Thursday, September 4, 2008

HK Rented apartment: My LONG string of agonies

When my husband first brought me to view this apartment, I was mildly hesitant already because of the kitchen state, with really old and dirty exhaust fan and oven, and poorly laminated kitchen cabinets. No freaking diswasher either since everyone in HK has maids. However, my husband liked the renovated living and bedrooms and space to accomodate our huge bulky furniture. Plus I had wanted a convenient location near supermarket of walking distance, so this was the ideal choice.

My husband has absolutely NO negotiation skills. Probably his rental experience in Singapore and Australia and previously in HK had been very good, so he thought everything could rely on good faith.

#1. Contract
The first run in with the landlord was their "change" in "customised" contract clauses, after we sign the initial agreement with deposit. We didnt realise how much ridiculous changes there were! The contract was so biased and one sided that it basically free the landlord of ALL responsibilities to FIX anything, even in times of Acts of God!!! My husband was furious. Imagine if a typhoon rain wreaked the windows, the contract would expect us as tenants to pay for it!!! No freaking way. So we argued for days on the point and the landlord relented to remove that clause, but still insisted on indemnify them from responsibilities unless it is structural or inherent. Apparently we were told they hired a lawyer to draft the one sided contract. As far as I am aware, I told the agent that any prejudiced contract will not hold in the court either .

Lesson to be learnt. Do not sign or agree to anything in future if they are going to "customised" the contract clauses. As they still can come after your for the 2 months deposit.

#2: Faulty electrical appliances/ defects
During the night of unit viewing, I raised several issues about the exhaust fan and oven. I told the landlord that I am NOT comfortable with the old exhaust fan with the side panel TAPED to hold it together. The wife was not there, and the landlord said it should not be very expensive to replace it if its faulty. So i told him before the agents, that while I accept it as it is now, but I will not know if there is any problem until i USE it. So my willingness to accept the existing appliances will only be effected after the first week i settle down. He agreed.

I flag the stove ignition problem and missing buttons to landlord wife at the same night. She said she will get someone to fix the stove issue. However she said that for the oven "the missing broken buttons and indicators cannot be fixed."

I pointed out to the intercom and she said the management are changing it and she will call to check with the office.

I opened the microwave and was horrified and terrible aghast at the stench. It smelt like something has died inside. Gross! yet the landlord wife insisted it was just from lack of use. I remained skeptical....

During the night, my instinct kicked in and I reiterated 3 times to the landlord that I would not know if everything is ok until I moved it. At the last reminder, the landlord conceded that should electrical appliances be faulty or i found more existing defects, he would fixed it. I asked my agent and he too assured me it was so. Luckily I did, or I would have to fork out money on my own.

On the lst day I moved in, i discovered 2 faulty electrical points with shorted light points. The landlord's wife sent her driver/ acting as handyman to oversee the repair with their own "si-fu". While I was busy with the movers, i didnt watch over the electrical people. Before they left, they told me the sliding glass panel door in the study room has derailed and fallen off but they put it back! I was too busy to take notice until eve time. When I walked into the room and looked, the door fell off towards me!!! Fucking hell! Luckily I was there to hold onto the glass door or it would have broken upon hitting the study table. Such shitty shoddy contractor work. The landlord wife insisted she will not fix it as it was in good condition when she handed it to me. I reminded her that it was HER LIGHT WORKERS who had informed me about the fallen door. As per the contract, SHE IS responsible for ANYONE and DAMAGES SHE BROUGHT into the house. She was speechless. I told her I do not want it placed back as the railing is so bad that it can fall off anytime. So i shoved the glasspanel into the store instead.

Together with discovery of leaking toilets, faulty doorbell, broken shelves, faulty taps, torn dryer tube etc within the first 4 days, the driver came again to repair the necessary after i hassled my agent. He himself was shocked that his landlord didnt fix all these things before they rented it to us. I told him to remove the microwave as well as it really stink like bloody stale poo. Luckily I never liked microwaves. Those nitty gritties took over a week to fix. I felt so sorry for the driver who sweated away and getting wet fixing the bathroom door seal in the bathroom, so I gave him a small red packet.

Considering he offered to buy lunch and a step ladder for me (as he had a car to deliver it ) , I thought it was a return of his favor esp since I figured his stingy lady boss would not pay him extra. I didnt want to take advantage of the situation. I didnt realise how that simple gesture would serve to "reward" me later.

