Buenos Aires Apartment Rip Offs

I’m good at arguing in spanish and especially in Argentina. They love to get angry in Buenos Aires and I’m always calling them out on it. It doesn’t make the situation any better but it makes it better for me. Even when the situation doesn’t involve me, I seem to get involved. Once a guy hit the bell for the bus to stop one too many times and he got yelled at. I told the bus driver to chill out, be quite, and pay attention to driving. He wasn’t too happy about that. But unfortunately, I learned that this is what you need to do to survive in this city. You need be aggressive sometimes or they’ll run all over you.

Round 1

Two years ago I visited Buenos Aires and lived there for 4 months. I got an apartment in Recoleta for a decent price and gave them my deposit of $630USD as well. It’s one of the richest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. I was happy about its location and the apartment itself was okay. It wasn’t fancy but it had everything I wanted.

Literately a week or so before I left, a pipe broke. I found out because my landlord called me that the neighbors below called that there was water leaking into their apartment. The water leaked from below the bathroom sink. A small tiny hole that continued to leak water throughout the entire day while I was out. As you can imagine, this flooded the entire apartment.

My first apartment in Buenos Aires. 13th floor view of Recoleta.

My first apartment in Buenos Aires. 13th floor view of Recoleta.

The landlord wasn’t too happy about it. There was nothing I could have possibly done to create that hole. I cleaned up the disaster for hours. The water flooded the bedroom and living room but those rooms had wooden floors. As the water dried up, the wood started to rise. It created uneven floors. I told my landlord and they said they’ll look at it later. Well check-out time came and I was about to leave for Salta. The landlord came and checked out the apartment. The uneven floors and water leaking from the bathroom made her angry. They never once since the event came to check out the apartment. She said she’ll give the deposit to my uncle who lives in the city and didn’t say anything else. I thought everything was okay.

Weeks followed and I never heard anything about my deposit. Apparently they were blaming me for the leak and the floor. They had to pay for an entire new floor and repairs that leaked down into the other persons apartment. I thought to myself, how would it ever be possible that I would cause a leak in the bathroom sink? I use it to brush my teeth and wash my hands, that’s it. I continued to try to call but they simply ignored me. I lost my deposit and gave up.

Round 2

Fast forward to now. We just finished having an apartment for 3 months in Buenos Aires that we found online located in the city center. Prices went up dramatically since two years ago but as normal, we put in our deposit. Only $500 for the deposit this time but nearly double the rent. We paid the deposit via PayPal but the rent in cash. We had a few issues with the apartment in the beginning like the chair and BBQ being broken before we even checked in and the place being a bit dirty but we went with it anyway. We had done all of our negotiations with someone hired by the landlord to take care of it all. We hardly ever spoke with Nora, our landlord.

Once we had a huge flood in the entire apartment because there was a hole in the window which caused water to come in when it rained. Having learned from my last experience, I must called a million times to both Nora and the other guy. Neither of them paid any attention to me. I stopped caring. If they wanted their apartment ruined, I’m okay with that because I tried calling them about their water leak. Nora continued to ignore us of any other issues we had with the apartment.

Second apartment.

Second apartment.

Check out time came and Nora came by to inspect the apartment. We were leaving to a new city that day so we had to catch a bus after. Nora told us everything looked good and that she’ll walk us down. Having learned from my last experience, I told her I just wanted to make sure the deposit is processed before I left since I won’t be coming back anytime soon. Her mood changed fast. She continued to look around the apartment but now more angrily. She starts to complain about ridiculous things. We did the best that we could to clean the entire apartment. We swept, mopped, and scrubbed, for hours just to make sure everything was perfect and exactly the way it was before. Apparently, it wasn’t perfect enough.

She started to examine things in more detail. Her first complain was that the couch had stains on it. Next it was that the bottom shelve of the oven was dirty, a part that we never used. She called the guy she hired that has our deposit and started to claim that the entire apartment was dirty. She said it in a way that made it sound devastating. It was apparently so bad that she would have to hire a maid to clean everything and also send the couch for cleaning. Throughout the entire experience, she only complained about two things being dirty but still only said the whole apartment was dirty.

