What does a Beijing housewife's normal Monday look like? Let me show you some pictures from the errands I had to run today (up until the kids came back from school).
Warning: The following post contains first world problems!!
Right now I'm staring at the white sofas our landlord left us. I can’t stand them. He was supposed to take one more away when we moved in a year ago but said he didn’t have space for them. The same goes for the huge round dining table which is now taking up half the space in the storage room. Ah, yes we were welcome to store the furniture but had to pay for storage ourselves. For 4 years. I don't think so! Our landlord in a nutshell. Showing very little (or no) flexibility!
We moved into this apartment a year ago. We chose this compound (Park Apartments) because it's nice and has some good amenities (such as an indoor pool and a good quality gym). It's in a central location and we have awesome neighbours! Just over half of the apartments here are owned by the property developer and the rest by private landlords. It works for most people but since day one in our case, I've felt like we were taken for a ride!!
It started the day we moved in. By contract, the apartment had to be "deep cleaned" in advance and I cannot even start to tell you how filthy it was! We had to hire 6 cleaning ladies for 2 days and 4 stayed on for another 2 days! Read more on my blog post at the time.
The apartment came with a lousy old TV! The only TV where we could watch 3 foreign channels. It kept breaking and after the repair guy was here the third time and it was still not working, the landlord communicated (through the real estate agency) that he would not pay for another repair! By then he must have spent the equivalent of 300 Euros to try and fix it instead of just buying a new one. Well his message did not go down well with me!! I wrote to the agency and threatned to leave the apartment due to breach of contact (which states that all necessary repairs must be carried out and paid for by the lessor). It worked and 2 days later a brand new, huge television was delivered to our door! Victory!
So I tried the same strategy with painting! This unit is in desperate need of painting! I have been beating myself up for not insisting on having it painted before we moved in but we were under pressure as we had to leave our temporary accommodation. A couple of months ago I took some pictures of the apartment and sent to our agency asking to have our apartment painted! Once again, the landlord refused to help! He said that we were welcome to have the apartment painted but that we had to pay for it ourselves. Thank you very much!
Well we (stupidly?) decided to have the apartment repainted and pay for it ourselves. We got a quotation for 22.000 rmb (around 3000 euros) but just as we were about to go ahead with it, we thought ”hey wait a minute! We don’t need to stay here for the next 3 ½ years!! Don't get me wrong: I have seen poverty, visited people in very humble spaces and to some people, this place would seem like a dream home and we're lucky to have this much space but this is a matter of principle and fairness to me! Why have my husband’s employer pay a significant amount of money every month to someone who shows no respect for us and for the property?”. So voilà! We have just announced to the agency that we will move out when the contract expires. So we'll stay until March 2018 as we're not prepared to pay a substantial penalty for leaving early!
Where to go?
We love our compound so I do not exclude that we go for another apartment in this building. But this time owned by the property developer, not by a private landlord! There are other options although apartments that can accomodate a family of 5 not that easy to find here in Beijing. So we might do something we said we’d never do: move outside the city! To where our kids’ school is (around 25 minutes drive from where we live now). The compounds there are composed of villas and are all very pretty but the area is not exactly lively and I have often said (sometmes offending people who live there) that I would fear for my own mental health if I moved there. :-)
Let’s see – many things can happen but one thing is sure: I'm looking forward to leaving the sodding white sofas behind!