I think most foreign nationals in Taiwan have dealt with some level of discrimination when it comes to renting. That’s not to say you won’t find amazing landlords or a solid place to live.
However, the pathway to finding a place isn’t always so easy, and I’ve experienced some pretty weird landlords that explain “it’s not discrimination, I just feel more comfortable with someone that can speak Mandarin,” even after I’ve spent an hour on the phone with them discussing their apartment. Nope, you’re a foreigner, no can do.
The Problem – Discrimination in Renting is Not Illegal
Last year my friends and I were discussing the issue of rental discrimination in Taiwan. We’d all experienced it in some form and were curious about what the law stated. We ended up calling the NIA (National Immigration Agency), and they told us bluntly, there are no laws that prevent landlords from discriminating potential renters for their nationality.
Now, the NIA representative could be wrong, but we couldn’t find laws anywhere in English or Mandarin about this issue. Perhaps it is a grey area, but if we were to bring the problem up with local authorities, we all doubted anyone would care.
So, there you have it. Landlords can decide to turn you away for not being Taiwanese. It’s happened to me personally four times, and I want to share those stories with you all.
The “哦外國人!” Guy That Closed a Door in My Face
In March 2017, my landlord told me he wanted to rent to a Taiwanese family because apparently, an apartment with three foreigners wasn’t fair for Taiwanese society that could be used by a family.
Of course, he neglected to say the family was three sisters and a brother that were all in their twenties. So there it was, you’re out kiddo!
I didn’t waste any time and took to 591.com (I wonder what 426.com is?). I found a fantastic apartment for NT$14,000 a month, and although it was a few thousand over my college student budget, I said what the heck, maybe it could be worth not drinking for fewer weekends a year.
I called up the landlord, and we talked for a long time. I told him I was studying in NCCU on a scholarship, and the area was super close and suited me very well. I made him laugh a little, and he was enthusiastic about getting me over. I told him I’d be over in two hours because I needed to grab some dinner after a lecture, and I’d be there at 6 PM.
Dinner at Blue Chairs over, I head straight to his rental. I knock on the door, and he opens and says quickly, “哦外國人!” and slammed the door.
At first, I thought I was on the wrong floor. When I first got to Taiwan, I kept thinking the second floor was the first floor since we called the first floor the ground floor in Ireland. I called the landlord to make sure I didn’t make a mistake.
I heard vibrating noises behind the door, and it hit me. He might’ve thought I wasn’t a foreigner. I think he thought I was a Chinese student. Back in 2017, my Mandarin was super Beijing-ish, and after a while, I realized, “dang, he must’ve thought I was Chinese.”
Well, that didn’t feel good.
No Alcohol, No Local Women, No Drugs, No Problem
Well, I didn’t really meet this landlord, but I did message them. I saw their ad on 591.com for a small yet affordable place near Liuzhangli. I messaged the landlord, and after five days, they replied to me.
“No alcohol, no Taiwanese girlfriends, no drug parties, no sex part, and no funny smells.”
Apparently, the landlord had troubles with foreigners before. He decided that he wanted to make it super clear that he didn’t want foreigners or Taiwanese women that dated foreigners to be welcome. When I called him eventually, he told me, “你國語講得很好哦!” Despite this, he went on to talk so much about how foreigners are no respectful, and that students are particularly awful.
Now, if he said “students are a nightmare to rent to” I’d agree with him. I’d even go further and explain that I’m a student that doesn’t party at home, do drugs, and I’m in a long-term relationship with a Taiwanese woman. I’ll take good care of the place, and I might even make small renovations because I want to take pride in where I live.
But nope, he lumped all foreigners together as sex-crazed lunatics because he was dumb enough to rent to a bunch of Dutchmen for 3 months and failed to realized they’d go crazy. Doesn’t matter what your nationality is, international students anywhere in the world can be a mixed bag.
He told me he didn’t mind me having my girlfriend over, just as long as she paid for half a day’s rent if she stayed over and that I also signed my contract with the agreement that I wouldn’t do drugs, or drink inside it.
I told him he was unreasonable, and he hung up on me.
“I Don’t Like Your Accent.”
This is one story that Kind of stook with me a little. I once went to another place near Gongguan, where some Taiwanese students were renting out a room and were looking for a 外國人.
I thought, “why not, maybe we can learn from each other.” The lease was for 6 months, and the rent was low, and only one month’s deposit needed. If the worst came to pass, I could just move out anyway.
When I got into their apartment, they asked me where I was from, and I got the feeling they didn’t really care that I said I was Irish. Also, no matter how much Mandarin I spoke, they kept replying in English. Mind you, not always the best English, but I can’t really judge since my Mandarin is hardly anything to brag about.
They told me they didn’t like my accent in English or Mandarin and that I might not be a good fit. In other words, I felt like they were hinting that they wanted an American roommate since they kept mentioning how all of their previous roommates were American.
I left. I wasn’t in the mood to be judged for being born in the wrong place.
Being the Last Choice
Eventually, my landlord in 2017 called me and said that one of the sisters dropped out of renting the apartment since she got a job in Tainan. He offered me the apartment, and I couldn’t help it was because I was his last and most convenient choice. With that said, he also became far nicer to me, and he always made needed repairs and was always a nice person to me.
I just didn’t like being told the apartment should go to a Taiwanese family when it wasn’t a family.
I learned it the hard way that having a Taiwanese girlfriend makes finding an apartment ten times easier. I think everyone who is reading this that is a foreigner will know that landlords get less nervous when they know they have a local person they can connect with. With that said, when I got my new lease in 2017, the landlord wanted my girlfriend in the Line group despite her not living there, and my roommates and I being able to read and write Mandarin.
So there you have it. If you have a Taiwanese partner, you should be fine. If not, good luck, and I hope you find a landlord that doesn’t think all foreigners have drug parties and orgies because if they were, I’m not getting invited to any of the parties.
I guess I’m not cool enough.