“Kathleen, if I rent an apartment in a foreign country, specifically in Central America, do I have to get preapproved and a credit check?”
–Joseph B., United States
If you’re renting short-term, you leave a deposit and pay the rent up front. No credit check or other documentation is required in most cases, as the presumption is that you are a tourist and will leave the country without hassle (that is, the owner doesn’t have to worry that you might refuse to vacate the property when the time comes).
If you’re renting long-term, it depends on where in the world you’re renting. The requirements are generally more lax in Latin America than in Europe. In France, even for a grey-market apartment rental (meaning a rental that doesn’t go through a rental agency…those rentals require a stack of documents thicker than your combined tax returns for the last 10 years, everything notarized), you’ll have to provide proof of income and/or assets and probably a local guarantor (this for sure if you’re not a legal resident of the country). To that end, you may be asked to show tax returns from back home, pay stubs, and/or bank statements.
In Latin America, the formal requirements for a long-term rental are less onerous; still, as a foreigner who is not a legal resident, you might have trouble finding a landlord comfortable renting to you, depending on where, specifically, you’re looking. Landlords don’t like renting to people who can just up and leave the country overnight. This has happened often here in Panama City, for example, and landlords in this town are gun shy these days.
Credit checks are typically only used and/or useful in the context of a mortgage application…meaning they’re relevant only in markets where it’s possible for a foreigner to borrow locally for the purchase of real estate. Banks in Panama, for example, will ask for a U.S. credit report from Americans and whatever is available in the UK for Brits when considering a mortgage application.
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