Accommodation in Brazil: scams you should look out for


Committing to renting or buying accommodation when you’re new to or have not moved to Brazil just yet is always a stressful endeavour. Would you like to help us in putting together a handbook of what to look out for when house hunting in Brazil?

What are the most common scams in Brazil?

What are the red flags to look out for when scanning through adverts?

Is there a list of registered or accredited landlords or real estate agencies in Brazil?

What authorities should be sought should one come across an accommodation scam?

Please share your experience,


My wife ,who is brazilian, bought our current house while I was still living know US. One of the main issues is proper water and electricity.  If the home is not new there might be a problem concerning water, like hidden leaks, misleading billing,and other people siphoning your supply.
This  is just  one issue. So always check if you have adequate water supply year round.

To secure a rental contract from an imobiliaria, they need one of the 3 things

1. A security deposit (caução). Your money is deposited in a bank and returned to you
    on your contract termination with interest.

2. An insurance (non-refundable) to cover damages to the rental property or rent

3. An "avalista." This is a person who would vouch and answer for you in cases of rent
    defaults, damages etc. He usually owns properties as a collateral and shows the deeds of ownership to the imobiliaria.

Few things above are important to watch out for, but specifically energia, if your not careful you will always have someone stealing your energy, best practice for monitoring these are look at your energia and agua notes. calculate out what your billed per litre with water in mind. will take some finesse but this will also help you identify how much water you waste. if its more than you calculated by a large sum, will either a) leak, b) someone stealing or c) inproper water distribution calculation ( happens alot if your in an older neighborhood ) that can be solved by having your provider attach a counter to your house so you can check it against the bill.

The above goes for energy, if you calculate out WpH and cost and how much your devices are also shows how much you waste. and easy enough to solve unless your casa is very old, then there could be exposed wires or something taking the charge albeit someone stealing.

As far as scams, Anything MLM generally isnt a benificial series of items, but in north america you will be scammed much faster than brazil.

If you are renting there are some things to look out for:

- Check the phone number to make sure it is a local number for where you are planning to rent.
- Never rent from someone that you have not met or at least have met the renting agent
- Use your common sense, if the rent is a lot lower than other similar rentals then you are probably at risk of a scam
- Reputable renters will typically require a reference called a fiadore, that person often must own property and is guaranteeing they will cover your rent or other liabilities.  Obviously, this can be difficult to find, there are some insurance companies that will do this and are called seguro fiança, I have not used one but I am sure the service is very costly.
- When renting a condo make sure you understand all of the various fees that you are required to pay in addition to your rent.  Condo fees can be much larger in some cases than in other countries.

Buying a property:

- There are significant risks in buying property in Brazil that is more complex than say in the United States.  I have read about an entire building owning many thousands of dollars for unpaid utilities.  When you buy the property then you also buy the liability.  You will need a skilled attorney to do the research to ensure this is not the case for a property you want to buy.
- Be aware that you also have no guarantee when you buy a property that there are no defects in construction. 
-  In less expensive properties you must understand that the owner may not have had the right to build in that location so you could face eviction if the true owner of the property requires you to vacate the location because it was built illegally. Again, you will need to find a good attorney to ensure you avoid issues like these.  The best way to find a good attorney is through recommendations from long term residents of Brazil.

During our apartment purchase last year, we had our own attorney, a person we trusted, originally recommended by our accountant, review all the paperwork and certifications to confirm that the title was clean.  She went with us to the Cartório to complete the "Escritura" and the transfer, and to the municipal office to ensure that the property was correctly registered  in our names with the taxing authorities.   We re-confirmed with the electric company that the account was clear ourselves, and put it in our names as of the transfer date.
Prior to agreeing to the purchase, we hired a civil engineer to inspect the building and the apartment, and proceeded with a clean bill of health from him.
In Brazil, as in most places, Cash is King.  If your finances and your time horizon allow you to purchase your property "a vista", you can push for a better price, and spare yourself the hassles and complications of arranging Brazilian financing, at Brazilian interest rates.

Yea from what i have seen is something to completely avoid altogether with the financing. things of nightmares. good if you can balance it out. but yikes!


