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Too risky to sublet in China?


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After spending the past month looking for apartments, I finally found the perfect place. It was introduced to me through 我爱我家, which is certainly one of the biggest real estate agencies in Beijing (maybe in China?). Especially since they only showed me one place, which took approximately 25 minutes of their time, I strongly objected to paying a full months rent for the middleman fee (2500RMB). I suggested that I would pay between 1000-1500. This is consistent with the fees that I have paid or seen friends pay when renting through agencies in the past.

However, they insisted that they were a big company, and things worked differently than they do at the smaller companies I may have used before. We couldn't reach an agreement on a price, so I left. Following the suggestion from a friend, I simply went back to the apartment later and directly talked with the guy, who explained that he rents the whole apartment, and needs to rent out the 2nd bedroom since his roommate is leaving. (I met both of them)

I am a bit hesitant to do this because the last time I subletted an apartment, the guy took my money, left the country, and never paid the rent. Six weeks later I got evicted by the landlord. At the time, it wasn't a huge deal because I only lost a few thousand RMB. This time, though, if I get screwed, I will lose up to 10,000.

The guy has tried to assure me, saying that we can do a direct bank transfer, meaning both people will have records/proof of the payment, and we will sign a contract, meaning that if something did happen, I'd be able to go to the police. Thoughts?

David

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On top of this, when I visited the apartment, it wasn't immediately obvious that anybody was living there at the time. But, they claim to be living there. When I asked him what time he gets off work, so that we can discuss the contract, he said "the afternoon". This didn't sound like an answer a person with a normal job would give, so (just now) I sent him an email at the work address on his business card, and the email address is not valid.

Now that I have reason to doubt he is who he's claiming to be, I am not going to go forward with this until I get a substantially higher degree of confirmation that I will actually be able to live in this apartment after I pay for it.

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Register with the actual owner at the PSB prior to any money changing hands. Then the owner actually knows how long you will be there (since that is part of the registration process) and there is some 'transparency' to this process.

Sometimes this is a bit complicated and seems to vary from PSB to PSB, but in any case whenever I registered (3 different occasions), I was also subletting from someone else who basically took on the responsibility/hassle of dealing with the renters (in some cases also lived there) but the actual owners registered me (& brought their paperwork/proof of actually owning the place with them to the PSB) and knew I lived there...and I never came home to any surprises, like being evicted :shock: or locked out!

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Yes, this is a good idea, especially since it means I would get the chance to directly meet the landlord and make sure everything was okay. I've also been informed by Chinese friends that there are lots of "fake landlords" nowadays, and I should definitely ask to see his paperwork. When i told the real estate agency I wanted to see this, they said that the landlord is not often in Beijing... (maybe this is what they say to everyone, since no landlords want to take the time, but I will try to do what you have said)

EDIT: I don't think the owners need to be there, strictly speaking, at least not in the 3-4 times I've registered before in Beijing. The owner never was present! As you said, it varies. But it would make me feel safer.

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they said that the landlord is not often in Beijing..

Yeah, I heard that quite a bit too, but then there must still be some people actually living in Beijing who own property there!

I've also been informed by Chinese friends that there are lots of "fake landlords" nowadays
Yep, I remember seeing this reported quite a bit on some tv shows...anything is possible you know. Better to trust your gut and be safe rather than sorry!

Of course, these are just my suggestions b/c if the landlord is already MIA, then you may run into more problems down the line. However if you do meet the landlord, get all registered, then perhaps this will give you some peace of mind...also at least your residency permit paperwork is taken care of like it should be! I'm sure other board members will have some useful suggestions as well. Good luck!

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knickherboots

Subletting is always a bit tricky, even in the best of circumstances. Given your concerns, wouldn't it make more sense to be the primary renter and find your own sublessees, if necessary?

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I have just read this thread. And I am very surprised that the OP could simply refuse to pay the agent and then took advantage of the agent's work (even though the agent has only shown the OP one flat, it was still work performed by the agent) and directly contacted the people at the said flat. I suppose the agent has not violated the contract (showing flat(s) to the client) but the OP has. If the OP does not want to pay the fee, why did he use the agent's service? I am not sure if the contract between the agent and the OP includes provisions that disallow / punish such actions. I think the OP could ask the agent to show him 10 or 50 flats if one was too few for the OP. According to my own experience in renting flats in HK, there are clauses that very clearly forbid renting a flat introduced by an agent directly from the owner or via other agents.

