The good news is that across most of Portugal, there is plenty of rental property available. The combination of a slow economy, plenty of empty property and a cultural stubbornness to reduce prices, means that plenty of owners are keen to find tenants.
Although there is plenty of rental property around, it can be strangely difficult to find, especially for those looking online on English language websites. A good place to start can be www.casa.sapo.pt - a site akin to “Loot” in the UK, but really there is no substitute for visiting your chosen area, looking for “aluga-se” (to let) signs, and checking local agents and adverts.
Once you have found a rental property, you may be surprised with the lack of formality involved. Outside of the main cities of Lisbon and Porto, you will usually find that nobody asks for the references and credit checks essential for renting property in the UK. You will, however, need a Portuguese fiscal number to enter into the contract.
In terms of deposits, the usual practice is for a landlord to ask for the equivalent of two months’ rent; the second month forms the final rental payment for the last month of the contract. Notice periods can vary – with some contracts automatically rolling over to a new term.
The lack of formality is surprising, given that tenancy laws in Portugal are heavily weighted in favour of the tenant. Usually, long-term rental contracts are for a five year period and legally, it can be difficult for a landlord to get rid of tenants before this period. For shorter rental terms, many agents instead use what is essentially a holiday rental contract over a long term. Regardless of the basis on which you rent your property, you should ensure that the property has been granted a rental license (aljomento local) by the local council.
The casual nature that characterises deals in Portugal means that it is important to be on your guard. If you respond to cards in supermarkets offering rental properties, you may well find landlords keen to rent properties on an informal “for cash” basis. This may be tempting for a short term let, but it is important to remember that it offers you no protection. It is much better to ask locally or on forums for agency recommendations to make sure things are done properly.
Finally, unless you can speak Portuguese, make sure you know exactly what you are signing. While some Algarve agencies are used to renting to expats and provide an English translation, others may only provide a tenancy agreement in Portuguese. The cost of having this checked over is not a cost to avoid!