Jump to content
  • Sign Up

How much trouble would I be in if....


Recommended Posts

Long story, but here's the short version...

I want a new place to live. (Starting 3rd year in Beijing.) I found a great place at a good rent. But....

No one actually owns the place, so there is no landlord. Building builder built the building higher than the government said they were allowed to, and I would be on an illegal floor, so the builder won't show ID for my residence permit.

They can however, "arrange" something where I would officially live in a different place (same PSB), but I would actually live in the apartment that I really, really like.

Questions for those more knowledgeable than me...

-What are the odds of anyone official looking at the situation, and making my life hell?

-If an official did look, and decide they didn't like it, what might they do?


-My Chinese bosses aren't particularly happy with the situation, but they'll cover the rent if I say "Yes"

-I REALLY like this place

-Rent is more than 700rmb cheaper than anything comparable that I have found.

-It's a quiet and clean building (no more footprints on the wall by the elevator like my current place), big apartment with an extremely AMAZING view.

Should I take the chance and go for it?

Realistic advice appreciated.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's just asking for trouble. The 2 things that immediately pop into mind are:

1) What happens when the builder takes your N months rent and 1 month deposit, and then tells the police to get you evicted so he can run the same scam on someone else?

2) Even if it's not a scam (how well do you know and trust the builder BTW), with the olympics coming up, the police have been tightening regulations for foreign residences. If for whatever reason they found you lived there (e.g. perhaps the people below you don't like the sound of footsteps/toilet flushings and figure telling the police is an easy way to stop the noise), then if they wanted, they could kick you out quick-smart and there's precious little you could do about it.

Ok, so it's not your money, it's the school's money, but I imagine they'd be none too happy if you got kicked out and they couldn't get the unused rent back.

Do you know if there are any other people living on these illegal floors?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

what happens when the local police decide to check up on the foreigners living in their

district (they've been to my apartment four times in eight months) and noone at your

registered residence has heard of you?

they track you down and question your employer and.................

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you live in China for some time, you may know things are so complicated. The questions you raised here, or even you raised to a Beijing lawyer, I think, are of no significance. It is almost impossible to give you a clear and reliable answer. Just case by case. 50% to 50%.

If you are lucky, you can live in that place free of trouble as long as you wish. My opinion is, you take the chance and go for it, but with a bottom line that in case the illegality of your place gives rise to a termination of the tenancy contract prior to its expiry date, the rent overpaid will be refund to you, together with a certain amount of compensation as stipulated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Han-tiger, you certainly have a lot of confidence in the law. If the builder is willing to break the law in the first place to allow him to live there, what makes you think he won't break the law and not give the money back if/when magores gets evicted. Or what is even more likely, that the builder just disappears never to be heard from again, until his next victim comes along to post on Chinese-forums. With all the scams that are run in China, if something seems too good to be true, it's probably best to give it a wide berth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wouldn't risk it at the moment. While I don't think it's an out and out scam, it is dubious and the chances of things going wrong are a bit high for my liking.

Which is a pity, as living an an apartment that isn't meant to be there would be a nice story to tell.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


If it is anything like the Police station down the street from me, when I finally got down there and registered where I am staying, they basically came back at me with a "why bother?", but did it anyways since I felt I needed to. :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to add another voice - I would say it's not worth the potential hassle. I agree with Imron about scams - I've heard of cases where someone rents a flat, only to find out the person they thought was the landlord is not. The real landlord then comes back from his year in the USA (or wherever) and finds someone living in his flat:shock:

Even if it's not a scam, you'd never know for sure. If it was me in that situation, i'd be worrying about it all the time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think it's a deliberate scam as they're making it too complicated. A scam would be them not telling you, or telling you everything is fine, renting the flat to eight different people, then disappearing. I think this guy genuine. Genuinely dodgy, but genuine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, I am a chinese, I just see this post by chance, and one of my friends had the same experience before, so I want to tell you what I know about these situation.

It's true that some buildings have several highest rooms than the actually the higherst floor, for example, the building which my friend had lived has 25 floors, but actually there is a very large place from the 25th floor to the buidling's roof, so the extra rooms are located biside the roofs. My friend has lived there for 5 years and lately he moved to his new house,I had been to there for several times, it really has a greate view. Besides, there is sufficient space between these rooms and the 25th floor, so you don't worry that your normal actions such as footstep, toilet washing would bother the lower peple.

Anyway, I just tell you what I know, it's up to you to decide by yourself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This problem is more common than one would expect as a lot of landlords don't want to provide a contract or have the foreigners register becuase they want to avoid paying tax on renting to people. If they say they are letting family relatives stay in the house free of charge for example they wouldn't have to pay tax.

A couple of things though. I tried to do this and relized I lived in a non-foreigner allowed zone, (next to a military base). I had to move out. The way they said it was funny as well. Oh our complex doesn't have a 24 hour guard and is unsafe, Though you could live in a place just down the street without a guard as well. (You have to move because the house is next to the military base, but we can't tell that is the real reason for making you move or you will be more curious in the military base.) So check this doesn't affect you.

I think there are 2 issues, one if you can legally live there. And two if you can register with the police using this residence. The first answer is probably yes it is fine to live there. The second question might be more in the gray area.

So to resolve it I would register to live at a good friend's house rather than your current house. When the police come around your friends can say you are out, or traveling but that you do live there. For the police they want to make sure that someone (landlord or friend) is responsible for you, and this will work.

