The majority of México City's population still rent and luckily, rental properties are plentiful and varied. Most renters need to be able to speak some Spanish to effectively rent property on an independent basis. If you only speak English and don't employ the use of an agent, your options may be limited and you may not end up negotiating the best deal possible.
It is important to know some of your rights as a tenant. It is always best to have a written lease so all the terms are understood by both parties. Always try to read and understand every aspect of the lease because later misunderstandings can be costly. If you are in any doubt about your contract, or if you cannot read and understand Spanish well, either use an agent, or get someone to translate it for you. Although the contract may have an English version, in a dispute, only the Spanish version will be recognized in Law. Your contract may specify a minimum term and also specify how much notice you have to give before you leave. Some rentals will have a 6 or 12 month minimum stay: some may be as short as a week, although the latter tend to be holiday homes or apartments and are likely to cost more.
Deposits tend to be the equivalent of 1 calendar month's rent, paid up front with your first month's rent. An inventory should be carried out with the agent or landlord, noting down any major defects that exist when you start the rental agreement. Any items missing or (further) damage would be charged to your deposit. Contract Terms usually state that you must pay the deposit and first month's rent in advance.
The neighborhoods, or colonias, of Centro Histórico, Zona Rosa, Polanco, Roma, Condesa and Lomas de Chapultepec are all fairly close each other and also to Paseo de la Reforma. These are the principal areas in the central part of the city that are most popular with tourists. Expatriates in México City tend to live in areas (called "Colonias") such as trendy Polanco, Condesa or Roma, while executives often migrate up the hills on the West of the city to Lomas de Chapultepec, Bosques de las Lomas or Santa Fe. A few adventurous foreigners wanting to get an authentic taste of the Mexican way of life settle in poetically named areas like Cuajimalpa, Narvarte, Tabacalera, etc.
In the southern part of the city the suburbs of San Angel and Coyoacan along with the Floating gardens of Xochimilco are places that should definitely be visited.
Once you have found some possibilities, it is time to get an appointment to see the apartment. Call as soon as possible because good apartments go fast. If you reach an answering machine, leave a clear, concise message; say that you are calling about the apartment and how you found out about it. Give your name and telephone number, and ask the person to call you back at his/her earliest convenience to schedule an appointment. You may follow up with another call in 24 hours if you do not get a call back because apartment renters can be very busy and won't return your call.
When arriving at the apartment, do not be alarmed if the realtor is late. This is fairly common and merely signifies many Mexicans relaxed relationship with time. Try to make a good impression at your appointment by arriving on time, dressing neatly, and behaving appropriately. When dealing directly with landlords, they tend to judge whether or not they want you to rent the property during their first meeting with you. How much rent you pay and what deposit is required can also be decided at this initial meeting. Feel free to ask questions like:
1) Ask about the availability of electric, water and gas - are they hooked up, or do you need to do this?
2) Is there a water pump (for pressure)? If so, is it automatic, or manual?
3) If there is gas, you are likely to need a gas cylinder - you may need to contract this yourself, and pay a deposit on the tank; some properties now have direct gas lines.
4) Ask about the state of the shower, and if there is a water purifier on the tap, ask if it requires maintenance (and when was the filter changed).
5) Is the phone connected?
6) Are there any maintenance problems you should know about? If its a house, and it has a garden, ask if there are any tools - or if the landlord knows a gardener you can hire. If there is a swimming pool, ask about its maintenance.
7) If there is a security alarm, ask how to operate it.