Back in March when I decided to have an employee from my Japanese company stay here in Qingdao for three months (August to October), I searched for a suitable room for him to live in. Three months is too long to stay in a hotel, but not long enough to rent a room for a year. So, we eventually settled on a room in a large house about fifteen minutes from here by bus. The room had its own on-suite bathroom, and the common toilet was just next door. The location was good, and the price was reasonable: 1,500 RMB per month, plus 50 RMB a month for water and electricity. We had to pay a 500 RMB (non-returnable) deposit, but the remainder could be paid when he moved in, or one month at a time. As it was a large house with several tenants, the owner explained that he normally only gave tenants a key to their own room, and not one for the house itself. However, after we explained that it would be a Japanese person who spoke no Chinese, and that he would be returning home quite late some nights, the owner agreed that we could also have a key to the house. So, since all seemed OK, we paid the 500 RMB, and relaxed knowing that we just had to arrive on that day and pay the remaining 1,000 RMB of the first month’s rent, plus the first month’s 50 RMB for the water and electricity.

Of course, nothing could be that simple. On arriving at the house, we were shown to the room, and then came downstairs to pay the remainder of the first month’s rent and collect the key. However, in addition to being told that the rent was 1,800 RMB, not 1,500 RMB, and that the fee for water and electricity was 200 RMB, not 50 RMB, we were told that he didn’t want to give us a key to the house after all. After an hour of discussion, the owner agreed to whatever price and conditions were written on the receipt we had for the original deposit of 500 RMB. Unfortunately, since neither of us had the receipt with us, we agreed that my employee would stay there for the weekend, and that we would return on Monday with the receipt and settle the matter then. Since, we were confident that the original conditions were 1,500 RMB per month, we left reasonably confident that all would be settled the following Monday.

Again, not so simple: When a member of my staff went to visit him with the receipt for the deposit, which clearly stated 1,500 RMB + 50 RMB, the owner said that he would accept that the rent was 1,500 RMB a month but that, since it was now summer and the air conditioners would be used a lot, the electricity fee needed to be 200 RMB a month. The is hard to accept as an excuse as the receipt also clearly states that he would be staying there from August to October, and I’m sure the owner could have guessed that it would be summer.

The owner also demanded that the three months be paid in advance, and that a further one month’s deposit (returnable on leaving if nothing is broken) be paid. This raised the total amount of cash to be handed over from 4,650 RMB to 6,600 RMB. A 42% increase! As for the chances of getting any of the deposit back, or not having hidden extras come to light a few days later . . .

It seemed like time to search for a new room.

As if that wasn’t enough, the owner (landlord) started giving us numerous reasons not to stay there. They started with the fact that the other tenants were all Chinese and that they typically didn’t clean up after themselves so the common areas may not be hygienic, and ended with him explaining that since his grandfather had been killed by Japanese troops in WW2, his father was against the idea of a Japanese person staying in the house.

Over the weekend we found and signed a contract for another room. It is closer to the company, has great landlords (an elderly couple), and only costs 1,200 RMB a month.

So, my employee only spent four nights in the first room (Friday to Monday) and moved into the new room on Tuesday, where he is now living happily.