When we first arrived here last October, we heard about a beautiful place that was available immediately. I even tried to arrange to have it leased in our name before we arrived. That didn’t work out, but we landed on a Friday and had moved in by Sunday. Our landlord was chill. We signed a contract, but he agree to shorten the length of the lease to seven months (the end of the school year), and still said it didn’t matter: as long as we gave him two months’ notice, he wasn’t bothered.
Turned out there were some problems in the apartment that needed fixing, like giant gaps between the drain and the tub in both bathrooms.
Anything that was obviously a problem got fixed, but when I asked him to swap out the horrible tarp-covered sofa in the living room, it was a no go.
We found a much more beautiful place downtown. It’s also furnished, but very well-maintained. We gave our landlord two months’ notice, and even told him we were going on holiday for three weeks…so he could maybe sneak in and give the walls a little painteroo or get rid of all the unused appliances taking up the closet in the spare bedroom.
We’d given him two months notice, and started mentioning that we’d like to know what was going on with our deposit whenevs. He never got back to us. I finally started getting firm on Line (one of a million fucking chat services; very popular here in Taiwan). He finally got back to us that yeah, sure, deposit, whatever, but we hadn’t paid the electricity bill in months.
That is true. Because the electricity bill was being sent to his house. Because I’d been very straight with him from the beginning and said I wanted to know about the bills as they arrived so we could pay them right away. And that hadn’t happened. So I told him I was pissed. Basically: We’re happy to pay you what we owe you. We certainly want to to do that. But we told you a really fucking long time ago that we didn’t want to find out that we owed you thousands of NT because you just hadn’t mentioned the bills.
I said very explicitly: We have a problem. I said that because I was pretty annoyed, because I know that out of all the things Taiwanese people hate, having a problem with someone else is at the top of the list.
After two months of asking him what was going on, he showed up at our door, with his sister to translate and help us through the quagmire.
Landlord: “Here is what I’ve paid, and what you owe!”
Me: “Ha! You missed a bill. We didn’t pay this one, either.”
Landlord: “Oh, yes. Okay. And the water bill!”
Me: “I know nothing about the water bill.”
Landlord: “Okay, the water bill doesn’t matter.”
Sister: “What do you mean it doesn’t matter? You need to show her the receipts or something.”
Landlord: “Okay, okay.”
Me: “Okay, that’s like NT$10,000. We paid you two months’ security deposit.”
Landlord: “Really? The last guy paid like a month, month and a half or something.”
Sister: “She can understand you.”
Me: “I can understand you.” Also: “Here’s the lease.”
Landlord: “Oh, it was two months’. Okay, we’ll wait for the last bill, then pay you the remainder in September.”
Very annoying. My boss here, a fabulous British man, occasionally has to remind me that we’re in Taiwan, not back in the US. Like when I don’t get a receipt or statement with my pay (in cash) every month. Basically everyone functions as though they can trust everyone else, which just can’t be true. And I got screwed by an American corporation not that long ago, and they’re supposed to keep things above board, so excuse me if Joe Landlord (actually, he called himself Richard) not knowing how much our security deposit was gets me a little irked.
“This is Taiwan!” = Just give everybody the benefit of the doubt. Okay, but I’d like the rest of my deposit back.
But then we’re ready to move into the new place and:
New landlord shows up to one of the three meetings we had before we even moved in with files and clipboards and a DVD with a tour of the house, detailing all known faults. We sat down with the current tenants and watched them receive their deposit while we handed over ours, we swore on our grandmothers’ graves we would not move out before the lease was up, and we dipped our thumbs in red ink and put our fingerprints next to every signature on the contract.
Not gonna lie, I prefer dealing with someone who has his docs all in a row. I don’t know where new landlord learned how to get everybody on the same page, or why old landlord thought it wasn’t worth the trouble. I do know that the only time I’ve felt even slightly screwed by a landlord, it was an American landlord in the US.