It’s Not All Chivitos and Ponies – part 1

No, not everything about Uruguay is bliss. Lisa Marie and I do think it’s a great country overall, are glad we moved here, and do believe that Uruguay has many opportunities and varied modes of expat life. But some things are a pain in the butt, and not just because “all countries are different”, but because some things are just annoying.

Finding out that you as a rental tenant are responsible for the cost of repairing the badly-installed kitchen sink faucet when it breaks loose and water sprays everywhere, for example. Bad landlords and bad rental management companies are everywhere, of course.

But the “liability is on the tenant even for a built-in item failure in a less than 1-year-old building” policy rather sucks, to use the technical term.


Note the lovely Leaning Tower of Faucet in this shot. If the agent had told us this the first three times Lisa reported it to him, we would have gotten it fixed earlier for likely less cost.

OK, learn the rules of the game, you’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. (Thankfully I never was in Kansas except crossing it when going to Colorado, and speaking of Toto, sometimes here the rains are in from Africa.)

Planing down the door frame today because once again with the rains in from wherever the wood expanded and the door was badly sticking (as in locked-in) wasn’t my fun plan for lunchtime either. But since the agent and the dueño sent totally incompetent workers the last time this happened, who ignored the obviously too-wide door and cut down its length instead, screw it. Home Improvement time.

I will no doubt get in trouble for this because the agent will decide it is the dueño’s responsibility and this should not have “damaged” the doorframe. ¿Como se dice en español «Dude, if I can’t get out of my house I can’t bring you the rent»?

Uruguayan construction, at least at the modest end which is where we’re abiding, is living up to it’s reputation for shoddiness. The core brick, cinderblock, stucco, stone, tile construction of our little 5-casita building (basically 1-story townhouses) is fine. You could huff and puff and not blow these things down. As proven in part by 3 weeks ago’s “no cyclones/hurricanes in Uruguay” cyclone.

But the fixtures and standard of care of installation is crap. Doors too wide but giant bottom gaps far more than what Correo Uruguayo needs to deliver the mail to their “under the door” standard. (If the damn Correo could even find our casita no matter which form of address I use in this town without street numbers for building address.) The stuck door thing in humidity is supposedly common, which implies badly cured and sealed wood in regular use for doors. Maybe the good wood is used only to cook dinner? Electric fixtures that short out with a surge all the way to the meter breaker outside, and then a circuit breaker panel that had to be completely rewired 3 months ago.

And no building code inspectors or certificate of occupancy/habitability required. At least not in practice regardless of whatever laws there may be. I was the first tenant in this building, moving in last December 1 while Lisa was briefly back in the States. One or both of us was in our temporary rental here in Atlántida the three months preceding, while this place was being built. We often wandered over to see the construction. They completed it only days before I moved in, and there were no inspectors nor permits involved. Months later, someone came by, told Lisa she was the building inspector, popped her head in, barely looked around, and left.

If you read my non-travel/expat social streams like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc., you know that I’m kind of a free-market, libertarian-leaning, lessen-regulation guy. But that’s regarding USA politics and its highly-regulated economy (Well-regulated? That’s a whole different story. But highly, yes.) Methinks that in Uruguay, we could use a tad more regulation, in areas like building code enforcement and tenant rights.

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Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at