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Looking for a home / Difficulties with a landlord? (Beijing)

I have just read about the plight of another member who failed to obtain the return of her security deposit from her landlord / landlady Protected content .

Unfortunately all too many landlords and landladies regard a security deposit as their bonus after satisfactory completion of a tenancy agreement. I therefore thought some members might find the following information helpful.

Litigation during or after a tenancy may also cost more than the deposit. For some people I well appreciate such may be a matter of principle – but principles can be expensive, and a luxury that not everyone can afford.

One can mitigate the risk, and prevention is always better than the cure. So, I thought a little advice might be helpful to other members for the future.

Unfortunately, all too many Non-Chinese readers make the mistake of not using a trustworthy agent who would check the Chinese and English text in a tenancy agreement have a common meaning.

Some readers will ask how can one find out if that agent is trustworthy or not is an important question?

1) Ask for references from the agent – other clients of that agent, whom you can call direct, or ask a friend, or colleague, who has moved homes in Beijing.

2) Also, don’t deal with a very young junior at a property agency (real estate agent) – try to make sure you are dealing with the boss (the leader).

3) Further, also remember that if you are dealing with a landlord or landlady direct it is still worth paying a local bi-lingual professional to negotiate for you, to check your agreement, and to try to secure the terms you want. This service may cost the equivalent of a week’s or ten days rent, but it could also save you both problems during your tenancy, and at the end. Imagine if you have a water leak and your landlord or landlady lives a long way away. A good agent will, if the management company cannot solve the problem, know good trades persons, and will agree with the landlord about deducting the payment from one’s rent.

A D-I-Y job of finding one’s own apartment, and doing everything ones self can be very risky, unless one knows Chinese (spoken and written), understands Chinese property law, and is a good negotiator with local people.

In many developed countries a prudent prospective tenant will employ a lawyer to check a tenancy agreement, and / or negotiate the terms of the tenancy. This is certainly something one can do here as well. Unfortunately, many non-Chinese are easily drawn in by the words that one is signing a ‘standard contract’. Every contract is negotiable. It may be based on a standard contract, but it should be amended to suit the prospective tenant.

However, the best route is to employ your own agent to search for you, check out property to save you wasted trips, and to negotiate for you. Such an agent will ‘work for you’ and not the landlord. Of course you will need to pay for this service. If one is planning to stay here for longer than one year, ask the agent to agree a longer term. My agent negotiated a three- year term that has since been renewed twice. The savings over seven years now totals a six-figure sum.

Undoubtedly, it pays to use an agent who will also act as your ‘go-between’ with your landlord or landlady throughout one’s tenancy, and who will deal with communications with the management company overcoming any language barriers.

Certainly, to use an agent who speaks and reads fluently in both Chinese and English.

Of great importance, use an agent to find your apartment who will also manage your exit from a rented property.

A prospective tenant is often far too involved in how good a deal she or he can get, and if an agent’s fee can be avoided, to consider what can happens both during the tenancy, if one needs to terminate a tenancy agreement early, or how to get one’s deposit back.

What happens if a close relative is taken seriously ill at home, or if one needs to return to one’s home country for medical treatment, or if a family member dies?

If one vacates the apartment or house normally, all rent is forfeited as well as the deposit.

The agent I have worked with has a track record of great successes for tenants – the best result ever being for a tenant who paid his rent six monthly. Two weeks into the second six monthly period of his two-year tenancy his mother had a major accident and he needed to return home immediately to look after her. The agent I am writing about got back in cash the full twenty-four weeks rent and the full deposit, plus an additional Protected content for some flowers for the person’s mother.

If anyone would like the agent’s contact details please email me at Protected content because it would not be right to use these columns to publicise an agent. This agent will also give references.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful to other members.

Best regards


Beijing Forum