The complicated relationships between expats and landlords

By Daniel Otero Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/26 19:08:39

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Usually it's a relationship which is dysfunctional in every way from the beginning. It starts with a culture that doesn't deal with fully disclosing what's going on and ends with over-aggressive foreigners who feel taken advantage of at every corner.

Take a breath and learn what's going on before overacting. It's a culture shock, indeed. It doesn't get any easier with an employer who either won't pay for hotel services or won't pay a foreigner for that first week's stay before moving into the apartment.

Once an apartment is found, it's another turmoil of events, and in most situations the foreigner is hustled several hundred yuan on the side. Some landlords see foreigners as a "money pit."

First and foremost, foreigners arriving in China must pay two months' rent in advance in some cities: one month's rent and the other is for the deposit. In some provinces you can be charged up to three months in advance.

The other most common problem is the language barrier and misunderstandings. I had to learn these steps the hard way. It wasn't after my first-three months in China that I learned the ins and outs of renting.

When first arriving in China, it's the employer who deals directly with the landlord. This in itself is another barrier. Then a fourth party comes into the mix, an agent who has to find the apartment, and that person wants to get their commission, either from you or your bosses. Cheating does occur; therefore, be aware!

Contracts are completely in Chinese. If and whenever possible have a translator. Before paying anything, check if everything works. Once the contract has been explained, add to it and makes things clear. If anything is broken or breaks, the landlord is responsible for the fixtures. However, to be fairly clear, what's broken by the tenant (foreigner) will be paid by him or her.

Notify your school or company if there's any problem. They ought to respond immediately and call the landlord. In some cases, the employer does respond quickly. In other cases, the employer couldn't care less. I've been on both sides.

Be prepared for a visit from your landlord when least expected. It is common in China for landlords to just show up unannounced at your door with a maintenance professional.

Save all your utility bills to prove what you have or haven't paid for. Sadly, and this was another lesson I had to learn, never leave money laying around. In my life, I have mostly dealt with decent landlords. But on two occasions the guys were dirtbags.

Keep your valuables in a safe and money whenever possible in the bank. A good portion of things nowadays can be automated, so avoid having too much cash inside your apartment.

Keep your relationship as friendly as possible with your landlord. If there's a disagreement, bring in a third party to help you out. Some people call the cops at any little disagreement.

But police are most reasonably used when there has been a robbery or something goes missing of great value and you're 100 percent certain it was there and then it was not. Other than that, call local law enforcement when there's an emergency. Don't bother them over petty things!

Above all, while in China improve your language skills so things can go smoother and your relationship can become better with your landlord.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

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