On the 5th day, the stove exhaust died on me after a round of screeching grating noise as i was cooking. I informed the agent and the landlord has no choice but to replace a new one as he had promised so. He said his driver will look for one, and the driver looked into it he did. I thought I would get the same crappy cheap model, instead the driver He shopped for 2 days and purchased a sleek silver Siemens model based on "suitable" dimension. He arranged all the purchase and installation dates etc for me. COOL. Saved me one hassle! He also searched all over Wanchai and bought me a thick, water resistant tube of good plastic quality for the dryer tube. Hoo Hoo. A little generosity with $$$ makes my life easier. The red packet in all honesty was not a calculated move but all the same, I love the "benefits."

On the 7th day, I discovered how dirty, filthy the oven was. My part time maid recommended this fantastic "easy off" brand of oven cleaner. I had to throw away 2 pieces of cleaning clothes coz it was so horrifically drenched with black oil and burnt flakes on the base and detachable metal racks... I still couldnt remove all the stains! When I turned it on, it scared me shitless when enveloping white smoke and of burning smell engulfed the oven and stinging my eyes..I was fuming mad with all the broken equipments. So i video the "smoke" scene and sent it to agent. Few days later, The landlord wife tried to squirm out of it, saying it was perfect condition during their times and "how could it possibly be faulty now." She insinuated that my maid must have damaged it during cleaning. That alone made me hopping mad!! Did she think I was a fool to be blamed and have to repair the stinking oven for her? Fat chance!

Firstly, i reminded her i had no maid. The maid would be me.
I argued that if the rotten stove exhaust can have sudden death on me, what makes her think her rotting greasy dirty oven with broken buttons and missing indicator will be in "perfect" condition?!!!! Plus, if it is cleaning, then it is HER freaking lazy maid who damaged it as she has the one who was suppose to clean it before handing over to us. I emphases on the DIRT and grease from over the years. Which maid would admit to not cleaning the oven and they are lazy or they damaged something???? More imptly, i reminded her that HER HUSBAND agreed that I have the allowance to reflect the problems within the first week if there are problems and he will be responsible to fix it.

Eventually on the 2nd week, they begrudgingly agreed to send the oven technician to inspect the "problems". They said they will not replace it as it is too much work and she is so busy looking after her kids.

I retorted that I do not need a new oven, just a clean WORKING oven. That is a basic rental requirement to provide appliance of working condition. Secondly, BUSY??! I do not even need HER to come down since she is useless. I AM THE ONE who is freaking busy coordinating all the repair work and sticking around. I AM THE ONE who should complain about being BUSY. Bitch. The agent agreed and said that "the landlord wife doesnt even step into the kitchen, of course she thinks everything is perfect in good condition. which maid will be so stupid to admit they spoilt something?" I agreed.

So the oven technician came on 16th day, and even he was appalled at the mess within. He told me this oven has NEVER been clean and so all the filth is causing the burnt etc and grills has to be replaced, cannot be cleaned. I told him to write every single item that need to be replaced and clearly INDICATE how DIRTY the oven is with his own photo evidence. I told him my plight of landlord who claimed I had damaged the oven, so could he clarify that in his report. He did. The technician as such listed a list of replacement parts from grills, light bulb, fan and control panel with new buttons due to prior negligence and care. I won again and the landlord himself this time agree to change everything as quoted. I just have to wait for the new parts to be delivered....

On the 14th day, I was shocked to discovered 2 new big roaches crawling over the table top every night. Every time I killed them, there will be army to replace these scavengers. There were waste droppings all over the floor and bowls. One even challenged me by sneaking between the fridge doors! I spent 2 days sealed and taped every possible crevices but they reappeared. I got so fed as my sensitive skin started to react to the waste with rashes. I wrote to agent requesting pest control. I had already killed over 20 roaches if i count 2 deaths per day. The landlord wife tried to wriggle out of the request stating "it is not a landlord responsibility in HK. They have to do it themselves in their rental flat."