At this point, I was furious. Every time I called her about her apartment flooding or a chair being broken, she didn’t care. All of a sudden she cares about her apartment? My theory is that because she knew I wasn’t going to leave until I had my deposit money, she was going to find things to complain about. Here’s why…

January and February are the hottest months in Buenos Aires. It’s unbearably hot. We had the air conditioner on for those days because it’s difficult to function or sleep in that kind of heat. We never left it on while we went out. It was only on while we were at home. Electricity has become expensive in Buenos Aires though. According to the contract, all utilities is covered by the landlord. Technically no matter how high the utilities bills were, it was to be covered by the landlord. It didn’t matter, she wanted to charge me more for the electricity usage. She knew I’d argue about the contract so she never mentioned it, only the guy she hired did. If I were her, I’d put a limit on the contract of how much could be spent and anything over would be paid by the person renting. That’d make sense to me. Instead, she charged me more by finding things wrong with the apartment so she can make up for the electricity bill she didn’t expect to pay so much for. What did she think, that I wasn’t going to put on the air conditioner during the summer months?

I continued to argue with her in spanish. She concluded that she’d have to get a cleaning lady and the cost would be $40USD. I tried fighting it but I didn’t care in the end. In the long run, it’s easier to just pay than continue this. $40USD is about 200 pesos. I put the 200 pesos on the table and said here’s the money. She wanted it in dollars though. This was my breaking point. Luckily the guy she hired (whom we had to keep calling because he wasn’t there) broke it up and told Nora to calm down and he’ll give her the dollars and take the pesos. That finished the argument and we waited until the guy sent us our refund via PayPal before we left.

The bedroom

The bedroom

The lesson

If we had left the apartment without waiting for the deposit to transfer, she could have made up any number she wanted to and charged us way more than $40USD. She could have claimed anything and possibly taken our entire deposit. Luckily because of my past experience, we waited until we got our deposit back before we left. She knew I wasn’t stupid.

Now you might be thinking this could to happen to anyone in any city and that’s true but to be honest, Buenos Aires has a reputation for this. The Travel China talks about her experience as well. I’ve heard similar stories about other foreigners that came to Buenos Aires and rented an apartment. Even my own father that was born and raised in this city has had numerous issues with renting apartments whenever he visits.

In the three years that I’ve been traveling, I’ve never had an issue with any apartment I’ve ever rented, hostel, or hotel stay. The two times that there has ever been a complain was in Buenos Aires.

Is it the economy that’s driving people to steal money from others? Is there more emphasis to the present rather than the future?

Have you ever had an issue with renting a long-term apartment in Buenos Aires?

26 Comments

  1. Lis on April 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I had the same nonsense in Perth, Australia. We weren’t short stay- had actually been in the apartment longer than the landlord had owned it. They used a grumpy property manager who decided that the people we’d used to clean the carpets hadn’t done it well enough, so insisted on doing it again – out of our bond of course. 

    Same as you I couldn’t be bothered arguing in the end – as we’d already left the country. 

  2. Lis on April 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I had the same nonsense in Perth, Australia. We weren’t short stay- had actually been in the apartment longer than the landlord had owned it. They used a grumpy property manager who decided that the people we’d used to clean the carpets hadn’t done it well enough, so insisted on doing it again – out of our bond of course. 

    Same as you I couldn’t be bothered arguing in the end – as we’d already left the country. 

  3. Erica&Shaun Kuschel on April 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Oh God I hope ours doesn’t go that badly. :X

  4. Erica&Shaun Kuschel on April 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Oh God I hope ours doesn’t go that badly. :X

  5. foggodyssey on April 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    man your a better man then me!  At that point I would have locked the door started rolling up my sleeve and explained I was leaving that day and had no problem beating the shit out of a money grabbing old lady with no common sense, my deposit back in full or hell breaks loose! lol  I have never had an issue either but now you got me thinking that I should video tape the entire apartment before walking in to detail every scratch on a cabinet, mark on a wall exc so later when they barked I could break it out and say “you mean this shit that was here when we moved in?”

