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Renting an Apartment in Santo Domingo
Renting a house/ apartment: Houses and apartments usually are unfurnished: without beds, tables, chairs, or even stoves, refrigerators, toilet seats and light bulbs. If you desire basic furnishings you must specifically state “amueblado” in your apartment/ house search. The following is a list of guidelines for traditional renting of houses/ apartments that do not offer the services or amenities of apart hotel or gated community living.

1. Ask about the water: Many landlords/ladies will say the water is “bueno.” Ask specific questions as to what makes it “bueno.” Is there a tinaco (tank on top of the house) with a bomba (pump to make water rise to the tank)? Is there a cisterna (well) to retrieve water in buckets if there is no “agua de la calle” or if the tinaco is empty? Will you have access to the cisterna? Who is responsible for turning on the bomba? Ask neighbors how often they receive “agua de la calle.”

2. Ask about the electricity: How often does the electricity come on in the neighborhood? Is there an inversor/ planta (generator)? This is also related to your water situation: if there is no “agua de la calle” and the tank is empty and the electricity is off you will in all likelihood NOT have running water.

3. Check for safety: Do you have bars on all your windows? Do you need bars (maybe not for higher buildings)? Does it look like the apartment has been broken into in the past (bent bars, smashed windows)? If you are concerned about the area you are planning to move, visit it at various times of the day: are people working during the day? If they are not, ask yourself how they survive if they are not working, and begin looking for a safer area.

4. Know your landlord/lady: Will you be sharing space with this person? Is this person overly pushy? Can you get along with/ trust this person?

5. Check for the garbage truck, how many times at week it’s passing in the neighborhood?

6. Get receipts of all paid bills (cable, electric, water, phone etc.)
Before moving in so you are sure not to get stuck with previous persons

7. Be sure about maintenance fees.

The Search

Traditional search for your apartment begins as it would in the States when you select an area where you would like to live: Zona Colonial, Gazcue, the Commercial District Downtown, Zona Universitaria, or specific residential areas/ barrios. Take a cell phone with you and walk around and search the signboards that say “SE ALQUILA.” For those without an excellent handle on Dominican Spanish/ Dominican culture, it might be a good idea to find a friend to come with you.

Many apartments in wealthier areas are listed in the classified section of newspapers like “Hoy” “Diario Libre” “El Caribe” “Nacional” and “Listin Diario.” However, the options are limited and the prices tend to be more inflated than if you were to use traditional word of mouth in the area you desire to live.

One can only learn about apartments through word of mouth by visiting Colmados, talking with clients/ workers, and inquiring if there is a “Corredor” in the area. Corredores are traditionally informal real estate agents who know a specific neighborhood, enter into contracts with landlords/ladies, and seek out prospective clients. Some corredores work in official or home real-estate/ lawyers offices with signs that may state “Bienes Raices.” In such offices, they may possess listings of different apartments/ houses available in the area. Less formal corredores may spend their days in the Colmado/ Banca and know the listings through friendships or acquaintances. At the time of the signing of the lease, the corredor should be compensated, by receiving his/ her cut of the lawyer’s fee, because they are representing the landlord/lady.

Rental Contract

Generally leases last for one year. That duration can change in a foreigner’s case if he/she has planned a shorter stay. When the lease is up, usually after one year, and you are interested in moving, you should let your landlord/lady at least 15 days before, enough time to for him/her to recover your security deposit.

It is possible that the landlord/lady insert a special clause where says that landlord/lady can check the apartment once a month in order to know if there is any change in the physical conditions without their permission. The landlord/lady is obligated to fix any physical failures of the apartment not incurred by the tenant for example: leaky plumbing, broken tinaco (water tank) etc.

Don’t forget that while looking for an apartment it’s necessary to have time and patience, especially with the diversity of costs and locations. Although it is not recommended to find an apartment from the US using internet, you may be able to price out the market through online newspaper classifieds and research with friends living in the Dominican. Once in the Dominican, many people feel rushed to find an apartment right away because they do not want to pay for a hotel or because you want to get settled immediately. However, it is important to choose the right apartment/ house and not to hurry the decision with pushy offers. In the end, you may save yourself a lot of time and money by not having to resettle and start all over again.
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