Planet China

Rent control

The term ‘absentee landlord’ gained a new meaning in Hangzhou late last month when the owner of a flat discovered the cost of leaving his property vacant. According to, the owner (surnamed Zhang) discovered that the locks had been changed on his apartment in Caihe Street and that unbeknownst to him a tenant surnamed Li was living in it.

After reporting this to the police, it emerged that Li had been renting the 60 square metre flat for five years, and was totally unaware he was paying a fake landlord. Police discovered that the impostor had forged an ID card and property ownership certificate and was in league with a local security guard in the complex. It was the latter who came up with the scheme, after noticing that Zhang had left the flat empty for a long time. The pair changed the locks and then advertised the unit at a below market rate, insisting on being paid cash. Over the past half decade, they illegally collected Rmb90,000 ($14,039) in rent and split the money in half. For the incident offers a cautionary tale for anyone in China that leaves their property empty for a prolonged period.

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