Guide to renting in Portugal and your tenant rights
If you're looking at property to rent in Portugal, this guide explains what you need to know about your tenant rights before renting property in Portugal.
Renting in Portugal can vary significantly between the resorts and the main cities, in terms of both costs and type of contracts available. Whether you're looking to rent a villa in Portugal or a modern apartment, you will find a variety of properties for rent in Portugal's main cities.
With Portugal's economic crisis, the question of whether to rent or buy property in Portugal presents expats with various challenges and possibilities. Many factors need to be taken into consideration, most important being the current Portuguese property market and the number of years you plan to live in Portugal.
The guide explains the key things you need to know before renting a property in Portugal, including housing law, what to expect, where to find houses to rent and your rights as a tenant.
Should you rent or buy property in Portugal?
Home ownership rates in Portugal have remained steady during the last decade, with around three-quarters of residents owning their own homes. The decision whether you should rent or buy depends on your personal circumstances and whether you’re looking for a long- or short-term option. You can read more in our guide to buying property in Portugal
In the main cities, such as Lisbon and Porto, it can be relatively easy to find a modern apartment to rent long-term, but this can be more difficult in areas where short-term holidays houses are the norm, such as in the Algarve.
If you’re thinking of moving to a resort area in Portugal, it might be best to consider buying rather than renting, as many homeowners in these areas charge high rents for short-term summer lets and are happy to leave properties empty during the winter. Naturally, costs for short-term rentals tend to be higher than long-term ones.
While rent costs in Portugal aren’t particularly pricey compared to some areas in mainland Europe, salaries in Portugal can be quite low and people tend to spend between a third and half of the average salary on rent. Read more about where to live in Portugal.
Finding a property to rent in Portugal
Portugal boasts everything from city pads to luxurious villas, and most properties are available to rent through local estate agents.
As they’re mainly used as holiday homes, most properties in resort areas are let fully furnished (mobiliado), while long-term rentals in major cities are usually available unfurnished (sem mobilia).
While rental properties are sometimes advertised locally by landlords, you should be wary of handing over cash without a formal contract, as you could be foregoing some of your legal rights.
If you do enlist the help of a rental agent, make sure they do their work to your satisfaction. A good agent should be able to tell you about the market, city, price and quality of housing – as well as restrictions that apply to expats, arrange visits for you, negotiate with landlords and possibly provide a contract in English. Make sure they have a good choice of properties on their books.
Some other property portals and estate agents in Portugal include:
- Marcela Propriedades
- Top Casas
- Custo Justo
- Century 21
Documents for signing a Portuguese rental contract
You’ll need to sign a tenancy agreement (contrato de arrendamento) to rent a property in Portugal, and you’ll also need to have a Portuguese fiscal number (Numero fiscal de contribuinte).
The contract will outline the length of the lease, when the rent will be reviewed, and how much notice you need to give before you move out.
In many areas (especially outside the main cities), the legal side of renting can seem informal and landlords often won’t ask for references or conduct credit checks.
Tenancy agreements in Portugal must include details about the landlord and tenant (including nationality and date of birth), information about the property, the rent term and how much rent must be paid and when.
Tenancy contracts can either be open-ended or fixed-term, and in the latter case the duration and expiry date must be stated in the contract and it is advised to set what conditions apply for breaking your contract.
Costs of renting a home in Portugal
Average rents vary significantly across Portugal. In Lisbon, you could pay anything from around EUR 500 per month for a small studio flat up to EUR 2,000 per month for a family apartment in an upmarket district, with a typical 120sqm flat in a desirable area costing around EUR 1,200 per month.
In the Algarve region apartments are somewhat cheaper (especially in the off season), with a 120sqm apartment costing around EUR 600 per month to rent.
Rent costs in Portugal are usually agreed between the landlord and tenant and reviews are allowed annually. There is cap on rental increases and your landlord must inform you in writing at least 30 days before the proposed increase comes into place.
Rent costs don’t usually include utilities such as gas and electricity, so you’ll have to budget for those on top of your rent.
Rental deposits in Portugal
It’s standard for landlords to ask for the equivalent of two months’ rent as a security deposit before you move in.
Unlike in some other European countries, there is no set scheme for managing deposits, meaning the landlords can hold the deposit themselves for the duration of the tenancy. One option, however, is to see if you can agree to place the deposit in an escrow account, which can't be touched by either party during the rental period and in some cases you can share earned interest on the deposit.
Moving in and out: the inventory and giving notice
Signing the inventory
Before moving in, the landlord will usually prepare an inventory, which documents the condition of the home and lists any items included with the property. While you’re responsible for leaving the property in the condition in which you found it, general wear and tear is allowed.
You can usually serve notice to your landlord after six months of your contract. If you’ve got more than a year left on the term, you’ll need to give 120 days notice, while if you have less than a year, you can typically give 60 days notice. It’s also possible to end the tenancy if your landlord breaches the contract, for example, by failing to do vital renovation work.
Your landlord can serve notice if they need the home themselves or are undertaking renovation work that requires the property to be empty. In these instances, the landlord will need to notify you six months in advance, and if renovation work is the reason, may have to compensate you up to one year of rent or relocate you to a comparable property.
If you have an open-ended contract and the landlord wants to end the tenancy for any other reason, they’ll need to give you two years' notice.
How to get your deposit back
Once the tenancy has finished and the landlord has inspected the property for any damage, they’ll need to return your deposit, although there isn’t a strict date by when this must be done as in some other countries.
While the National Rental Counter (Balcao Nacional do Arrendamento) deals with evictions, it doesn’t adjudicate on deposit disputes, which instead have to go through the civil courts.
Tenant rights in Portugal
Tenancy laws in Portugal tend to be weighted towards the tenant, and it can be very difficult for landlords to get rid of tenants on long-term contracts.
It is important to make sure you’re covered legally, however, as there are scams out there. Regardless of whether you’re signing up to rent a home for the short- or long-term, you should ensure that the property has been granted a rental license (alojamento local) by the local council.
Finding a translator
While some estate agents will provide translators or have English-speaking staff (especially in resort areas), tenancy agreements are often exclusively in Portuguese, so you might need to hire a translator.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth has published a list of translators and interpreters and English-speaking lawyers in Portugal. The US embassy offers a similar list of translators in Portugal broken up into different areas.
Housing benefits and assistance
Social housing is available for people with low incomes or those who have difficulties finding a property to rent. How you apply for this kind of housing varies across the country, so it’s best to contact your local authority for more information.
Housing terms in Portuguese
- Rent/income: renda
- Deposit: caucao
- Termination of contract: resolucao do contrato
- Eviction: despejo
- Sub-letting: sublocacao
- Fixed-term contract: contrato com prazo certo
- Open-ended contract: contrato por duracao indeterminada
- Obras: repairs
Tips for renting property in Portugal
If you have yet to decide in which part of Portugal you want to live, check out where to live in Portugal. It will guide you through the various cities and regions you might choose, highlighting the advantages to each area.
Unless your company provides expat apartments, or you find something through word of mouth, it is advisable to go through a reliable rental agency. Expat blogger Sam Milner writes about her experience and offers her tips on finding rental flats in the Algarve. You can also visit Expatica’s forums to ask other expats for advice on renting in Portugal.
Find property to rent in Portugal using Expatica's portal.
Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's free Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.
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