now I’m moving from ultra rich Palermo Chico to nice, normal, good vibey Villa Crespo. The first thing to understand is that are weird archaic housing laws and customs here. At least on paper, in the USA it doesn’t matter where you come from or who your family is, more what your actions are. Anyone can get a credit card, make payments, build a credit history. When you go to apply for renting an apartment they use your public credit history as a way of seeing your financial character.
Here in Buenos Aires it is much different. There is much less banking infrastructure than in the States and many people don’t have accounts. I, for instance, can’t open an account here without having a DNI (it’s like a social security number). I get paid in cash every month. Apartment owners here can’t check anything about me or most other people. Furthermore there are these medieval, complicated renting laws and it’s virtually impossible to evict anyone.
In my second apartment here, in Congreso, I heard a horror story about a bad previous tenant. The renter stopped paying rent and but the owner couldn’t evict them without a court order. What the owner can do, however, is make a double-or-nothing bet and pay all the remaining rent owed in the contract to the court as a kind of escrow while the renter was evicted. If the owner won the case, she would get her money back and be able to evict the tenant (and presumably get back rent) but if the owner lost she would lose all that money. After a huge battle, which dragged on for months and months, she eventually won and got her money back from evicting the woman.
So, in order to protect themselves, most landlords require a garantía. A garantía is essentially a note written from someone who owns property in the city who will guarantee that you will pay the rent or they will take responsability for it (and face losing their property). It’s a big thing to give one to someone and needless to say, most foreigners don’t know someone who will. There are some seedy places that sell them for about 10+% of the rent you need to pay but this is expensive.
Consequently there are two markets: One for locals who are from the city and run in circles of local property owners and those who don’t. A typical apartment for locals comes unfurnished (no fridge, nothing) and a typical two year contract. One for foreigners comes fully furnished (frequently with television and appliances), no contract, and costs three times the price. Most expats start with the fully furnished places and, after some time, work their way towards a nice nepotistic deal. This could be finding an owner who trusts them enough not to require a garantía or it could be a room in a house where someone else has one.
Luckily, one of my friends has offered me the holy grail of garantía and now I am starting my adventures in househunting local style.