    • Michael on April 18, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Yeah, that’s something we missed. I usually take pictures and video every time I rent something but for some reason I did not this time.

  6. foggodyssey on April 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    man your a better man then me!  At that point I would have locked the door started rolling up my sleeve and explained I was leaving that day and had no problem beating the shit out of a money grabbing old lady with no common sense, my deposit back in full or hell breaks loose! lol  I have never had an issue either but now you got me thinking that I should video tape the entire apartment before walking in to detail every scratch on a cabinet, mark on a wall exc so later when they barked I could break it out and say “you mean this shit that was here when we moved in?”

    • Michael on April 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      Yeah, that’s something we missed. I usually take pictures and video every time I rent something but for some reason I did not this time.

  7. thetravelchica on April 17, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Glad you guys didn’t get screwed over this time.  I don’t know why landlords are such a-holes here.  You are right that this is a city where you really have to stand up for yourself, or you will get run over.  I now have no problems calling people out for cutting in line or other rude behavior.

  8. thetravelchica on April 17, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Glad you guys didn’t get screwed over this time.  I don’t know why landlords are such a-holes here.  You are right that this is a city where you really have to stand up for yourself, or you will get run over.  I now have no problems calling people out for cutting in line or other rude behavior.

  9. Andi Perullo on April 17, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about this! I’ve rented over 20 apartments in BsAs and never once had a problem. 🙁

  10. Andi Perullo on April 17, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about this! I’ve rented over 20 apartments in BsAs and never once had a problem. 🙁

  11. Nostrabellafamilia on April 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Lardlords should be cautious, she was lucky to get tenants like yourself because anyone else before leaving would have first taken pictures of the nice looking apartment and then destroyed the apartment before leavingin which would have cost her more then $635 and nothing she can do about it. Maybe if you would have threaten her with this she would have thought twice before acting the way she did.

  12. Nostrabellafamilia on April 18, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Lardlords should be cautious, she was lucky to get tenants like yourself because anyone else before leaving would have first taken pictures of the nice looking apartment and then destroyed the apartment before leavingin which would have cost her more then $635 and nothing she can do about it. Maybe if you would have threaten her with this she would have thought twice before acting the way she did.

  13. Nostrabellafamilia on April 18, 2012 at 7:42 am

    where exactly were these apartments? Just want to make sure I don’t rent there

  14. Nostrabellafamilia on April 18, 2012 at 8:42 am

    where exactly were these apartments? Just want to make sure I don’t rent there

  15. Dave on April 18, 2012 at 8:20 am

    That would infuriate me too. But, I’m surprised she didn’t have a cleaning charge written into the contract. All the apartments I’ve rented so far have included one. In Peru it was in the range of $15 – $30, which seems high to me considering the cheap cost of labor. I just figure they try to make some extra money off each cleaning. And because I know I’m paying to have a maid clean after I check out, I don’t spend much time cleaning before I leave. In the few I’ve rented, I find the higher the cost, the more lenient the landlord. 

    • Michael on April 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      That would make sense if they just included maid service. I spent quite awhile cleaning the apartment and she still wanted to charge me more to clean it.

  16. Dave on April 18, 2012 at 9:20 am

    That would infuriate me too. But, I’m surprised she didn’t have a cleaning charge written into the contract. All the apartments I’ve rented so far have included one. In Peru it was in the range of $15 – $30, which seems high to me considering the cheap cost of labor. I just figure they try to make some extra money off each cleaning. And because I know I’m paying to have a maid clean after I check out, I don’t spend much time cleaning before I leave. In the few I’ve rented, I find the higher the cost, the more lenient the landlord. 

