Written by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada
March 30th, 2019
Ecuador is a great destination for people who are retiring and want to move overseas. There are numerous benefits to making this relocation, whether the move is made from the US or elsewhere, including great weather, nice people, and a low cost of living. Many expats interested in moving to South America assume that their rights as a renter may be more limited than what they’re used to, and they may worry about being left to the whims of their landlord. But the truth is that rental law in Ecuador generally favors tenants.
While there are often good deals on buying property in Ecuador, many people choose to rent, because they can’t or don’t want to make a long-term commitment of beyond a year or two at a time. When you’re retired, it’s nice to not have to deal with the hassles of maintenance and repairs, and it’s much easier to change one’s apartment/house if necessary as well.
Quito is Ecuador’s political and cultural capital, and it as well as its surrounding towns (think Cotacachi, Ibarra and Otavalo) has/have become quite popular destinations for expats. The Quito area has all the amenities one could ever need, and also has plenty of options for employment as well, being Ecuador’s largest city and eye to the rest of the world.
Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador by population, and there are plenty of rental options in different price ranges in both Guayaquil and its surrounding towns as well (think Salinas). Note that like the Quito area, Guayaquil has a lot of variety, along with different areas in its sprawling metropolitan area that all have their own character.
A house or large apartment in the most expensive parts of each Quito and Guayaquil generally costs anywhere from $500USD to $1,000USD per month. The less exclusive parts of both of those large cities are much less expensive, and you can find an apartment there for as little as $200USD each month at that.
The country also has many other appealing options that can save you more money than the bigger cities. Cuenca is a particularly popular destination among retired expats. Cuenca has a variety of attractive features: it’s home to a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage colonial center and a vibrant cultural scene, without the crowds, pollution and traffic that residents of Quito and Guayaquil have to cope with. Cuenca has been voted one of the best cities in the world for retiring to because of these features, as well as its low rental costs: a luxury apartment in the center of the city can still be found for only $500USD a month.
More remote parts of Ecuador can also be appealing for retired expats, including the Amazonian (Oriente) region. The market tends more toward buying instead of renting in these more remote regions.
The Pacific coast is a desirable option for people who want to avoid the large cities and want to enjoy a moderate climate, passing on the cold nights in the Andean highlands and the stifling heat of the eastern jungles. Manta, a Pacific coastal town, is a popular choice with retirees, with warm weather and pristine beaches. A basic two bedroom apartment can be found for under $250 USD per month here, though there is a wide range of prices as with everywhere based on the list of amenities and location.
Renting in Ecuador: Contracts and Utilities
The Ley del Inquilinato (Tenancy Law) has clauses to protect tenants in Ecuador. It explicitly states that repairs and maintenance are the responsibility of the landlord. This law also establishes a maximum annual rent increase in Ecuador. This amount can vary between municipalities, so be sure to check the local laws. Generally though, and by law, landlords must provide justification for yearly rent increases in Ecuador and automatic annual increases are prohibited. The rent in Ecuador is based on a formula that takes into consideration the value and condition of the property. In order to raise the rent, the landlord in Ecuador has to submit a petition to the judge that has jurisdiction over rentals. The landlord has to justify before the court their specific reasons in asking for an increase of rent in Ecuador, as a landlord can’t just raise the rent because they want more money. Although many landlords in Ecuador attempt to implement a yearly increase in rent, the Ecuadorian Rental Law simply does not permit automatic yearly increases, though up to a 5% annual increase or at the national inflation rate in Ecuador that is experienced on a year over year basis is generally permissible all across the country. You can read the exact wording of the law here.
Once you’ve signed a rental contract, it needs to be properly notarized and registered with the local municipality. Your landlord must generally give you three months’ notice if they’re canceling your rental contract due to a sale of the property by the landlord or otherwise. If you as the renter decide to leave the property before your contract expires, generally you’re only obligated to give the landlord one month’s notice and just you lose your security deposit in that event, which is typically equivalent to one single month’s rent.
Most rental contracts in Ecuador are for 1 year, but you can request a 2-year contract if you like. If you’re new to the country, it’s a good idea to stick with a 1-year contract to give yourself more flexibility, in case you decide that you want to move to a new area.
The advantage of asking for a 2-year contract once you’ve found the right location is that your landlord isn’t permitted to apply for a rent increase within those 2 years. A longer lease can therefore save you money.
You’ll also be asked to pay a security deposit, generally equivalent to an additional month’s rent (as first referenced above), which you typically get back when you as the renter leave the property in the same condition as when you first took possession of it.
While utilities can at times work a little differently in Ecuador than expats are used to in their home countries, banking and paying bills is usually pretty straightforward for most everyone. Here are the basics:
You’ll be able to pay most bills online through major banks, including Banco Pichincha, JEP Cooperativa, or at a Servipagos outlet. There are always in-person options available as well.
Ecuador uses a 110-volt electrical system. Most sockets accept standard 2-pin American plugs, but this can differ across the country, so you’ll want to make sure you have at least one universal adapter. The electrical systems in and around the cities are generally quite reliable. All electricity in Ecuador is provided by the state government owned Transelectric Company (“CELEC EP”). Paying your bill involves visiting the office in your municipality, or paying online through your bank.
Household gas is provided in large propane canisters, as is standard in many parts of the world. A private gas company will collect empty canisters and replace them. These should only cost a few dollars to replace, perhaps once per week or month (depending on the amount and frequency of use).
Over 90% of urban households in Ecuador have well established access to running water, so if you live in the city, getting water won’t be a problem. Connection to a water supply in rural areas is less common, and so if you’re looking at rental properties in the countryside, be sure to ask about water access. As with electricity, you can pay online through your bank, or at a Servipagos outlet. Water costs are fairly minimal in Ecuador.
Overall, Ecuador is a great choice for retirement. With plenty of variety between the main cities and cultural centers, and beautiful rural areas for peaceful living near the ocean, you’ll be able to find a location that suits you, and you can enjoy the low costs and ease of living in this beautiful country, that like its name boasts, is in fact situated at the true center of the world.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador, as well as for any legal issues that arise or become actionable for her Expat clients to undertake in their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, which consists of her American husband and 2 daughters (as well as her parents and siblings), and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains and local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as the many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and her law office’s fully informative website is www.ecuadorvisas.com for you to visit at any time of day or night – plus, her personal Ecuadorian cell phone number is 099-296-2065 and her Toll Free “800” phone number for US & Canadian callers is 1-(800)-655-1581. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically in closer to 24 minutes). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type Visa or Legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE.