Real estate agencies in Medellín and Colombia typically require a fiador (cosigner) for renting unfurnished apartments. But this fiador requirement can be overcome. I have successfully rented unfurnished apartments in Medellín for over eight years without a fiador or cosigner.
We previously looking at overcoming the fiador requirement in our guide to renting unfurnished apartments. Several Medellin Guru readers have asked about overcoming the fiador requirement. So, we look at this topic in more detail in this article.
Note the above photo is of apartment buildings in the Medellin metro area.
What is the Fiador Requirement?
First, what is a fiador? Once you start looking at unfurnished apartments in Colombia you will quickly find that real estate agents in Colombia generally require a fiador. Fiadors are not unique to Colombia and are common in other countries in Latin America such as Mexico and Peru.
A fiador is essentially a cosigner who guarantees a tenant pays rent. So, the real estate agent can go after the fiador of the tenant stops paying rent. In addition, a fiador must be an owner of local real estate.
Under Colombian rules, a real estate agent is normally responsible for collecting rent. Essentially you have a contract with the real estate agent and the real estate agent has a separate contract with the apartment owner. And the real estate agent pockets the difference between the two contracts as his commission.
So, the real estate agent is responsible for collecting rent from the tenant and paying the owner. And this is why almost all real estate agents require a fiador.
When I first started looking for unfurnished apartments in Medellín nearly eight years ago, I was immediately frustrated as all the real estate agencies asked for a fiador. And some agents wouldn’t even show me apartments unless I had a fiador.
Overcoming the Fiador Requirement in Medellín and Colombia
There are several ways to overcome the fiador requirement. The most common ways to overcome this requirement include:
- Paying rent in advance
- Renting directly from an owner
- Pay a deposit
- Use a CDT as a security deposit
We look at each of these methods in more detail.
1. Overcoming the Fiador Requirement – Paying Rent in Advance
Over eight years ago when I first looked for unfurnished apartments, every real estate agent I talked to wanted a fiador. So, how did I overcome this fiador requirement?
I first started looking for apartments by walking around and calling numbers posted on rental signs on apartment windows. And I found one I liked and wanted to rent.
But the real estate agent wanted a fiador, which I clearly didn’t have as a foreigner. So, I said I didn’t have a fiador but asked what if I paid six months of rent in advance.
This agent didn’t have any experience in renting to foreigners eight years ago. So, she called her lawyer and also the apartment owner. And both were OK with my paying six months of rent in advance without a fiador. So, I signed a six-month rental contract and paid six months of rent in advance and received the keys the same day.
So, one way to avoid the fiador requirement is to pay rent in advance. But not many real estate agencies will permit this.
However, some real estate agents are willing to lease apartments without a fiador but will require paying rent in advance. But agents like this are hard to find. I rented for over five years by paying rent in advance with a real estate agent.
2. Overcoming the Fiador Requirement – Rent from an Owner
Another way to avoid the fiador requirement is to rent directly from an owner where everything becomes negotiable. So, if you can find out the owner contact information for an available furnished apartment you can negotiate everything including the fiador requirement.
First, the fiador requirement becomes negotiable and may not be needed when renting from an owner. And second, you avoid the real estate agent commission, which can be at least 7-10 percent or even higher. So, you can negotiate a lower rent payment by renting directly from an owner.
However, it can be challenging to find owner contact information. Some porterias (doorman) in high-rise apartment buildings may have owner contact information. But for buildings without porterias this can be difficult. Also, this requires walking around neighborhoods to find available apartments and sweet talking porterias to get owner contact information.
For several years, I rented directly from an owner without a fiador and I paid rent in advance.
3. Overcoming the Fiador Requirement – Pay a Deposit
Some real estate agencies will rent unfurnished apartments without a fiador if you pay a deposit. I recently talked to an expat who paid a six-month deposit to a real estate agency when he didn’t have a fiador.
However, I have talked to several expats over the past few years that paid deposits directly to a real estate agency and had problems getting their deposit back. So, we recommend never paying a deposit directly to a real estate agency. Also, keep in mind deposits cannot legally be part of a rental contract in Colombia.
But deposits sometimes are established not part of the contract with a real estate agency or through an intermediary such as a company like El Liberatador. We recommend only doing this with an intermediary.
4. Overcoming the Fiador Requirement – Use a CDT as Security Deposit
When I first started renting unfurnished apartments over eight years ago no real estate agency mentioned using a CDT as an option. But this is now common. A CDT is essentially a CD at a Bank. And there are companies like El Libertador, which many real estate agencies work with.
El Libertador investigates and analyze the documents for a rental application to determine the economic solvency of the potential tenants looking to lease property. This company essentially evaluates your safety as a tenant by looking at economic activity you have inside Colombia.
And El Libertador determines how big of a deposit is needed in the form of a CDT at a bank if a renter doesn’t have a fiador. This is typically anywhere from 5 to 9 months but could be longer. One expat I talked to needed a 1-year CDT due to not really being established in Colombia.
It is now common for real estate agencies to recommend using a CDT if you don’t have a fiador. I spent the past two weeks looking at apartments with my Colombian wife. And we talked to four different real estate agencies and they all said we could rent without a fiador with a CDT.
The way this works is you open a CDT with a bank with some restrictions. You can’t withdraw the funds and essentially this is a security deposit for the real estate agency if you don’t pay rent. You need to pay rent monthly as specified in your rental contract. And at the end of the lease you get the funds in the CDT back.
The CDT appears to be used by many real estate agencies to rent with renters without a fiador.
When I rented a casa (house) in Sabaneta, no fiador was required with the real estate agency. But I needed to get a 5-month CDT to avoid the fiador requirement. The process to get the CDT and rent the apartment took less than a week.
My Experiences Renting Unfurnished Apartments
I have signed rental contracts for unfurnished apartments in Colombia for a total of over eight years without a fiador.
And during this time, I never paid a deposit and never had a fiador. I was able to avoid the fiador requirement by either paying rent in advance with real estate agents or paying rent in advance directly with an owner. And I was able to rent a case (house) without a fiador by using a CDT>
In addition, I have met many other expats living in Medellín that also rent apartments without a fiador. Several expats I have talked to recently have used a CDT to overcome the fiador requirement. The CDT appears to have made renting unfurnished apartments easier than in the past.
Using Real Estate Agencies to Look for Apartments and Houses
The big benefit of using a real estate agent when looking for unfurnished apartments and houses is that there are not really exclusive listings in Colombia. So, a real estate agent can show you any available property (if they can find the owner).
Also, many real estate agencies now support using a CDT for renters without a fiador. In my recent experience four out of four different real estate agencies we talked to use CDTs for renters without fiadors. In addition, keep in mind that real estate agents in Colombia don’t charge for showing apartments and houses.
Beware of some relocation services in Medellín and Colombia that charge clients for looking for apartments. Why pay when real estate agents will show unfurnished apartments and homes for free? For example, we recently looked at six apartments and two casas (houses) in one day from two real estate agents and paid nothing.
Medellin Guru’s Guide to Renting Apartments and Choosing a Neighborhood
On the Medellin Guru website, we have a comprehensive and up-to-date guide to renting apartments and choosing a neighborhood in Medellín found in several articles, including:
Renting Unfurnished Apartments:
- Apartment Rental Guide: Renting Unfurnished Apartments in Medellín
- Guide to Finding Unfurnished Apartments in Medellín and Casas
- Guide to Overcoming the Fiador (Cosigner) Requirement in Colombia
- 2019 Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs in Medellín
- 6 Inexpensive Neighborhoods for Unfurnished Rentals in Medellín
- Furnishing Apartments: A Guide to Furnishing Apartments in Medellín
- Apartment vs Casa (House) Rentals in Medellín: Pros and Cons
Renting Furnished Apartments:
- Furnished Apartment Rental Costs in Medellín – 2019 Survey Results
- Guide to Finding a Furnished Room for Rent in Medellín
- Medellín Real Estate: 2020 Property Buyer’s Guide for Foreigners
- Top 17 Mistakes Foreigners Make When Buying Real Estate in Colombia
- Current Costs to Buy New Apartments in Medellín – 2019 Update
- Rent vs Buy: Downsides of Renting and Buying Property in Medellín
- 11 Things Real Estate Agents in Colombia May Not Tell You
- How to Obtain an Investment Visa for Investments in Real Estate
Choosing a Neighborhood in Medellín:
Also, we have several articles that can be used to help foreigners choose a neighborhood in Medellín:
- What are the Safest Neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley?
- 5 Best Neighborhoods in Medellín: A Guide to Choosing a Neighborhood
- 8 Downsides of El Poblado: Living in Medellín’s Expensive Neighborhood
- Estratos: A Guide to Understanding Estratos in Colombia
- El Poblado vs Laureles: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- El Poblado vs Envigado: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- El Poblado vs Sabaneta: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- El Poblado vs Belén: Which is the Better Neighborhood to Live in?
