Advice for Renting in Taipei: How to Avoid a Nightmare

Unless you want to live on Campus and share a room with someone on the cheap, you are going to have to rent in the city. It is probably going to be more expensive than the alternative of campus accommodation, but it will be cheaper than being in a single room campus accommodation. Even then, some universities will not offer a single room dorm to anyone other than Ph.D student. When I asked about getting a single room in NCCU, I was told that as a Masters student, I was upgraded to sharing a two-person dorm room, instead of a four person dorm room for undergraduate students. At the humble age of 23 going on 24, I knew I wasn’t going to share a room with another grown man.

I had to rent something, anything and that was my problem. I was pretty much prepared to settle for anywhere under $10,000 NTD a month ($330 USD).

What Platform to Search on

Instead of using 591.com to find a place to sublease, I used two Facebook groups. The first was Taipei Taiwan Apartment Rentals and Rental Apartment in Taiwan. As it was my first time looking for an apartment in Taiwan, I felt the Facebook option would be better. A lot of the apartments on 591 looked under-furnished and there was little to no information about the apartments listed. As well as that, I was looking for an apartment in June and needed to move in for September 5. Most apartments on 591 were available too soon and nothing was listed further than a month ahead of time. Fortunately, the two Facebook groups had listing that were both imminent and a few months ahead of time.

The Facebook groups have listings mostly from other foreigners in Taiwan. I messaged around and it took me a week until I found somewhere for let in August and September. What I found was:

  1. The norm in terms of deposits is at least 2 months rent and the first month’s rent is usually due before you move in. Essentially, you need 3 months rent for the initial payment. For example, if your rent is $10,000 NTD a month, then your deposit will be $20,000 NTD and $10,000 NTD will be expected for your first month’s rent. So, translated in USD, that is roughly $1,000 upfront.
  2. The rent upfront that is advertised tends to not include utilities and bills. Depending on where you live and what utilities you plan on having, the expenses can vary. In my apartment, our utilities and bills include gas, water, electricity, internet, garbage disposal and whatever cleaning products we need to clean the apartment. Some people like to add on weekly cleaners or other amenities that are not really necessary. Total bills for the month could vary between $2,000-$4,000 NTD a month between roommates. Make sure to add this to your calculation when you are looking for an apartment and remember, summer months will be expensive because everyone in Taiwan will use their air-conditioning more.
  3. There is a surplus of people searching for apartments and a shortfall of apartments. This means the landlord or leaseholder has the decision for who they want to move in with them. If somewhere is decently priced, in a good area and looks decorated, expect to have a tsunami of people PM’ing the landlord/leaseholder.
  4. Whatever you do, always visit the property, or have a friend do it for you if you aren’t in Taipei. One of my greatest mistakes that thankfully didn’t come back to bite me in the ass was putting a deposit and first month’s rent down before ever coming to my apartment in Taiwan. It worked out for me, but I would never recommend doing it.

I was very fortunate that I found a place near Nangang Park in Nangang District of Taipei. My room was a decent price, of $9,000 NTD a month. $7,000 NTD was for the rent and $2,000 NTD was for my part of the monthly utilities. Whatever money was leftover, was suppose to be given back to me. As I stated before, utilities and bills can be anywhere between $2,000 to $4,000 NTD. I lived far enough away from the city for the area to be quiet, but close enough to be 10 minutes away from the city center by MRT. My gamble paid off and I found a nice place.

Landlords

I got really lucky. I settled for the first thing I found and it turned out to be a decent place. There were problems here and there but generally I found myself to have been a lot more well off. My landlord has been a godsend. They made sure that before my lease began that cleaners would clean out the apartment. They also fixed all the broken stuff left behind by the last leaseholder and finally, they also told us that if we ever need anything, to message them immediately. With that said, there are some basics you should remember when it comes to landlords that is common sense anywhere in the world.