If dealing with professionals, you should notice the transacting broker carries a license. These are badge type licenses with photos, and are renewed once in a year.   So ask for the CRECI Number, and you can double check the broker at the CRECI site. 

If the broker cannot show you an updated license, then you should not deal with him/her at all.   

On rentals it is common that most landlords will pay the broker fee for a qualified tenant. That means a 12-30 month term lease.   And the application fee as well.   

Still on rentals, you the tenant  will absorb costs such as rental rates, condominium fees, and property tax installments.  These items should be discrimnated on the lease term contract, unless the landlord agrees.

Utilties are paid by tennants unless otherwise stated.   

There are no fair housing laws, so you are bound to be discriminated by landlords and brokers alike witthout much explanation.  It should not surprise you they can deny you tenancy even without runing a credit check on you.   

Landlords and brokers can only demand one exclusive type of guarantee, therefore, by law they are excluded by demanding more than one type of guarantee..

Either one of the choices outlined beneath..
1.Three Months Security Deposit ( they do not count as rent money to be drawn out from )  or

2.Local Guarantor with property title ownership in the State the Lease is drawn, or

3. Renter's Insurance with the Premium dedicated towards the Landlord. The average cost of such insurance will add another 12-15% towards your monthly rental cost, or usually 1 month to month and half per a 12 month term. 

4.A "Titulo de Capitalizacao" meaning, a compulsory contribution towards a income bearing investment note, with payout due to the landlord or you, if no claim is directed towards you ( rent delinquency, destruction of property, not paying dues as outlined upon contract ).

Rental property livability standards.   
There are no provisions upon the local tenancy laws on what you apartment should be fitted with. Appliances, furniture, none. 

You will need to dig deeper here to find the items you will need to see in your rental unit or home.   Some landlords will fit apartments with appliances ( seldom a fridge ), as a matter of goodwill or good business practices. 

In Sao Paulo, at least you can resort to rent flats to overcome this shortcoming, elsewhere, you are on your own. 

In any event, do not every rent or buy anything sight unseen. 

IF you are to deal with the property owner directly, you will need to ask for a copy of the
"Matricula do Imovel" , basically this is a Title Ownership Certificate. where you will be able to track the property ownership from the first owner to the last one.  You should do this before you sign off on a lease, or in buying the said property. 

You might also consider to call the super, or the "Sindico" to see if the rental unit is in good standing on dues ( condo fees, taxes ), if you are to rent in a condominium type of u nit.   

In visiting the unit check for the following tell tales....

-Turn the fawcets on.  No water pressure, no sale.
-Expect lighting fixtures installed.
-Cabinetry and closets are expensive, possibly the highest expense you will incurr in fitting a home.  While you can makeshift with a wardrobe piece of furniture bought cheap, a closeted bedroom is a big plus.   
-Check the tile grout, ceilings for mold.
-In a residential building, check for the landscaping, garage parking, upkeep.  If not tidy, walk away. You are in Dump Central. 
-Stop coming out tenants on their tracks and ask questions. If you do not have command of the language, make sure your broker does so.  A flat out blunt question on how is the building should, for most part, give you the cues as to whether you are in a good place to rent. 
-Always, Alway check the curbside.  Clean curbsides = good places to dwell.
-Prostitutes love short rental apartments.  They seek for low rent and short terms, and many do take clients straight out of their apartments.   The last thing you want is to have a John to mistakenly knock out of your door!!!   Or a durg addict next door neighbor.  You some wild banshee in heat putting out the show next door so loud you can's sleep!!!!!   
You can spot such buildings by reading peer posting reviews from Johns who visit prostitutes.     So if you can stay away from flats in Sao Paulo.  !!!!!!!

Property purchasing tips on Due Dilligence.

1.Always use a licensed broker, preferably someone experienced.

2.Avoid all costs pre construction deals. You want to see what the unit looks likel

3.On new units , bare floors, no cabinets, no appliances are  a common sight. Most Brazilians will set aside money to deal with these expenses, as most want to customize their own places.   So do not be put off.  All you really need to do is to set a budget for furnishing and decoration. Most vendors ( flooring , kitchen appliances, cabinet makers ) will have some rule of thumb in cost depending on floor space, type of workmanship and materials you seek. 