- 2019 Unfurnished Apartment Rental Costs in Medellín in 5 Neighborhoods Popular with Expats
- 6 Inexpensive Neighborhoods for Unfurnished Rentals in Medellín
The Bottom Line: Overcoming the Fiador Requirement
When I first started looking at unfurnished apartments in Medellín over eight years ago, I was quickly frustrated with the fiador requirement, as I am sure many expats have experienced.
Renting unfurnished apartments in Medellín and Colombia is more difficult than renting furnished apartments in my experience. But renting unfurnished apartments appears to now be easier than when I first started renting over eight years ago.
The fiador requirement is a common challenge to overcome when renting unfurnished apartments in Colombia. Almost all real estate agencies will have a fiador requirement. But this fiador requirement can be overcome in several ways including paying rent in advance, renting directly from an owner and providing a security deposit in the form of a CDT.
Also, the CDT security deposit now appears to be commonly used by real estate agencies for renters without fiadors. So, if you have sufficient funds for a CDT deposit, it can be relatively easy to rent an unfurnished apartment in Medellín and Colombia.
Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.
Editor note: updated on December 2, 2020 with more current information.
Thanks this is a very helpful post that should be required reading for any foreigner moving to Colombia. I rented from a real estate agency and needed to get a CDT valued at 6 months rent since I was new to Colombia. I found the process easy and the real estate agent I worked with showed me 16 apartments for free before I found one I liked.
Thanks for this post! Your apartment rental articles have likely helped many foreigners. I especially like your articles about apartment rental prices. Do you plan to also cover apartment rental prices when buying?
Hi Dan, thanks. Yes, we plan to look at buying properties as well — including market pricing in different neighborhoods and the buying process. But this will take time to research.
When I first got to town I agreed to pay a rental agency a deposit and was happy to do it. But when I paid the rent in cash I notced that the receipts were not for the right month. They showed me as having just paid for months well into the future. I didn’t say anything to the agency but asked around and found out that, as explained above, deposits are not valid in contracts so instead of paying the rent every month I tried paying it every other month until the deposit was back in my hands. It worked. They never said a word because their records showed those missed months as already paid.
After the lease expired I was on month to month, and another good thing happened. Most of the residents in my building own their units and as I became known as stable I was approached by one of the owners to rent his apartment with a spectacular view. No deposit, no fiador, no outrageous yearly increases in rent. I’ll never be this lucky again.
This is an excellent overview and matches my experience exactly.
I would have one caution to anyone reading this. There are some unscrupulous people (generally gringos) in Medellin and surrounding communities that promote rentals with no fiador, but with a deposit (which you will never see again). The disappearing deposit is not the only problem you are likely to experience with them.
My advice is that when you consider renting from someone that advertises in English that there is no fiador required, that you mention it on one of the many Medellin Expat Facebook forums with the name of the person or agency. You will likely get some immediate feedback from people that have experiences the persons you are thinking of renting from.
Hi Jeff, one question what is your view about furnished apartments? Can we use the 4 methods explained or what is the difference?
Renting furnished apartments is much easier. For example you can use Airbnb which has the largest selection of furnished apartments in Medellín and you are protected by Airbnb’s system and can use credit cards. We surveyed 750 furnished apartments in Medellín and none required a fiador (cosigner) and none required a CDT security deposit. See: https://medellinguru.com/furnished-apartment-rental-costs/. But 60 percent required a security deposit that ranged from $100 to $500 and averaged $215 and is typically paid with a credit card or cash. And most furnished rentals you have to pay in advance for the term of the rental.
Can you guys recommend a good real estate agent/s (that you worked with) to search an apartment in Medellin? Thanks in advance!
The real estate agency we recently rented from is Arrendamientos Envigado – https://www.arrendamientosenvigadosa.com/. This is a sizable real estate agency, which specializes in unfurnished rentals and they have over 100 employees. They primarily rent properties in the southern part of the metro area like Envigado, Sabaneta and Itagüí but also rent some properties in El Poblado. Their office is near Parque Engigado. And the agent we worked with only spoke Spanish but they told me they also have someone working there who is bilingual – English and Spanish.
Thanks Jeff! I will contact them. I’m looking for places in the southern areas. Appreciate the help!