Renting in Portugal is an important consideration for many new arrivals to the country. Even if you intend to buy property in the long term, renting for a year (or even a few months) allows you to get a feel for the country before making a more permanent investment.
Renting in Portugal can also be an important step when applying for certain Portugal visas, including the popular D7 passive income visa.
In this article, we walk you through the process of renting in Portugal, including how to get started with finding a rental property, what to look out for, and specific strategies for the D7 visa.
Finding a rental property in Portugal
Portugal has a wide range of rental options available, from spacious villas by the sea, to compact apartments in the city center.
But finding a place to rent in Portugal can be a minefield. There are plenty of options available, but narrowing down the right one is often challenging. What’s more, once you find an apartment you like, you then have to deal with all the legal aspects of securing the rental and moving in.
Real estate agents
One common route for renting in Portugal is by working directly with an estate agent. This is most common for rentals of 12 months or more. Many agents won’t handle rentals for any shorter periods. In Portugal, the agents charge their fees to the landlord, not the tenant. You shouldn’t need to pay anything to an agent to help you with your search. Large real estate agencies nationwide include ReMax, Century 21 and Keller Williams (KW).
Online property search platforms
One of the most common starting points for new arrivals in Portugal is the idealista.pt website. It covers the whole country, with a wide range of houses and apartments both for sale and for rent, via an easy to use interface.
I particularly like the feature where you can draw out your own area on the Idealista map, so the website will only show you properties within that area. This is very useful if you don’t yet know the names of all the different areas in your new city.
However, one drawback with the idealista website is the low frequency of updates. You’re likely to find properties still listed even after they’ve been sold or rented out, so it can sometimes be misleading. But nevertheless, it’s a useful resource for the early stages, to help you get a feel for property quality and price points in your local area when renting in Portugal.
Online groups and forums
If you’d rather go direct to the landlord, then online groups and forums can be ideal hunting grounds for your perfect rental property.
They’re also a useful source if you’re looking for shared or temporary accommodation, which many agents don’t handle.
Facebook Marketplace is a good place to start. You could also try posting your request on one of the expat or community groups for your local area in Portugal.
Watch out for scammers. If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Never pay anything before signing a contract and receiving the key. Use your best judgement and be prepared to walk away if something feels wrong.
Typical costs of renting in Portugal
Costs for renting in Portugal vary widely depending on location. Lisbon is probably the most expensive place in the country for renting, closely followed by nearby areas like Cascais.
A good quality one bedroom apartment in central Lisbon would typically cost around €1,000 a month. Utilities (electricity, water, gas, internet) for a place of that size would typically cost around €100-150 per month.
You can find more affordable options if you’re willing to live out of the center, or don’t mind living in a less modern apartment. With the latter, be careful about poor insulation, as this can lead to an uncomfortably cold internal environment during the Lisbon winters.
Portugal’s second city Porto is slightly cheaper than Lisbon, but not by much. In central and rural areas of Portugal, rental prices are far lower. I’ve seen two bedroom apartments rented for €300 or €400 per month. It’s worth browsing online portals, such as Idealista, to see just how big the price differences are.
In Madeira, the capital city of Funchal is rapidly catching up with Lisbon and Porto, but good bargains can still be found. For example, I’m currently renting a furnished two bedroom in the city centre for €700 including utilities. Prices will be higher for top floor apartments, apartments with large verandas, sea views, or extremely modern refurbishment.
Rental contracts in Portugal: key points
It’s common when renting in Portugal for landlords to ask for large deposits, especially if they’re renting to a foreigner. When I was hunting for an apartment in Lisbon, several landlords wanted a security deposit of two or even three months’ rent.
This is risky for several reasons. Firstly, Portugal doesn’t have a third-party deposit protection scheme like you’d find in the UK. That means your deposit money will be held directly by the landlord. If they spend it all, or go bankrupt, then your money will be lost.
There’s also the issue of deposit disputes, which are unfortunately very common. With a deposit protection scheme, the tenant can challenge the landlord on any deductions from the deposit. But when renting in Portugal, it will typically be your word against the landlord’s, even if you have a contract in place.
Even with a contract, you’d need to take the landlord to court in order to enforce it. Going to court in Portugal is a notoriously slow and expensive process. So in that situation, it probably wouldn’t make financial sense to do so. All in all, this creates a strong case for negotiating with potential landlords to let you pay a security deposit of only one month, especially if you only want to rent for 12 months.
For extra protection, some tenants end up asking the landlord to use their deposit as the last months’ rent. If you can manage this, it’s a good way to protect yourself from unforeseen deposit disputes, although some landlords will strongly object.