    • Michael on April 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      That would make sense if they just included maid service. I spent quite awhile cleaning the apartment and she still wanted to charge me more to clean it.

  17. Djdtime on April 19, 2012 at 6:49 am

    You have to take photos as much as possible along with the owner,so the owner sees that you have photos as backup. very important to note the problems along with photos, point saying this chair is broken and take photo, this may help but also you need determination when the day comes.

  18. Djdtime on April 19, 2012 at 7:49 am

    You have to take photos as much as possible along with the owner,so the owner sees that you have photos as backup. very important to note the problems along with photos, point saying this chair is broken and take photo, this may help but also you need determination when the day comes.

  19. Vinícius Manhães Teles on April 21, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Michael, my wife and I are traveling around the world for the last year and half. We’re in Xi’an now and we found your blog because of your stories around here. We liked them a lot! Thanks for sharing!

    We’ve rented several different apartments in Buenos Aires and other parts of Argentina last year and we didn’t have issues like yours. But, in Buenos Aires we only rented through Airbnb and that is probably the reason why we didn’t face any problems. Since it’s an online community where people care a lot about reviews, I think both tenants and landlords just behave very well all of the time. I’ve been using Airbnb all over the world and it’s always like that. People don’t want to get bad reviews, so they always do their best.

    In Buenos Aires, it’s possible to get reasonable rent prices using Airbnb. But I guess it can be even better renting directly, without Airbnb. But then, it might be just riskier. 

    Having said that, I agree that Argentina has it’s fair share of problems that are rare to face in many other places of the world. Surprisingly for many, China, for instance, is actually much more relaxed and people behave more honestly in general. At least, that has been our experience so far.

    BTW, if you haven’t used Airbnb yet, check it out. I have no relationship with them, nor any interests associated with them. Just recommending it because it’s been really helpful to us in many occasions. We have upcoming trips to South Korea and Taiwan, for example, and we’ll be using Airbnb apartments in both cases.

    • Michael on May 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Say Hi to Xi’an for me! I’ve recently used Roomorama (similiar to Airbnb) and had a good experience in Chile. The owner made sure we were dong okay and really wanted to go out of his way to make us comfortable. That was a very different experience from our last apartment in BA. He mentioned in the end to make sure we left a review so I think you’re right.

  20. Vinícius Teles on April 21, 2012 at 2:07 am

    Michael, my wife and I are traveling around the world for the last year and half. We’re in Xi’an now and we found your blog because of your stories around here. We liked them a lot! Thanks for sharing!

    We’ve rented several different apartments in Buenos Aires and other parts of Argentina last year and we didn’t have issues like yours. But, in Buenos Aires we only rented through Airbnb and that is probably the reason why we didn’t face any problems. Since it’s an online community where people care a lot about reviews, I think both tenants and landlords just behave very well all of the time. I’ve been using Airbnb all over the world and it’s always like that. People don’t want to get bad reviews, so they always do their best.

    In Buenos Aires, it’s possible to get reasonable rent prices using Airbnb. But I guess it can be even better renting directly, without Airbnb. But then, it might be just riskier. 

    Having said that, I agree that Argentina has it’s fair share of problems that are rare to face in many other places of the world. Surprisingly for many, China, for instance, is actually much more relaxed and people behave more honestly in general. At least, that has been our experience so far.

    BTW, if you haven’t used Airbnb yet, check it out. I have no relationship with them, nor any interests associated with them. Just recommending it because it’s been really helpful to us in many occasions. We have upcoming trips to South Korea and Taiwan, for example, and we’ll be using Airbnb apartments in both cases.

    • Michael on May 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      Say Hi to Xi’an for me! I’ve recently used Roomorama (similiar to Airbnb) and had a good experience in Chile. The owner made sure we were dong okay and really wanted to go out of his way to make us comfortable. That was a very different experience from our last apartment in BA. He mentioned in the end to make sure we left a review so I think you’re right.

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