No Contract, Strange Circumstances


Aug 16, 2009
OK, looking for some advice here...

About a month ago, I started renting an apartment in Recoleta. I saw the ad on Craigslist, called up the owner, and tried to arrange a viewing of it. I was temporarily staying in a hostel after my last contract ended, and that coming Friday I was going away for a few days to São Paulo. Needless to say, I desperately needed a place. As it turns out, I was not going to have the time to view it, so I told the woman to just have the contract ready to sign the following day. She sent me pictures, and everything looked OK to me.

The next day I get the keys. Well, there is no contract. It's just a silly receipt, and she doesn't even give me any copy of it. Of course, I think that this is weird, but I can't be bothered with this. I just handed her the money. The only records I have of how much I paid in rent and the deposit are in e-mails, which I think count for something.

So I move in, get comfortable. I try to see if my air conditioner is working, and (as I suspected) it wasn't. I know the AC is not necessary now, but it will be in January and February. (I reserved the place until February) I've been trying to get her to fix it, and of course nothing is happening.

Just last week, I'm walking into my building, and someone asks me if I live in BlahBlah apartment. I said that I did. The person then says, "I don't want to scare you or anything, but the last guy that lived there never got his deposit back. She told him that she left the deposit at home, that she was going to get it, and she never came back." I'm sure my reaction was priceless.

Yesterday the encargado slides something under my door: It's the building expenses for this month. I find my dpto #, and I see that this woman is like $3000 ARG behind! That's MONTHS of not paying. Also, the woman's name on the bills is not the name of this woman, nor the name of her daughter. Either someone else owns the place, or she lied about her name. She told me that she was a psychology professor at a university here, but a quick Google shows her as a lawyer specializing in international law.

There are just so many *seemingly* fishy things about all of this. I'm thinking about just not paying the next month's rent and demanding my deposit back. Of course, I will not physically leave the apartment until I get the deposit back. As far as I'm concerned, since the air conditioning has not been fixed, I have the right to leave? Anybody with experience in any of this have any thoughts/opinions? If I do decide to just not pay rent and ask for my deposit, what should I have handy that day?

Sorry, (though it's been a While since I've said it) welcome to hell.

I hope others who have never been to BA but are planning on "moving here" get the point.
You can easily check who the owner is at the Registro de la Propiedad Inmueble (not very expensive, but I'm not sure of the exact amount now). If you want I can help you obtain this. You can also get a credit report for the owner and for this woman; it's called "veraz" and you can get it at almost any locutorio for $ 21 each.
What to do is not easy to say. You have many courses of action. First of all, next time you have to pay the rent, you could demand a signed receipt that states what you are paying for (rent of apartment ...), the amount, and her name and DNI number. Maybe also threaten to withhold rent until she signs a contract (but be careful with this because if she is the owner or is legally representing the owner you could be in breach of contract). If you want, give me a call or send me an email and we can talk about your options (I won't charge you anything unless there's actual work to be done on my part). My email is [email protected], my phone number is on my webpage
Bradley - your action plan had me laughing out loud! The whole thing sounds super shady. I wouldn't pay the next month of rent unless you have a contract where it states the deposit you paid and the conditions for getting it back. I would also make sure it has the woman's name/DNI/address etc on the contract. I'm pretty sure an email wouldn't hold up. I wouldn't pay for Dec until you get that contract.
how many months are you renting the apartment for? How many months is the deposit equal to?
Attorney in BA said:
Maybe also threaten to withhold rent until she signs a contract (but be careful with this because if she is the owner or is legally representing the owner you could be in breach of contract).

Breach of what contract? There wasn't any formal contract signed. It was some receipt with my name, passport number, a one-liner that I was going to rent the place for three months at $500 USD a month with $200 USD deposit. I did sign it, but surely this cannot count as a legally-binding contract. Of course, I was too busy thinking about buying Brazilian coffee and walking down Oscar Freire in São Paulo to ask for a copy of this myself... *sigh* BTW, I've sent the owner's daughter 2 e-mails about getting a contract (one last week, one this week) and I've not heard anything.

I guess one of my major concerns is that if I refuse to pay rent and stay in Argentina, I could get involved in some nasty legal mess based on this little piece of paper and have to pay $800 USD to make up for the 2 months rent. I'll be sad to lose $200 USD. However, I'll be even sadder if I am roasting in this place for two months because she won't fix the AC, and I don't get my $200 USD back anyway.
bradlyhale said:
Breach of what contract? There wasn't any formal contract signed. (...) I did sign it, but surely this cannot count as a legally-binding contract.

That paper you signed is not a legally binding contract. It is, however, evidence that there was an agreement to rent the apartment. Lease contracts, their amendments and extensions must be made in writing. When a contract not made in writing has already begun to be executed, the term is considered to be the minimum established by law (law 23091, section 1).

"Ley 23091, Articulo 1º — Instrumentación. Los contratos de locaciones urbanas, así como también sus modificaciones y prórrogas, deberán formalizarse por escrito. Cuando el contrato no celebrado por escrito haya tenido principio de ejecución, se considerará como plazo el mínimo fijado en esta ley y el precio y su actualización los determinará el juez de acuerdo al valor y práctica de plaza."
I don't know. For $200 I wouldn't worry about it too much. I'd just pay the remainder for the last month I was there, ie. just the difference. The AC would be more of a "worry" for me. Tell her you need to start looking for a new place if she doesn't fix the AC.
Stand your ground on principle. If you withold rent for a while she will quickly come to you and when she does you will have the opportunity to negotiate airconditioner repair.

If she is dodgy, isn't the owner or is otherwise breaking the law (renting in 'negro'), she's unlikely to commence judicial action as the costs and exposure would be bad for her.

Find out where she lives and go visit her. Do you have her telephone number? Go to and use it to find her address from her telephone number.

There are many legal and creative things you can do to motivate her to action. :)