Wednesday night, 9 pm, two men come and knock on the door. They are here to change the locks. What? You haven’t paid the rent for the last two months. What? Sure we did, here are the receipts.
To make a long story short, we had to evacuate. Although the landlord admitted we had done nothing wrong, they wanted more money, and would not allow a moving truck to come on the property. We needed out, quietly, and soon. We checked into a hotel ASAP.
Over the next two days, we packed, hauled and unpacked approximately 50 big suitcases. We were afraid security would be told to stop us, but they actually helped roll the luggage over the bridge. Try and hail a cab when you have 8 humongous suitcases while waiting on the sidewalk. Piece of cake, the cabdriver sees white people on the way to the airport and can see the dollar signs floating around us. The Pudong Airport is an hour away, a nice little financial bonus for them. But no, we are going ten minutes away, so they refuse the ride and leave us stranded. Desperate, tired and mad, we resorted to the old trick of bribery: hailing a cab with money in our hands. We paid 10 times the usual price. Like I said, we were desperate.
The whole move took 6 cab rides and the help of people (some in high places, it helps to know people!) who felt sorry for us and loaned us their friends and personal drivers with big SUV’s. The Clampetts, 21st century style.
Try explaining to the hotel staff why you keep showing up with extremely heavy luggage, and leave a couple of hours later with the same luggage, empty. But they helped. And got tipped. I do not however know what the housekeepers think of the state of our current room!
But I said we were evicted twice. Because this is only chapter two of the “we will never rent again from a landlord in China” saga.
I was not in Shanghai when it happened the first time in early December. E. was here alone. Once again, through no fault on our part, he was asked to leave the apartment. The fact that we had a lease, a contract, a paper that usually is considered binding all over the world’s jurisdictions, here, was useless. He was given less than 48 hours to vacate. Fortunately, we had rented the apartment with the help of an agency, and they found us another apartment, though smaller, not as nicely furnished, and on a lower floor (what choice did we have? Have you ever heard of being “shanghaied”?) and sent four women to move to another building in the same complex.
Our lease, we gather, was bought by another landlord. And this explains why we were kicked at the curb the second time. Like I said, we did nothing wrong, but the second landlord was unhappy with the terms of the buyout, and poof, we’re out. Does this make sense to you? To me, it doesn’t.
So here we are, having breakfast on the 44th floor of a nice hotel, looking at the dense smog covering the city, listening to a female Chinese singer’s version of HaHa’s “Take me on”. Yesterday it was Serge Gainsbourg. I am ok with that.
This is nuts! Sorry for your trouble… one of those humbling moments when you realize no matter how solid your foundation feels, as an expat you’re perennially at the whims of the Powers That Be – justly or otherwise ! Best of luck and hope you find some solid roots there !
In a sense I wish it were an expat problem. From what lawyers have told us, it is a rather common occurrence. That’s one of the reasons why so many Chinese own their flats. We are now sticking with serviced apartments!