Cultural Fact Friday: Bills and Rent

Forget a leasing office and online apartment searches, in Peru if you need a place to live you hit the streets and start looking for houses with “Room for Rent” signs posted outside. Or literally pick a house that looks nice and knock on the door and ask if they have any rooms for rent or know anyone who does.

From there you can negotiate the price and decide on a move in date. Rent is paid in cash and it’s not customary to get receipts, luckily Peace Corps gave a little notebook to sign each month to have records. There is no late fee if you don’t pay on time and usually from what I hear people are months behind on paying their landlords. It’s funny because every time I go to pay the family I live with they tell me I don’t need to pay right now if I need the money for something else. Usually after I insist 3-4 times that I don’t need the money for anything else they finally agree to take it! Talking money is something that makes many people in my town very uncomfortable.

Water is paid for by the town, but electricity is paid for by each individual household and it’s EXPENSIVE! During the day all of the lights are turned off and we just keep all of the doors and windows open. This also means that hot showers have to be kept short, because the water is heated by an electric shower head. Utilities are included in the monthly rent price, but some volunteers offer to pay 10 to 15 soles more a month if they like longer showers or use things like hair dryers or electric water boilers.

In bigger cities if you live in an apartment building there are no individual bills sent straight to your mailbox, instead the bills are posted by the front door each month and each apartment is expected to pay their portion.

The most difficult part of bills and rent in Peru is the lack of a lease or any written contract! This leads to so much drama in town because without any sort of contract a tenant can just leave or be kicked out at any time.

One day I was talking with one of my neighbors and she was telling me she rented a room to a lawyer from out of town for almost a year and then one day the woman just left and never came back. She left the room locked and took the keys and she didn’t pack anything so the room was left full of stuff! Of course she was also almost 4 months late on rent and apparently all of her mail was still being sent to the house and one night she came back when she knew my neighbor was out of town and got all of the mail.

Unfortunately the police have no proof that the woman was actually living there all that time and owed back rent etc. so all my neighbor could do was change the locks and clean out the room. This all sounded very dramatic movie-like when I heard the story, but surprisingly since then I have heard of several similar situations. At the end of the day everyone just says “asi es” and moves on with life. It’s quite comical to think about how culturally different these scenarios are compared to the typical renting process in the states… but if you ever wanted to move to Peru for a month it would be really easy!!