Renting a Shanghai Apartment Without BS


Renting a Shanghai Apartment Without BS is the first installment in the "Shanghai Without BS" series. By reading this guide, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to spot problems with apartments, leases, and landlords BEFORE you sign.


Low Floors May Have Bad Plumbing. First and second floor apartments – especially in older (6+ years) buildings – are somewhat more likely to have plumbing problems. Issues can include drains getting backed up from the ground floor. Also, the lower in a building you are, the more minerals are likely to be present in your water. This is more of an issue in buildings with older metal pipes.

New Buildings are Loud. If you’re considering moving into a new apartment building, prepare yourself for a lot of ruckus. Interior renovations will be common for about a year. The solid concrete walls of Chinese apartment buildings are great at transmitting sound. If you move into a new building, you’re in for a number of mornings where it’ll sound like a drill bit is about to come through your wall.

Checking out the Property

Space that Doesn’t Really Exist. All apartments (and real estate for that matter) in Shanghai is rented based on “construction size.” A definition of construction size is a bit complicated, but what it means is that your actual apartment size is usually 25% to 30% less than what it says in the lease. If you ever want more space at a price that makes sense, just give Love Box Self Storage a call at 400-720-LOVE (5683).

The Water Heater MUST Get Oxygen. It’s EXTREMELY important that you make sure your water heater is installed in a room with proper ventilation – preferably near the window. Water heaters need a constant source of oxygen (from which they should produce carbon dioxide). If they’re starved of oxygen, they’ll instead end up producing carbon monoxide, which can kill you (if the buildup is extreme).

Let Daylight Guide You. Checking out apartments when the sun isn’t bright makes it harder to spot problems. Bright light will help you see cracks, blemishes, and other damage. Also, if the apartment doesn’t seem bright when sunlight is at its peak, it’s a good bet that it’ll be a bit gloomy.

To learn how to economically spruce up a rented apartment, see our “Cheap and Easy Decorating Without BS” guide.

Tight Elevators and Stairwells. If you have any really large furniture pieces, make sure that the elevator is large enough. If not, check whether the ceiling in the stairwells is tall enough to allow large furniture to make turns. Of course, if you rent high up, you may want to forget about movers taking large pieces up the stairs. Your mover might tell you doing so isn’t a problem, but don’t be surprised if they get careless with your stuff around floor 12 or so.

The good news is that by using Love Box Self Storage (with 11 different storage unit sizes), you no longer have to choose between another apartment and getting rid of your big furniture.

Leave No Tap Unturned. When you check out a place, make sure you’ve turned on all water taps. Run them long enough to see whether the water drains quickly. That’s not all though! Try out all major electronic appliances, including (and especially) the water heater. Check to make sure that the stove lights properly as well.

Gauging the Property Management. Property management companies provide security and maintain the public areas. More importantly, they also maintain plumbing. Poor management can become frustrating to deal with over the course of a lease. The best way to guess the quality of the management (beside talking to people who already live there) is by looking closely at how well-maintained the public spaces and grounds of the building are. Burnt-out light bulbs in obvious areas may not be a good sign.


Fake Landlords. Yes, even landlords can be counterfeit in China. In this scam, somebody leases out a property to which he or she has no title. To protect against fake landlords, request to see the landlord's ID (keeping a copy for yourself) and the apartment title documentation.

Absentee Landlords. Landlords who live outside of Shanghai can be ok, but there is a greater risk you'll be upset with them. First, if you're renting from a landlord who sends a representative to the lease signing, either make sure the representative has a notarized letter from the landlord giving him / her the authority to lease out the apartment; or, have the lease provide for rent and deposit payments by bank transfer. THEN MAKE SURE THE BANK ACCOUNT NAME GIVEN IN THE LEASE MATCHES THE APARTMENT OWNER'S NAME.

Absentee landlords may be less responsive to requests for maintenance. Try to meet and get a feel for the landlord's Shanghai representative before signing. If the rep is friendly, that's a plus.