Also this may mean you should keep a lower profile in the illegal house, (no orgy parties, or shooting fireworks off the roof). I called the cops on the neighbors who beat their wife and the other one who beat her step-son. Why do they choose 11pm to beat on them huh, no one's heard of sleep?. So they met me a few times.

Chinese people don't really know each other in tall buildings so you should be fine if you get the legality sorted the way I suggest.

Good luck,


Link to comment
Share on other sites

For one thing, someone must own the place. If no-one owns it, you don't have to pay rent, right? In your case it seems the builder is the owner.

If you do decide to move there, I'd arrange something with the builder/owner that at least you don't pay a lot of rent in advance, as you might be kicked out.

If the police does decide to check on the situation, perhaps you could play the foreigner card, basically saying that you had no idea it wasn't allowed and you thought this was how things worked in China.

You might want to meet with the people of the place were you'd live officially. And can't the landlord arrange for you to officially live in the same building but on one of the floors that he was allowed to build? Might make things a bit less complicated.

Also ask yourself what would be the worst that could happen. Obviously they could throw you out of the apartment you love, but I don't think they could put you in jail for it or throw you out of the country or something. Don't know what exactly they could do, but you might want to look into that, and see if it would be worth the risk.

Roddy: If you like things that aren't meant to exist: at my office there is a microwave that isn't there. It's hidden behind a chest and officially the bosses know nothing about it. I like the idea too :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He might be the owner in some sense, but if it's been built off-plan he's not going to have deeds, which means he can't legally rent it out, which means our OP can't legally live there. That's the bottom line. At some point the police are likely to go knocking on doors to check foreigners are living where they are meant to be, and either when they go to your registered address, or camp out in the lobby of your actual residence to see if any stray foreigners come past, they may figure out something ain't right.

To be honest the actual consequences might not be that bad, but like I said earlier I really don't think this is the time to be playing fast and loose in Beijing, especially when there's no real shortage of legitimate accommodation to be had. (Admittedly I speak as someone who spent years working on an F visa and living in unregistered accommodation.)

@Lu. what if it pings when he's in the room? Do you have to pretend you burped?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have no idea how much trouble you would actually be in, but just adding my 2 cents:

Even in my building (where I am the only foreigner...or at least 'obvious' foreigner) there are signs 'solemnly warning' all foreigners to register, etc that popped up in 3 places one day. Plus even in diqiucun, etc. you can see signs warning that you may be investigated on the street whether or you are registered....so I agree that this isn't the time to play the registering odds...knowingly bending the law 'might' get you into trouble.

Chinese people don't really know each other in tall buildings so you should be fine if you get the legality sorted the way I suggest.

Neighbor-wise, this may be true, however, I BET you if you have an elevator ayi (and there is often a list of the elevator operators responsibilites which says they should be familiar with the residents to promote safety or something to that extent) or inquisitive senior citizens they WILL know who you are and where you live. After the signs popped up a few months ago I had people from my complex even asking me if I was registered....

In the past I had briefly registered with a friend and didn't have any real problems,(but the PSB did call quite a few times) but I became more concerned that I personally would be tracked down at my current apartment (suddenly with all the 'cleaning up' on the streets there seem to be alot of cops out and about) and in my mind I began to get a lil paranoid (especially after the neighbors checking up on me) so rather than living like I was on the run (and worried that this could reflect badly on the person whose residence I was registered since they had continued to vouch for me) I just had to track down the person who really owned the property and register.

So, anyway, are you really convinced you can't find a place to register that is equally nice and at least feel at ease when you go home?

Anyway, just some things for you to consider...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Were it not for the upcoming Olympics, I'd say the police are the least of your worries. Any legal recourse you would normaly have were a problem to arise (if eveything was legit) is gone in the situation you describe. That means you're totaly at the mercy of this mysterious "owner." Whether or not it's your money on the line, there's still the inconvience of being left homeless at a moments notice.

I'm wary of people even when there are contracts, as I've seen how far a contract can be made to stretch so that it fits someone's intentions. Without even a contract . . . Scams do abound in China, so you should be wary. I wouldn't do it. My form of self-protection the five years I've been living in Asia has been not to give any one the opportunity to cheat/steal/dupe me. It may sound too obvious, but if you don't put your wallet in your back pocket, but put it in your front pocket, the chances of a pick-pocket getting to it are slim to none. In the same way, if you move into this place you open yourself up to all kinds of potential BS. If you just find a normal place, even this thread wouldn't have even been necessary, saving that minimal amount of hassle and worry.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OP here...

If you're curious, here's how it all worked out....

I REALLY liked that place.

Near Anzhen Qiao, view of the Birds Nest and the Bubble. HUGE deck begging for parties in spring, summer, fall. Nice size living room, bedroom, bathroom. Tiny kitchen.

I decided to go with "safety".

I saw a few more apartments that 2 other agents had arranged. 1 was barely tolerable. I talked to the agent of the illegal place. He had another place to look at. It was okay. He asked my budget. My budget is a little higher than my works budget. (Work pays up to a certain amount).

I went with him the next day to a different place.

Awesome place. Nice view. Brand new everything. Close to my work, Carrefour, etc.

I decided Yes that day, met the landlord the next day, and signed the lease. landlord is good people. I'm a teacher (in US, and now in China), she's a teacher, her father is a professor. I passed muster.

New Residence Permit etc is being done this Monday.



The place is better than any of the others I saw, and cheaper that the best of the others. (Does that make sense?)

I dealt with 5 agents. 3 on my own and two through my work.

This agent was the only one that seemed to actually understand what I was looking for.

While the illegal place was "a cool place", the place I decided upon is an actual "home".


Once again, China treats me right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...