Finally, it’s better to meet your landlord in person before attempting to negotiate a lower deposit. If you establish a good rapport with them, then it’s more likely they’ll let you pay just one month.
Using a guarantor
Some landlords will ask you to provide a guarantor, (fiador in Portuguese). This would be someone already resident in Portugal, who would take responsibility for paying your rent if you couldn’t. As a new arrival in the country, finding a guarantor will probably be difficult. If you encounter a landlord asking for a guarantor, it’s better to keep looking until you find one willing to accept you without one.
Getting a NIF
You’ll need a NIF (Portugal’s tax number) to use on the rental contract. If you’ve already registered your NIF to your original overseas address, that’s still fine. You can update the NIF with your new Portuguese address later down the line. NB: this is also an essential step in applying for NHR tax status.
There are several ways to get a NIF. If you’re already in Portugal, you can go in person to your nearest Finanças office to ask for the NIF. NB: if your current address is outside the EU (which now includes the UK), you’ll need to find someone to act as your fiscal representative, then have them accompany you to Finanças.
If you’re outside Portugal and/or need a NIF quickly, Bordr offer a convenient online NIF service. Check out all Bordr packages here, which include opening a Portuguese bank account for you. You can get a discount on all Bordr services using the code DIGITALEMIGRE at checkout.
Adding a break clause
Life happens, and people’s situations change. To cover yourself in these instances, it’s useful to include a break clause in your contract, to allow you to leave the property earlier than the contract end date. Typically, this is at the six-month point. We strongly recommend asking for a break clause in your contract if you’re using it for your D7 visa application. Again, not every landlord will agree to this, so you may need to ask around before finding one who will.
Language of the contract
Your rental contract will typically be made out in two languages, Portuguese with English alongside. It’s important to note that the Portuguese version is legally binding, with the English translation provided simply for convenience. Landlords aren’t legally obliged to provide an English translation, but most will do so to make life easier for a foreign tenant.
Registering the contract
For your rental contract to be fully legal, your landlord needs to register it with the tax authority (Finanças). It’s quite common for landlords not to do this, to avoid paying tax on the income from your rent. But renting in Portugal with an unregistered contract may cause problems for you in the future. So you should ask your landlord to register it with Finanças. Be wary of those that refuse.
Renting in Portugal for your D7 visa application
12 month lease needed
If you’re moving to Portugal on the D7 passive income visa, it’s becoming increasingly common for embassies to require proof of having a 12 month rental contract before issuing you with the visa.
Previously, many embassies would accept proof of short-term accommodation, such as a hotel booking or Airbnb rental. But now, with a large influx in new D7 visa applicants, embassy requirements for the D7 visa are becoming more strict.
This situation is very inconvenient for D7 visa applicants. They now need to make a commitment to Portugal before even knowing if their visa will be approved.
We’ve discussed this issue with our legal partners and developed several strategies to make this process easier for the potential applicant.
Possible solutions for 12 month lease issue
If you come from a country that can freely enter Portugal as a tourist and stay for 90 days, then it’s worth using this opportunity to visit the country and look for suitable rentals. Portugal is a country where everything works better in person.
However, if you’re from a country which needs a Schengen Visa to enter Portugal, then you might be more reluctant to apply for this ahead of your D7.
We can refer you to one of our partner real estate agents, who are well-versed in helping applicants secure rental properties remotely. They can often arrange video viewings to help you feel more secure in moving forward with the rental. We can also arrange for a lawyer to review any rental contracts from potential landlords, or prepare a new one for you from scratch. Contact us for more details.
Living with a friend
If you already have friends in Portugal, this is a convenient and low risk method to use for your D7 visa application. You’ll need to ask your friend to write you a letter, known as Termo de Responsabilidade (Term of Responsibility).
The letter should include your friend’s name, their address in Portugal, their ID number (such as passport). The embassy may also ask for a copy of the ID. The text of the letter should state that you will live with them for 12 months.
In the past, many D7 visa applicants used short-term rental options such as Airbnb. Earlier in 2021, many would accept a hotel booking as proof of accommodation for the visa.
But now, more and more Portuguese embassies ask for longer-term proof, such as the 12 month rental contract. These requirements can vary from one embassy to another, even within the same country.
For example, in the UK, the Portuguese embassy in London currently requires the contract, while the embassy in Manchester (so far) doesn’t. If your nearest Portuguese Embassy still allows short-term options, we recommend Flatio as a good alternative to Airbnb.