Expats shouldn't struggle to find accommodation in Brazil. There is generally a wide variety of options, including apartments, condominiums and houses. Prices vary throughout the country, as larger cities tend to be much more expensive than smaller coastal ones.
Types of accommodation in Brazil
Expats in larger cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, typically live in apartments, condominiums or houses in gated communities. Gated communities are especially popular as they offer security and many shared amenities such as swimming pools. Some apartment complexes and gated communities will have a doorman, making them more secure.
Detached homes are not a commonality in major cities and are often found in smaller towns and cities and rural areas. Expats considering single-family homes should be aware that these houses typically do not have central heating or insulation, making them more vulnerable to the elements.
Young and single expats may benefit from sharing an apartment in the larger cities. Not only will this decrease their cost of living, it will also allow them to build their social circle.
Furnished or unfurnished
Furnished accommodation for long-term rent in Brazil is very rare. Most apartments and houses are rented unfurnished. They may even exclude light fittings and kitchen appliances. Typically, electricity and other services will also have been disconnected.
Although furnished long-term rentals are few and far between, these will typically come equipped with big ticket furniture items such as sofas, a bed and television. There will also be appliances available, expats will only need to bring linen in some cases. While this is convenient for expats who are only in Brazil for the short term, furnished accommodation is usually pricier but will often include utilities in the rental price as well.
Brazil offers a fair few short-term accommodation options, including hotels, motels, pousadas (bed and breakfasts) and hostels. These options all range in comfort and expense levels, with hotels typically being the priciest and hostels the most affordable and least comfortable. Short lets can be fantastic for new arrivals to Brazil who want to get a sense of an area before making a long-term commitment or those who will only be in the country for a few months. AirBnB is one of the most popular platforms for finding short lets, and it is frequently more affordable than hotels.
Finding accommodation in Brazil
Some good ways to search for properties in Brazil include local newspapers, online property portals, and even word of mouth. There are many websites that are useful, though to get better prices, it's best to use Portuguese sites rather than English ones aimed at foreigners.
Some expats find that hiring an experienced agent instead of going it alone can be immensely helpful. However, expats should be warned that the fees for their services can be high. Many rental agencies and landlords are unlikely to speak English, so when searching for an apartment it’s worth taking someone who can speak Portuguese to assist with translation and interpretation.
Expats should never commit to a rental or pay any money without viewing the property in person first to avoid falling victim to a scam.
Renting accommodation in Brazil
To sign a lease, foreigners require a Brazilian Identity Card (Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas or CPF), which can take several months to finalise. Many expats on a corporate assignment, therefore, live in a hotel or temporary accommodation until their residency papers are finalised.
The duration of a lease is normally two to three years, though short-term rentals are often available in coastal towns. Many properties there are owned by foreigners or wealthy Brazilians who only use them for a few months of the year.
The rental contract (Contrato de Locação de Imóvel) is signed by the landlord and the lessee. Rental agreements are usually written in Portuguese, so it is recommended that expats who do not understand Portuguese have the contract translated or explained to them by a friend, co-worker or independent translation company before signing anything.
References and background checks
Expats renting in Brazil for the first time will need to prove they have a strong work history in the country. Otherwise, they will need one or two fiadors (guarantors) to sign the lease with them. Newcomers will also need to produce proof of income and proof of possession of the deposit. Additionally, some landlords may require tenants to provide a police clearance certificate.
Renting property in Brazil can be expensive, although rental prices are often negotiable. A deposit equivalent to one to three months’ rent is normally expected. By law, landlords should put the deposit into a separate savings account. Any interest earned on the deposit is the renter’s to keep once the contract has been terminated.
Most apartments will not allow pets but can negotiate with their landlord to bring their furry friends with them. Landlords who will allow pets will usually require a pet deposit to ensure that any damage that may occur is covered.
Termination of the lease
Tenants can their landlord at least 30 days notice should they wish to terminate the lease early. However, they must be prepared to forfeit their deposit as charges and taxes to the landlord. Should the landlord wish for the lease agreement to be terminated at the end of its duration, they will need to give the tenant three months' notice. Expats are required to submit written notice to the landlord.
Upon vacating the property, expats are encouraged to get it professionally cleaned to ensure they leave it in the same condition they found it in. It is also essential to go through the inventory with the landlord to certify everything is in order and avoid incurring unjust deductions from the deposit.
Utilities in Brazil
Electricity, water and any other utilities are usually excluded from the rental price. These need to be paid on top of the monthly rental. Expats may also need to pay property tax and condominium charges, if stipulated in the rental agreement, over and above rental fees and utilities.
Electricity and gas
The electricity supply in Brazil is controlled on a state level and each state has a privately-run company that provides it with power. As Brazil electricity market is free, ANEEL, a federal watchdog, regulates the market. AMPLA serves most of Rio de Janeiro while São Paulo has four main providers, including AES Eletropaulo.
Brazil uses a combination of 110V and 220V systems, most states use 110V but fortunately, most electrical appliances have a conversion switch. This makes it easier to travel between different regions. Some parts of Brazil have been known to have unstable power supply, which makes electrical surges common in these areas. Expats are encouraged to purchase and install a voltage regulator.
It's not typical for gas to run through a main line in Brazil, it is rather sold in a tank and distributed by private companies. The biggest gas distributors in Brazil are Liquigás and Ultragaz, these companies usually send trucks that play a jingle through Brazil's neighbourhood streets to inform residents that they can exchange their empty gas tanks for full ones.
Similarly to electricity, water in Brazil is supplied by regional private and state-run companies. Brasília and São Paulo receive their water supply from state-owned Sabesp and the water bill will often be included as part of the monthly condominium charge.
Upon moving in, expats can arrange with their building supervisor to have the water connected. Those who are moving into a detached home can call their regional water provider to arrange a new account under their name.
Telephone and internet
Expats will have a multitude of telephone and internet suppliers to choose from in Brazil. The most common and affordable way of accessing the internet in the country is through a fixed phone line. Broadband and ADSL are also growing in Brazil and this is another option expats can use. Well-known suppliers, include Telefonica Brasil, Terra and UOL.
Check out Keeping in Touch in Brazil for more information on communication and media in the country.
Bins and recycling
Waste removal and recycling differ in each state, with some states providing two waste collection trucks – one for food waste and non-recyclable waste and the other for glass, paper, cans and plastics. There are also people who collect recyclable materials, known as catadores, to sell to recycling companies that extract the raw materials from them. Expats are encouraged to visit the websites of their respective states and municipalities to learn more about waste collection and recycling.