Renting Accommodation in China

The facts you need to know about renting a house or apartment in China: the contract, the deposit, the lease and the legal obligations of the landlord and the tenant...

Most expatriates live in rented accommodation when they first settle in China. There are three main ways of getting a place to live: being provided with accommodation by an employer, using an estate agent, or searching for a property independently.

Types of accommodation and prices vary depending on the city and location, so researching local markets is important when choosing a property. While renting is the most common option for foreigners, they are also permitted to buy property in China. Generally, leases last for a year, but there is room for negotiation on this with some landlords. Although it is not technically necessary to have a residence permit to rent an apartment or a house, foreigners who are living and working in China must register their place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau (see the Angloinfo section, Residency In China).

Finding a Property

Expatriates whose employers include accommodation as part of the job package might find that they have an apartment or house already arranged for them before they arrive in China. If not, they might have a range of properties on the company's books to choose from. Alternatively, they might be given financial assistance when looking for a property independently or through an agent.

Some popular websites for finding rental property:

Foreigners who need to find their own accommodation can use the services of an estate agent or can conduct their own search. Classified advertisements in local newspapers and on expatriate websites are the most common places to start looking. Property company websites are not often in English, but with help from a Chinese speaker, they are a good source of information about potential accommodation. Another way is to approach apartment building security guards in a desired area and ask about potential rental properties. They will usually charge a finders fee.

Using an agent

Estate agents charge a commission only if they are successful in finding a property for a client. The fee is usually based on the rental price, and can be anywhere from half a month's rent to two months' rent. The exact percentage should be determined before agreeing to use the agent's services. As well as helping with the property search, a good agent also helps with lease negotiations. Some agents are more scrupulous than others, so it is best to select one through a personal recommendation or with a good reputation among the expatriate community. It is also important to be specific with the agent about the requirements for an apartment or house (such as Internet access, western-style bathrooms and what is included in the rent).

Types of properties

Furnished and unfurnished properties are available in most local markets. Furnished apartments and houses can include both soft furnishings and full utilities, while unfurnished properties may come without items such as kitchen appliances. Some landlords may furnish an apartment on request but increase the rental amount.

Some modern apartment blocks have communal facilities such as fitness centres, pools and other recreational features, as well as underground parking (with a space provided or for an extra cost, depending on the contract). Some apartment buildings also charge management and service fees, which may or may not be included in the rent, so this should be checked in the terms of the contract.

In buildings with multiple floors, apartments situated on the upper levels are usually more expensive to rent. Advertisements in classified sections will often mention the floor level of the apartment in relation to the total height of the building.

Further Information