BTW, is "sublet" the right word to use to refer to renting a place from someone who sublets it?

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anonymoose

Do you have to sign a contract with the agent before you are shown around apartments in Hong Kong? There is no (written) contract between the agent and the client in the mainland.

Also, I have no idea about how it works in Beijing, but in Shanghai, the agency fee seems to be a standard 35% of a month's rent. A whole month's rent seems a bit steep, even if it is legitimate.

EDIT: On second thoughts, I think there is a contract, but only some agents actually bother making you sign it.

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Yes, you have to sign a contract with the agent before you are shown around apartments in Hong Kong. When an agent successfully helps conclude a rental lease, usually the landlord and the tenant each pays the agent 50% of one month's rent.

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knickherboots

I think one month's rent is a standard fee in Beijing, but it is negotiable and probably depends on market conditions. In the case of someone renting from an owner, it is usually payable by the owner, who can factor this fee into the rent. A potential lessee is asked to sign a short document after they see a property to indicate that the property was shown by a particular agent. This is apparently designed to put pressure on an owner to honor their commitment to compensate the agent who helped to arrange the rental, and to help dissuade the owner from dealing with a renter behind the agent's back after the place is shown.

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In Holland they make you pay an amount of money before even showing you any places, and it only increases if you find something you might want to rent. In China an agent is happy if you don't run off with another agent halfway down the process, let alone make you sign anything. It's mostly a supply and demand thing I think, in Beijing at least there are many places to rent and even more agents, while in Holland there are few places and a lot of opportunity for everyone involved to squeeze money out of the renter. In the case of this story, the OP should strictly speaking not have gone behind the agent's back, but given the market and the opportunities, the agent would have been wiser to negotiate a more satisfactory price instead of letting him walk.

Subletting is not unusual, an absent landlord isn't either (from what I hear), but of course there is always a risk. As I understand it the subletter would be your roommate. Would it be possible to, for example, pay per month or per two months for the first half year (or whole year), so you can see if the subletter is reliable? Or perhaps you can ask him for proof that the place has been paid for for the coming period so that you're sure you won't get thrown out?

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The bigger the agency, the less the negotiating room - you have the actual agent's cut, the shop manager's cut, the company's cut, all to take care of. In my last two dealings with agencies 1) the landlord ended up doing a deal whereby they did it off the books for a cut-price (not sure what that was), but didn't get any official receipt or anything, and 2) I negotiated down from a month to - can't remember what, maybe 60% of a month. And the agent almost cried. On the street. In November. I felt bad. Perhaps that was the plan.

The reassurances about bank accounts and contracts - wouldn't rely on it. If the guy disappears you can take all that to the police and they'll be very sympathetic - but I can't see them doing much.

Who needs to be present for the registration varies by police station - normally you don't need the landlord, but do need an ID card [edit: number] so they can find them on the system, and they'll want contact details (my local police contacted my landlord directly on the last day of my visa as they couldn't get hold of me).

In this case, I think I'd walk away. It may well be fine, but there are too many red flags. A month of apartment hunting is no fun though.

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BTW, is "sublet" the right word to use to refer to renting a place from someone who sublets it?

If you do a search for "sublet from", "subletting from" or "subletted from", you'll find quite a few results. I haven't used it this way myself though.

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jkhsu, thanks for your reply.

This usage does not seem to be in my dictionaries (Collins Cobuild, Longman), though. It is not in the online oxford dictionaries, but is in the online merriam-webster. I find that it sounds a bit strange to sublet from someone. Would sublease be a better word?

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I'm surprised you find it strange, given the British phrase "to let", meaning to rent or to lease a place, clearly used as verb.

[Ohh, and how I always wanted to add an "i" there.....]

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I don't understand. My question is not about noun/verb. It is about whether it is right to say you "sublet" a place when you rent a place from someone who sublets it.

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xiaoxiaocao

Here in Shijiazhuang you pay 20 kuai to the agency and can then view as many apartments as you like within the next 30 days. If you decide to rent one, you pay half a months rent to the agency when you sign the contract.

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Oh, sorry skylee.

If the person subletting it is also staying there, and you pay that person and not the landlod, then I think it's incorrect. But if you are taking over a sublet from someone else, and they are not there and you are now paying the landlord directly, then sublet seems OK to me. subsublet just sounds silly :lol:

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