Most people who move to Portugal end up renting for a period of time, even if their ultimate aim is to buy a place here. Others end up renting for their entire time here. It’s always tricky to find a good rental, both in Portugal and in other countries, but, along with all of the things you probably already look out for when renting a property, there are a few extra things to look out for when renting a room or a property in Portugal.
Finding A Place to Rent
Properties are normally advertised in two main places:
- Facebook (Facebook Marketplace, but also expat groups for each region (they typically have names like ‘expats in the Algarve’ or ‘properties to rent in Lisbon’)
- Classifieds websites like Idealista.pt (the most popular classifieds site in Portugal) but also OLX, Sapo.pt, Imovirtual, Custo Justo, etc.
- Property sites like Airbnb, Spotahome, Uniplaces, and Flatio
Rentals are a mixture of those rented directly from a landlord and those rented through an agency. Most agencies will post their properties on sites like Facebook and Idealista, but they don’t always post them all. If you’re looking to rent through an agency, it can be worth getting in touch with them directly as they may have more properties available.
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You can also work with an agent who will find a property on your behalf. Typically they’ll attend viewings with you (or instead of you) and help you look over the contract as well. If you’re new to Portugal and aren’t confident in your abilities to navigate the rental market, this could be a useful service. It could also be useful if you’re trying to arrange a rental before moving to Portugal as it can often be difficult to find a landlord or agent who will rent to someone who hasn’t visited the property in person.
Trawling through Facebook and classifieds sites can be a lot of work. Many are sparse with details, particularly on Facebook, and the advert might be as simple as ‘apartment for rent in Lisbon. Message me for details’. This is improving, but you should expect to have to message a few advertisers for more information, the price, the location of the property, and photos. Some also won’t reply, particularly via email rather than Facebook or WhatsApp, but this is just part of the process.
In touristy parts of Portugal, like the Algarve, property availability can be very seasonal and it can be difficult to find a property during the summer. Similarly, in some student-focused cities, like Coimbra and Braga, it can be difficult to find rooms and apartments for rent in September.
When you rent a property, the landlord will normally ask for the following documents:
- NIF or Número de Identificação Fiscal (get one from Bordr here)
- ID (e.g. passport or ID card)
- Proof of current address
- Fiador or several months’ rent upfront
- Rent and deposit (terms vary)
This assumes a contract is being offered. If the landlord doesn’t provide a contract, you may only be asked for a deposit and the first month’s rent.
What to look for
As with anywhere else, finding the perfect place is usually a case of balancing price, location, quality, and the impression you get of the landlord. Finding a property that ticks all these boxes is challenging, but some people manage to do it.
Properties in Portugal come with their challenges, particularly with noise and heating. This varies from property to property, often depending on when it was built, its proximity to other buildings, and, in the case of heating, how exposed to the sun it is. Property orientation is important, particularly for apartments: apartments that face entirely north can be extremely cold, for example, while properties that face east benefit from the morning sun without catching the direct afternoon sun, which can often be extremely hot in the summer. Of course, this assumes there are no buildings blocking the sun to the property.
For noise, the following are the main things to look out for:
- Bins nearby: these often get collected very early in the morning and it can be noisy if there’s one below your apartment
- Bars: Living above a bar or in a bar area (e.g. the Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodré in Lisbon) can get noisy if you’re facing the main street
- Neighbours: Due to the lack of insulation, noise can travel easily – particularly from the neighbours above
- Vehicles: If the property is on a busy street, it’s quite likely there’ll be noise from buses, trams, and cars, but it mightn’t be too much of an issue if the property has double glazing
- Construction: This is more noticeable during the daytime, and usually it’s just a case of keeping an eye out for big construction sites. There’ll probably still be construction done in the neighbouring apartments from time to time, but that usually only lasts a few days or weeks
- Planes: Properties next to an airport or under a flight path close to the airport can suffer from noise. You should be able to spot this during your viewing
Another smaller issue, particularly with older apartments, is smelly drains.
You can get an idea of rental prices for a specific area by looking at somewhere like Idealista or OLX as well as the many property rental groups on Facebook.
While most people don’t negotiate, prices can potentially be negotiated. However, whether the landlord is willing to negotiate will depend a lot on whether the area is in demand. If you’re renting an apartment in a touristy part of the country (e.g. Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve), you have more leverage in the winter than in the summer. Between the end of February and the end of October, most landlords will have their sights set on the big bucks: short-term rentals. After that, however, many will be open to a discounted winter rate or potentially a discounted long-term rate as well.
Negotiating is always tricky wherever you are, and in Portugal, it can be quite difficult as it’s very easy to offend someone by offering too low a price. You need to know what a reasonable price is (based on the market rate) and come in a bit lower so you can negotiate, but not too low so as to offend.
As with anywhere else, most rentals do not include utility costs within the price. Electricity is expensive in Portugal, so most landlords are wary about offering rent that’s inclusive of costs, particularly if the property has air conditioning or heating. If they are willing to offer a rental price that includes utilities, it’ll normally be more expensive than if you were to pay for the utilities yourself. This is to give them some extra leeway in case you run the air con or electricity constantly.
The cheapest thing that you can do is organise utility contracts yourself, and this is also helpful as it’ll provide you with some forms of proof of address.
Read more about arranging utilities for your home
It’s likely that you’ll want some form of internet in your new property, and ideally broadband internet. This is usually something you’ll have to organise yourself, although occasionally you’ll find a landlord that’s willing to put it in their name.
Our internet options checker allows you to check which internet service providers are available for that particular address. It’s a good idea to check this before you agree to rent a property, particularly in rural areas, as broadband isn’t available throughout Portugal.
Internet contracts in Portugal are typically for two years at a time, although it is possible to find shorter, one-year contracts as well. However, if you move before the two-year period is up, it is possible to bring your contract to the new property and avoid an early repayment charge.
Read more about getting internet in your new Portuguese home
Having a contract is definitely beneficial: it protects you from rent increases and unfair evictions. In places like the Algarve or Lisbon, it’s not unheard of for tenants to be told their rent is doubling or for them to be told to move out so the landlord can rent the property to tourists for the summer season. A registered contract may also be essential if you’re moving to Portugal through a residency visa such as the D7.
It’s important to read through your contract and you should probably have a lawyer read through it as well. While it does mean additional initial costs, it could protect you in the long run.
You’ll notice that rental periods are quite long: typically at least a year if not several. However, many contracts can be broken a third of the way through (with notice). Be sure to read through the contract to check whether this is possible and how much notice is expected.
The deposit amount can vary from landlord to landlord. One month’s rent is normal, along with the first month’s rent in advance, but it’s not uncommon for landlords to ask for several months’ rent in advance as well as a deposit.
Unfortunately, there is no deposit protection scheme in Portugal and deposits are normally paid directly to the landlord. It isn’t unheard of for landlords to not return deposits, which is why a contract is recommended.
In Portugal, often it isn’t enough to simply pay the first month’s rent and a deposit: landlords want a guarantor (fiador) as well. And, if you can’t provide one, they’ll ask for many months’ rent upfront – often 6-12 months or more.
A fiador almost always has to be someone resident in Portugal rather than someone in another country. Sometimes it’s enough simply to give the landlord the person’s name and details while other landlords may want proof of that person’s income.