So I moved out on Sunday and if packing everything up wasn’t stressful enough, I had one final unpleasant encounter with the worst landlords I’ve ever come across. I had dreaded this moment from the second I moved in, 4 years ago. It’s always a tense time when you are wondering how much the landlord will screw you by way of deposit deductions.
The first sign of trouble was the previous night – he texted to request I give the apartment a thorough clean before handing back to him and kindly offered the number of a lady who would help for a reasonable 300 RMB! I would never leave an apartment in a mess, but I think it’s natural to assume that apartments are generally given a good clean by the landlord prior to any new tenants moving in. In any case, I decided to just clean it myself as it was only the floor that really needed cleaning.
So the moment arrived, 2.30pm on Sunday, the landlord and his battle axe wife showed up, and it was clear very early on they were relishing this meeting and couldn’t wait to get started on a list of things I needed to pay for.
The first item on the agenda caught me completely by surprise. Electricity is charged at 3 different price tiers in Shanghai. You start on level one, then after you use all that up, you move to level two and then when that’s finished, you move to the highest price tier until the end of the year and then you start again from tier one. Following so far? So anyway, the landlord explained that because we had already reached tier 3, he wanted me to compensate him for not being able to enjoy level 1 and 2 prices. As soon as he moves back in, he’s on level 3. He made a calculation, the difference between level 3 and the lower levels and came up with a figure of 800 RMB.To make it simple, imagine you get 120 units and the lowest price every year, he’s calculating it as 10 units per month, although the electricity company don’t spread it out that way.
And the problem with the calculation of course, is that there’s no way to know how much electricity he will use or if he will use any at all. In theory the apartment could remain empty for the rest of the year.
Then came the internet. We had a special package which was supposed to include a free mobile phone and sim card, but we never received it. He called the internet company to check and asked repeatedly are you sure you didn’t give my tenants a free phone? I was worried they might say they did and then I would be charged for a mobile phone, but fortunately they confirmed the phone was never delivered. However, the landlord was worried that we might have the sim card and could make calls which would be charged to him, so he asked us to wait while he went to the internet company office to cancel the agreement.
So there we were, forced to wait 45 minutes in an empty apartment while he went to cancel the internet contract. He also charged us 300 rmb which was the penalty for cancelling the agreement before the contract ended (the internet package was I think a 2 year agreement and had not yet expired), although this turned out to be 155 RMB.
The landlord’s wife was busy checking every part of the apartment. She opened one of the windows and found it didn’t open properly and immediately called the building management to come estimate the cost of fixing it. 400 RMB to replace it, but this then reduced to 100 RMB to get it fixed. We did not do anything to cause it to stop working apart from normal use (opening and closing) so I really expected this to be part of the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the apartment.
Tommy and Hui Hui had damaged the sofa so we spent 900 RMB on new covers. The landlord’s wife immediately said she didn’t like them so there was a charge of 1000 RMB to get another set. Oh, and we had to leave the new covers we bought that she didn’t like.
There’s a lot more but I think you get the idea. After being forced to sit there for 3.5 hours, I just wanted to get out of there with whatever miniscule part of my security deposit was left so I just told them to itemise every item and give me the balance. It came to 2,800 RMB. It’s not a huge amount, but that’s not really the point. It should not even have been 280 RMB.
After she finally handed me a pile of cash, the remainder of the deposit, I stood up and revealed my cards – I do not accept most of these deductions but I am not going to waste more time arguing with you. I will contact a lawyer and you will be hearing from them.
Of course, this sparked a huge shouting match as the enraged landlord and his wife hurled abuse at me for being unreasonable. They mentioned how cheap the rent was and almost used that to defend the illegal deductions, despite the fact the rent was agreed by them and so the level was irrelevant. My attempts to remove the brand new sofa covers which they rejected was met with more shouting and a physical tussle (I eventually just left the covers there).
I left feeling severely stressed and could barely sleep that night because the whole episode was truly traumatic. I’ve contacted some lawyers and also the tax bureau as the landlord hasn’t paid any income tax on the rent I’ve given him for the last 4 years. By my estimate, it should come to around 31,000 RMB (8.4% of the total rent).
On the bright side, I will never have to deal with these people again. Well, until the court appearance!