Beijing greedy landlords making life difficult for expats

Published:  4 May at 6 PM
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Expat quality of life in Beijing is being seriously affected by soaring rental increases.

Although rent increases in Beijing are nothing new, greedy Chinese landlords nowadays are putting the screws on expat tenants as never before, especially in the more popular expat districts. Average rents in China’s capital rose last year by 14 per cent on top of the usual annual increases in previous years.

A recent report from the Global Cities Business Alliance named Beijing as the world’s most expensive city for expat rentals, ahead even of Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi. Although expat salaries are higher on average than local wages, rental costs are taking a huge bite out of earnings, forcing many expats to downsize or even leave China for greener pastures and a better quality of life.

The experience of a German expat living in Beijing with her husband and child isn’t unusual. The family’s landlord arrived and demanded an immediate rental increase of 2,000 yuan, not taking into account that the family had paid for all necessary renovations to the property.

Rents in Beijing’s upscale heart top 11,000 yuan per month for an 85 square metre condo, with apartments in other less fashionable areas costing just over half that amount. Many expats in the city are now being forced to relocate to smaller homes in less attractive locations, giving up on convenient transportation systems and districts with international schools.

According to another overcharged tenant, it’s normal for Chinese landlords to charge foreigners a higher rent than is set for Chinese nationals. Traditionally, international employers have picked up the rental tab as part of the relocation package, a practice which has encouraged high rents.

According to director Yang Hongxue of the E-Home China R&D Institute, China has no specific rent control policy nor any legislation protecting tenants’ rights. This February, the Beijing government introduced a policy allowing foreigners with work permits to purchase condos, although at present few expat employees have taken advantage of the new law.
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