That pisses me off. I told the agent, I didnt rear nor bring those roaches into the apartment. So it was a preexisting condition where they should have professional fumigate the place. I said I am concerned about the roaches heading to the newly renovated areas. Plus i have never seen any one who cared and respect so little for their own home and as a tenant, i ended up caring for it more than she does. If she doesnt get one, I will get one and deduct it out of my rent. They can argue all they like, I do not care because I can prove that this infestation is existing.. My agent got a shock and tried to pacify me. So in the end, my agent said he will pay for the professional fumigation. Good. So long I AM NOT paying it. I read from geoexpat forum and learnt from their lessons. I told him I wanted those with ingested baits that will eradicate the root problem. Spray alone will not terminate those new hatched from the eggs.. It cost him about HK $850+.

During inspection, even the pest control guy agreed it should have been done prior we moved in, and that it is a preexisting condition. I got his contact as I probably will need him to return every quarter. When he completed his job, i saw a RUSH of small dead roaches out of the crevices and falling dead all over the floor. Upon first count, there were 37 dead corpses. Every other day onwards, i see 2-3 dead corpses on the floor. However, no more waste droppings. Happy.

On the 16th day, i discovered the intercom was faulty. The landlord wife didnt even call the management office as promised. So I arranged and had the office sent someone to check and the ancient machine was long busted. Luckily I had flagged this prior moving in, and so i sent another email to my agent. He said the landlord lady was really annoyed now with "so much problems" and "expenses". I told the agent, "She knew of this on first night we met, and EVEN the security guards in the building CONFIRMED the landlord knew it was busted during their times." Thus, I won again with neutral witnesses". Of course, they refused to fork out HK$3000 for a video intercom, but I said i only needed the voice activated intercom which cost HK$480.

On the 18th day, the driver called me about the faulty bell replacement. He laughed about the thing and he himself volunteered information that his landlord wife is "clueless" tai tai and know nothing about the problems at home. In the search of the doorbell, he actually called me to consult what sort of bell and music I would like. It was hilarious. I bet the landlord wife must have treated/ paid him poorly for him to switch alliances so easily! We realised later, it wasnt the bell that was faulty, it was the wiring connection that was!!! Before he left, the driver told me to call his mobile anytime if I have things to fix. Need not go thru his boss as she will only bitch about it. He is more than happy to help me. THANK GOD for his kind gestures!!!

As I had complained about this stale smell in guest toilet from day one, they asked me to approach the management office. None of them could detect the smell. Strange. They thought my nose was "crazy". However, I insisted my very keen sense of smell could detect this foul stale smell, as if something was damp and kept in an airtight place for ages sort of stench. They checked for 2 weeks and couldnt locate the smell. Finally on the 24th day, they got a plumber, a builder to come again. I told them it is horribly worse when i shut the door. I asked if it might be the false ceiling. They said unlikely. FORTUNATELY for me, the neighbor above was doing renovation works and the contractor had to check my ceiling to ensure no leakage. So they forced open the ceiling and HELLO! There was a leaking concealed pipe, dripping water onto the concrete!!! THAT was the source of the awful stench as the airtight ceiling had no air ventilation and the concrete has absorbed the water remaining damp. I WAS SOOOO RIGHT!!! Thankfully it was not sewage water! So they had to fix it up for me .

Today, they came to install the new intercom. I am still waiting for the oven parts replacement.

Meanwhile, I am walking around the house with a hammer, hammering all the nails sticking out of the carpet. That will take a while before I finished. My part time maid was so funny. I gave her slippers to wear so she doesnt hurt her feet. She had forgotten about it and got pricked and yelped in pain. As she relate to me the story, she laughed that she will always remember everything I warn her in future. We both had a good laugh.

God made the world in 7 days. However, his successor probably need 30 days to fix the world damages like I did with this lousy rotten apartment...

I have learnt that alot of HK landlords can be a nasty piece of work. So you must clarify very very clearly before you rent an apartment. Do not be silly not to raise questions and requests before you sign. They can choose not to accept your request, but do not assume they will do the right thing by you once they get your signature on the dotted line.

Also always ask for pest control BEFORE u move in regardless unless it is a new apartment complex. Always always ask for a week window period to allow you to check for defects especially old appliances and fixtures....

Unfortunately for the landlord, I am no easy push-over. I must remember to buys something nice for my agent who had been a great help. If it wasnt for his tactful ways, I am sure I couldnt have so many requests fulfilled too.

1 comment:

littlecartnoodles said...

What a list of horrors !

Good on you to insist on your rights. Greedy and irresponsible landlords should be taught a lesson. Such Ugly HKers simply think they can get their way by being louder than the other guy.