I wrote but didn’t post the rest of Chinese landlord series after Round 2 because it wasn’t that interesting until today. Rounds 3-5 below were written over the last few months. Round 5.5 happened today.
Chinese Landlords – Round five-and-a-half
After Round 5, the first thing we did was put the word out in our neighbourhood that we needed to move and were looking to rent an apartment, in the neighbourhood if at all possible. “Grandpa Liu,” our first floor neighbour who’s looked out for us in the past, just this afternoon called Jessica over for a hushed conversation outside our stairwell. Apparently he’s been waiting to bump into me for a couple days. Our neighbours rule.
Grandpa Liu: “I hear you guys are looking for an apartment.”
Jessica: “Yeah, the landlord said they want to move back into our apartment.”
Grandpa Liu: “Not necessarily.”
Jessica: “Oh yeah I know. Maybe it’s just an excuse” (to get us out).
Grandpa Liu: “No, it’s just that all the prices in this neighbourhood have gotten higher.”
Jessica: “Oh really?”
Grandpa Liu: “Yeah, and she’s too embarrassed to tell you that she’d like more rent.” (Especially after Rounds 1-5.)
Jessica: “I don’t know, she sounded pretty certain that she wants us out.”
Mr. Liu asks how much we’re paying for rent (1100元 = $168).
Grandpa Liu: “I think you should phone her and offer her another 200 ($30) or 300 kuai ($46). The cheapest you’re gonna get in this neighbourhood now is 1400 ($215) or 1500 ($230) for a two-bedroom.”
Jessica: “Oh, so that’s how it is…”
Grandpa Liu: “Well unless you want to move, you at least ought to give it a shot, because you probably won’t find a cheaper place and moving’s a lot of trouble. So give it a try!”
Jessica thanked him for his help and said she appreciated him telling us because we don’t always know how things work…
Jessica: “…because in America if the landlord says they want you out, they really want you out.”
Grandpa Liu: “Oh, not here. She’s just too embarrassed and can’t directly ask you. We Asians can’t be that direct. In this aspect we’re not so good.”
Chinese Landlords – Round 5
Welcome the Olympics, now get out!
A few days ago I come home from the library around 5:45, and Jessica has this look on her face like she has to tell me some news I’m really not going to like (did she drop the laptop? Lose something expensive?). I’m instantly bracing myself for the bad news. Turns out our Chinese landlord Auntie Wang had phoned around 3:30pm. She cheerfully informed Jessica the we have to move out. They’ll even buy out the rest of our contract if we can leave sooner than October 15.
We’re glad they’re willing to honour the contract, and that gives us plenty of time to look. Losing the apartment is definitely nothing to cry over, but we really want to stay in the neighbourhood. I’ve already asked around some neighbours and they have some places to show us. It complicated our plans slightly (we’re planning to spend Chinese New Years in Canada), but big deal.
Negotiating Rent in Chinglish – Rounds 3-4
We now pay $15 dollars more per month than we did last year. It’s more or less fair; prices on everything are going up, especially housing. And they had to work for it, though, with repeat trips to fix things, multiple phone calls with repairmen, and several hours doing repairs himself. It took extra long because his wife, Auntie Wang, wouldn’t let him spend one kuai more than he absolutely needed to, and that meant fixing a lot of stuff the hard, slow way. The value of agreeing to pay after stuff gets fixed! Anyway, they’re done fixing, we paid, and I assume we’ll just leave one another alone until it’s time to pay again, or something major breaks. In the meantime, we just collect fixing fees from local repairman and save them for the next time we pay rent.
Today the landlords came over. Everyone was happy and nice. They saw the problems in the apartment, agreed to fix most of them (more than we ever expected). We showed them the stuff we’ve fixed ourselves over the last year and told us to just keep doing that and they’ll pay us for it (way more convenient for us, more stuff gets fixed this way, and Jessica thinks it’s sexy when her husband fixes things). They asked if we wanted to pay now or later, and weren’t real pushy when we said we’d pay after the stuff was fixed.
Altogether the stuff they’ve already agreed to fix is a few hundred kuai – that means the extra we’re paying every month now will actually go into the apartment for the first few months.