat rental in São Paulo, SP. For more information, visit their website.