4.Buyer beware. There are many inescrupulous brokers and sellers out there. You wil need to make due dilligence and run your own checklist.

5.Yes, foreigners can own title and deed of real estate property. No one is going to seize your holdings unless you are delinquent on property taxes , or on dues.  Just make sure when absent that the place is either occupied through a lease, or it is locked.

6.I do not recommend single homes for absentee owners.  Risk of squatter invasions, or outright claims are pervasive.   Stick to apartments.   

7.Get a Condominium statement of expenses to see where the money goes. Poorly managed condominiums have a way to creep monthly expenses on an exponential basis on a year to year .

8. Documents. There is not Title Insurance in Brazil, so you will need to be backed by clean records on the purchase. The seller will need to be spic span clean on the documentation

Here is a run down list of documents you will need to have before you sign off a Purchase and Sales Agreeent :

This is a list of Affidavits you will need to demand from the seller.

1.Certidao Negativa de Cartorios de Protesto de Titulos from the City where the property is located. Means no direct claims against the seller posted on the City Courts
for unpaid debts, taxes, misdeeds. This one is paid by the seller and it needs to be notarized.
2.Matrícula do Imovel.  This is an equivalent to the title of Deed. You will need to see the authentic notarized copy.

These beneath are all free, you can even pull them yourself if you have the proper ID ( CPF and or CNPJ )

3.Certidão Negativa da PrefeiturasRecolhimento da TRSD ( This is the City's Rubish Gathering Fee )
4.Declaração negativa de débitos condominiais +  ata da assembleia que o elegeu ( means the unit is free and clean of condo dues, and you will need a minute ran by the condo
association ratifying the elected condo assocation president for the term year )
5.Certidão Negativa Conjunta de Débitos de Tributos e de Contribuições Federais e Dívida Ativa da União,
Means your seller is up to date on taxes, due owed to the Federal Goverment
6.Certidão Negativa do Distribuidor da Justiça Federal, do período de 10 anos anteriores a esta data;
Vouching there are no penalties levvied against the seller by the Federal Government for the last 10 years
7.Certidão Negativa do Distribuidor de Feitos Trabalhistas, do período de 5 anos anteriores a esta data;
This is to vouch your seller has not short changed employees for the last five years and there are no labor claims against the seller.
8.Certidão Negativa de Débitos Trabalhistas (CNDT); More of the same as above. IT means to provide there are no outsdanding labor dues against the seller.
Certidão Negativa da Dívida Ativa Estadual;  There are no logged State Taxes or Debts accrued against the seller
9.Certidão Negativa do Distribuidor da Justiça Estadual, referente a Ações Cíveis, Família e Sucessões e Executivos Fiscais,
This means no Lawsuits, Estate Disputes, or Liens are exacted against the seller.
10.Certidão Negativa do Distribuidor de Falência e Concordata; No Bankrupcies have been filed against the seller
11.Certidão de Regularidade do FGTS; Means the seller, as an employer, has been paying regularly workers deductible contributions towards an employee term contribution.

12.If the seller is an individual, then it will need to provide its CPF ID number.
If the seller is a business entity or a non profit, then it will need to come up with the CNPJ Tax ID, as well as its founding charter, name of executives, their CPF IDs,
and its legal registration within the local Chamber of Commerce ( Junta Comercial )

13.Also you will need to see that the Property Tax Due  ( IPTU )  is up to date, this is also a free certificate you can draw online.

14.Plus copy of the seller's legal Photo ID, and proof of residency.

Also, the same above set if the seller has a spouse. 

The list does not end here, but the above referenced items is pretty much the standard set. Failure to come up with any item should be ground to not continue to pursue the property
buying process.

On all the above reference Affidavits you will need to see Negativo or there is no claims against the seller in each and every item. 

Who pays the commission. The Seller.

Title transfer, Stamps, and Taxes are paid by the Buyer. The Cartorio Fee is pretty much straight forward, the fees are all under a published pricing sheet.

The Tranfer Fee ( ITBI ) is levvied upon the highest value ( venal or negotiated ), and usually goes around 4%. depending on the municipality and state. 

You may use a lawyer if you desire so, but you are not obligated to do so.   

That should be it.

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