When I first arrived in Cuenca in 2011 there was barely a pulse of a real-estate market in the city. Generally, somebody new to Cuenca who sought a rental, or a house or condo to purchase would hire a translator for about $7.50 per hour; who would take the prospective buyer or renter to see possible properties and serve as an intermediary between the seller and the buyer, or the renter and the landlord. This method is still frequently used in Cuenca.
Since 2011, however, the real-estate market has also developed. More real-estate firms have been created, legally formalized, and generally will now charge a three percent commission. Rules and training, if any, for real-estate personnel, to the best of my knowledge, is left up to the individual agencies. There are no particular requirements and qualifications that require potential real-estate agents to earn a license of any sort.
One of the problems in using a real-estate person or a facilitator is that particularly where a property deed is needed, attorneys must be used to protect the buyer's interest. Attorneys will conduct the search needed to determine the number of deed owners, that all owners are indeed selling the property and sign-off on the property, and that the dimensions of the property being purchased are in fact stated in the deed and are accurate. The use of an attorney while not required by law is a must when buying property in Ecuador, if one wishes to protect one's rights when transacting real-estate.
Similarly, even a short-term rental should never be transacted without a lease involvement. Short-term lease rentals become more difficult to transact when the renter is in a foreign country, and attempts to transact a future rental long-distance. Oftentimes, a lease may not be signed until after the renter arrives in Ecuador. At a minimum before the renter forwards any money, any rental should involve paper-work which spells out the parties involve, the date of transaction, the duration of the lease and specific time parameters, the rental amount, and specific utilities involved, and whether or not pets are allowed, as well as the names and other information of the individual or lease firm involved. All of this can be transacted by Internet. More importantly, if you are using an individual or some type of rental management service be sure that you have access to the name, address, and phone number of the landlord. If the management service or individual will not provide such information do not use them.
The landlord information is very important. It often happens that an intermediary will charge an exorbitant security deposit or will hike up the price of rent whether short or long-term, if they are renting you the property. This is more likely to happen if you are to make your monthly payments to a manager instead of directly to the landlord. Such attempts are more likely when the landlord is living in the United States and will often not know that the person or agency representing the landlord is bilking the renters,
This week's post is primarily about one couple who had the misfortune of utilizing the services of one highly unscrupulous agent. The Nelsons are a couple who are avid followers of my blog post for years, and accredit my blog for a significant part of their allure to investigate Cuenca as a potential retirement site. No one traveling or moving to Cuenca should have to endure their experience. If anybody can inform us with the name and possible contact information of the American landlord who most likely has no idea what legal transactions have transpired, it would be much appreciated. Here is the story in Nelson and Rebecca Ellison's own words. (The only change I made was to bold face the name of Beth Nielsen Gavilanes throughout the text.):
Nelson Allison and Family
Hi fellow Gringos, my name is Nelson Allison. My wife Rebecca, my two adult sons Ben and Brian and I came to Ecuador for one month in February 2015 for a family vacation and to research it as a possible retirement location.
After arriving to our rental in Cuenca, I could not believe my luck to have rented the one condo in Cuenca where I would fall victim to a woman posing as a professional real estate rental agent who ruined our vacation with threats and attempts at extortion. Her name is Beth Nielsen Gavilanes. She somehow convinced the owner of apartment 13I in the Palermo building to let her list their condo at on HomeAway.com and take the position of managing agent.
Our story is below but is incomplete purposely because of ongoing litigation with Beth Nielsen Gavilanes.
If you have had a bad rental or real estate experience with Beth Nielsen Gavilanes — please post here or email me
We must stop people like her giving Cuenca a bad reputation. Please help! Our thanks in advance to you!
Nelson Allison and Family
Rebecca and I run a small resort of seven log cabins called Asheville River Cabins in North Carolina that we are looking to retire from soon.
One may ask by what qualifications can I make such a statement that this woman was not the professional she claims to be. Well, for one because I have been a professional real estate broker since as far back as the 70’s. Prior to that, I was a college professor. I also taught real estate courses as required by the licensing board. I was the owner of The Allison Company, a commercial real estate company in Raleigh, NC and the first to market multi-million dollar office condominium complexes in North Carolina.
I’m also a graduate of the Realtors Institute with a GRI designation. Rebecca was also a licensed broker as well as an appraiser. She worked with state government and rose to a position as head of the appraiser section in Asheville, NC. So yes, we are qualified to make a judgment call on the professionalism of someone who is engaged in real estate rental activities.
Our opinion is that lack of professionalism is too much of an understatement. Individuals with her lack of moral ethics should not be allowed to participate in this type of industry. In the U.S., if she were ever smart enough to pass the tests and get a license she would have lost it for the kind of activities she now engages in. In fact, that would just be the beginning of her problems in the U.S. Where what she is doing is considered a crime.
Extortion occurs when someone attempts to obtain money or property by threatening to commit a harmful action against the victim. In addition to fines, if a person is convicted of extortion she must often pay restitution to the victim
Extortion is also a crime in Ecuador like the U.S. but only after the act. But attempted extortion is called 'contravención' is a misdemeanor violation of law.
People like Beth Nielsen Gavilanes, must get excited as Ecuador is like the Wild West, and anything goes. For example, her threats and actions made on vacationing families like ours.
Since we did not give into her threats of eviction for more money, she preceded to turn off the cable TV and Wi-Fi service to the condo after the first week.
She sent threats saying that if we did not pay extra that she would show up with the Police and evict us. Our vacation was ruined by her actions!
My Ecuadorian attorney presented our case to the Court of Tenancy and won.
Special Judgment No. 0140120150062 following [NELSON BURGEN ALLISON] against [BETH ANN NIELSEN GAVILANES ] from the Court of Tenancy. Below is the Judgment:
62-2015 Cuenca, 26 February 2015. 15h12. SEEN:
BETH ANN NIELSEN GAVILANES in a totally abusive act without legal reason attempted to charge an additional payment after the reservation was made, the verbal contract closed and the payment made. The refusal of Mr. Allison to accept the illegality of the demand and make the extortion payment, inspired BETH ANN NIELSEN GAVILANES to implement a campaign of harassing emails. These emails threatened; to cancel the prepaid reservation and to bring the police to evict his family from the unit. BETH ANN NIELSEN GAVILANES then proceeded to turn-off Internet and cable TV service to the unit. This harassment made for an atmosphere of insecurity and a situation that undermines the peace and emotional stability of the visiting family.
Beth Nielsen Gavilanes was ordered by the court to proceed immediately to restore Internet and cable TV service to the property and to refrain from impeding or interfering with Mr. Allison’s lawful occupation of the property.
What was her response to this Special Judgment?
She did not turn the cable TV or the Wi-Fi back on, and she did not stop with her email threats of showing up at the door with the police to evict us at any moment.
Again, if you have had a bad experience with her; please post here or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We must stop people like her giving Cuenca a bad reputation. Please help!
Nelson Allison & Family