  1. No matter how nice they are, always make sure to have everything agreed upon in a contract. This is for both your own benefit and the landlord’s. It sets the boundaries and obligations of both parties. A landlord that is unwilling to sign a contract with you is probably not up to any good. With that being said, I am not wholly sure how much protection a tenant would have in Taiwan over a landlord, but better safe than sorry when it comes to issues regarding your lease.
  2. An oral contract is not a contract. Get everything down in writing and make sure it is fair to you and the landlord. Nobody will care if you have an oral agreement. Even if it is recorded, that won’t hold up.
  3. If something is broken, try and fix it. If you can’t fix it, tell the landlord immediately. This is especially true if you have just moved into a new place and you find things are broken. When I moved into my apartment, the shower pressure and temperature was bipolar and a myriad of different things were cracked, smashed or completely broken. The last lease holder should have told the landlord and they were lucky they got their deposit back. I told the landlord immediately and everything was fixed. But, a lot of landlords will not be as helpful. Many will insist you fix things yourself and foot the cost yourself.

Problems With Landlords

I get on very well with my landlord and every time they are over, I usually treat them to a cup of tea and they have given me tea and gifts. With that said, a lot of landlords are miserable b*******.

  1. They will not fix anything and won’t respond to any messages. I have heard stories of how landlords failed to fix internet problems, and I even heard a story of how a Landlord nearly caused an explosion because they were too lazy to fix a water boiler that was leaking.
  2. They won’t decorate apartments and they won’t put much effort into finding decent people to rent. They also don’t view their tenants to have any rights and there is some sense of hierarchy and subservience over you.
  3. Other landlords are like ghosts. You will never see or hear from them after the first day, unless you forget to pay the rent of course. Then, they will haunt you to the end of the Earth.
  4. There are landlords who will ignore you if you are foreign. I have, and some of my friends too, been turned away at the door after asking to have a viewing of an apartment. I had the door closed on me after being looked at awkwardly for 10 seconds. When I called the landlord, I could hear his phone ringing behind the door but he was waiting for me to leave.

I get the feeling that some landlords expect that they can walk into your bedroom at any time or come into the apartment whenever they like because it is ‘theirs’ despite signing a lease that gives you responsibility over the property. Be careful who you lease from. They are a lot of very good people out there with apartments to let, and there are a lot of bad ones too.

Renovation Nightmares

One final issue to be aware of is renovations in Taipei. With so many old apartments dotted around Taipei, it shouldn’t be surprising that renovations take place on a nearly continuous basis. One of my neighbours renovated their apartment for 2 months straight and never notified anyone.

  1. By law, anyone can renovate their apartment Monday to Sunday, between 8 am to 12 pm, 2 pm to 6 pm and 8 pm to 10 pm, and they can do this on national holidays too. Thankfully my neighbours didn’t renovate on the weekend and it usually ended after 5 pm. You should make sure to ask your landlord if renovations take place often because they are loud. I honestly lost my mind a little bit the last time someone was renovating. They drilled so much that I thought perhaps they were drilling to the other side of the world. I am not exaggerating. They drilled nonstop from 8 in the morning to 6 in the evening. It wasn’t a small power tool drill either, they were using industrial drilling tools and my wall was shaking like an earthquake was going on.
  2. The worst part is that there is nothing you can do. Many home owners will refuse to make complaints because they think if they don’t complain, then their renovating neighbours won’t complain when they need to renovate their apartments. So you have very little to no legal or community backing to stop people from renovating too loud and even when they are so loud that they go above the legally allowed decimal levels.

Final Thoughts

My last piece of advice is to take your time. If it is your first time renting in Taiwan, do your research, ask around for friends who might know people who need a roommate and if you can, ask a local friend to help you. Do not make the mistake I did and jump into bed with the first apartment you see. There are plenty of great properties out there in Taipei, but there are just as many terrible ones with awful landlords too.

Happy hunting.

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