To Get a Fa Piao or Not to Get a Fa Piao??? Here's why landlords don't want to give you fa piao: They have to pay a 5% tax on the rent amount. Here's why you probably do want a fa piao: Under Chinese law, expats can deduct the entire amount of their rents from taxable income if they have fa piao. With the top income tax rate in China at 45%, that can be serious money. For expats, it's probably worth it to pay up a little bit and get the fa piao.

Prompt Maintenance. It's not uncommon to have the lease require that the landlord fix all maintenance problems within 24 to 48-hours.

Immediate Deposit Return. You can negotiate for the lease to require the landlord to return your deposit on the lease termination day. If the landlord's afraid you'll stick them with unpaid bills, you can agree to leave some money to cover bills. However, it's always best to get this in writing. Then, the landlord can return the balance to you after receiving the final bills.

Removing Furniture. One of the more common problems during negotiations is getting the landlord to agree to remove furniture. Most landlords have no choice but to put furniture you don't want into their own apartment.

Don't forget - Love Box Self Storage is a deal saver when this happens. We offer discounts for long-term rentals.

Moving In

Change the Locks on Day 1. Changing the locks is standard practice when renting an apartment in Shanghai. Beside you landlord, the prior tenants, their ayis, and others may have keys. Just remember to give the new key to the landlord when you move out.

Cover Your A--. On the day you receive the key, thoroughly check for leaks and furniture damage. If you find any, take pictures and inform your landlord. Have your landlord sign an acknowledgment that includes pictures of the damage. This way, you're covered if your landlord blames you for the damage when you move. And if you think your landlord's too nice to do something like that, think again. It happens.

Check the Meters. Record the numbers on the electricity, gas, and water meters. You may need them later when reconciling how much you owe for the bills, versus what your landlord owes.


avatar tony
Fake Landlords. Yes, even landlords can be counterfeit in China. In this scam, somebody leases out a property to which he or she has no title. ...

with all due respect, i really thought it was a great and creative site until i saw this one , which makes u (whoever wrote this)sound kinda like a racist to me , fake crap is everywhere and universal , dont make it a chinese thing dude ...
avatar daivro
It seems this is Chinese thing because it is a site focusing on removing obsticles in Shanghai. Until Chinese people stop lying and cheating foreign residents every day, everywhere, they are going to have this reputation. Telling the truth about people isn't being a racist. Foreigners are not used to being lied to 20 times in one conversation. Its due time that foreigners know the corruption that goes on, because without the awareness, we are all weak, especially legally against a Chinese national. Try to make a claim in China and see what happens. After you lose 5 or 10 cases and a pile of money, then you'll support people saying it like it is.
avatar Christian Thomas
C´mon tony, it´s a VERY chinese thing, and this is even acknowledged by Chinese.
Don´t pretend to be Mother Theresa, Dude!
avatar Karen
Oh please... a lot of western people who arrive here for the first time have hardly ever seen 'fake' goods fact thousands of tourists are 'scammed' every weekend over this very problem, so don't make out that type of thing is normal in every town in the world.

This site is probably helping people to feel secure in a country which can fill people with fear when new and lost in its vast and sometimes quite cut-throat environment.
avatar Xtina
I need rent from Jan 20 to March 03... preferably around the metro and a gym nearby..(or easy access to a gym using bus or subway)

I was given 1.5 months vacation by my company..So i decided to be in shanghai because of the winter season as we do not have winter in my country..I'm a single lady, mid 20s....I can speak, read and write Chinese fluently. Mandarin is my mother tongue and English is second.

I will be in shanghai for 1.5 months..and in between I will be going to Beijing, Harbin and Suzhou..and I don't mind paying the rent for 1.5 months even when I'm not around for a week in between....

I'm on a tight budget ..very tight budget...hoping not to spend more than 2.5krmb for 1.5 months if possible..

I have been in Shanghai many times before and this is the first time i will stay for 1.5 months,,,

Please help me find a email is -

avatar resell seo
The Love Box Storage in Shanghai is a case it might be helpful to anybody. It's a self-storage facility near Yan Chang metro station.thanks for sharing the info.
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