So I rented with Holly (now called Jenny) for two years in a hutong place near Dengshikou. It started off pretty sketchy as she wanted something astronomical for the place and showed me a bunch of other places that were not even close to being completed. During the lease signing process, I’m already a bit alarmed by her “fees for service” and “late fees” and no protections for me along with her entire attitude towards the process. We argue for a bit before she ends up knocking off the fees that she herself acknowledges are just there so that she can make money off of me. I end up signing even though the place is not perfect and she is super duper sketchy.
The first year and a half, though, by and large go smoothly. There are some issues with repairs, but the apartment holds up for the most part and is relatively comfortable. The floor heating eats my electricity bill like no other. Her “assistant”, by the way, is awesome – a super kind and helpful guy who was FAR easier to work with than Holly herself. And I had to call him far too many times.
Shit gets weird when in November of my second year, this random guy shows up outside my door and asks for his “rent” and wants to know what the hell am I doing in his apartment. Turns out this guy is the original landlord of the place (or the son of) and Holly (or rather her sketchy husband) is late with their yearly rent. This guy was friends with Holly’s husband, who apparently rented out this guy’s place on a ten-year lease, promising to fix it up, but that just he and his family would be living there. And that any renovations would be run by the guy. And, the kicker, that the rent for THE YEAR is 3x my monthly payments to Ms. Holly.
So this guy is grumpy and is like – pay me my rent or get out. I call Holly. She doesn’t answer. I tell him that his deal is between Holly and he and that, according to me, I have a valid contract with her and he needs to take this breach of contract up with her. He leaves.
I finally get in touch with her and tell her what went down and she starts screaming at me. Tells me that I shouldn’t have answered the door and why was I contacting this guy and how I’m the worst tenant and always complaining and blahblahblah. She threatens that she’ll never give my deposit back (and I’ve also just paid the next three month’s rent to her) and she’ll change the locks and all sorts of other stuff. I’m shocked because SHE IS CRAZY. She ends up backing down after I fire back threatening legal action and going to the police and complaining to the media. She says she’ll take care of it and when I ask her next, she says that her husband has dealt with it.
SPOILER ALERT – she didn’t fucking take care of it. This guy shows up at my office in March and tells me I need to start paying him rent. He has sent a cease and desist letter to Holly and her slimeball husband telling them because they didn’t pay the rent or notify him of the repairs and are illegally subletting it, that the contract is null and void. I tell him that that’s all well and good, but that the contract ends when you get a court to certify it. He gets frustrated and is like – well, I’m going to call the police. I tell him he can call whomever he wants, but as far as I’m concerned, my contract with Holly is still valid. So he calls the police. The police show up and, in the best moment of China being China, are like “WOAH – this is a foreigner issue!? Sorry bud, this one’s all yours” and quickly leave. Another amazing moment of that interaction is when I call Holly and say – the original landlord is here and would like to speak with either you or your husband as you have been avoiding his calls – and she immediately hangs up. I call her husband and the same result.
I end up getting a lawyer to handle all the go-between with this terrible terrible woman and the original landlord as I am kind of over it all. He deals with it and ends up getting a deal for me where my deposit is used as my last month’s rent so I don’t have to pay her a cent more. I move out well before my final day, both as insurance and because I’m leaving the country anyway and give her back the keys. As part of that deal, I wouldn’t say anything bad about her to anyone. Which, when she was showing the apartment to other people, I held to. AND I AM SO SORRY I KEPT MY SILENCE (if you are reading this, guy who saw my apartment, i’ll buy you many drinks to make up for it). Well, breaking that deal, because what she does is messed up and people should know about it.
A word of advice – do not rent from ANYONE unless you can get/see the ORIGINAL certificate showing that the person in front of you (and you can crosscheck it with their IDs) is the leaseholders with state-granted leasing rights. Holly and her husband and the shitbox Ikea-fied apartments her little cabal rents out do NOT have that power. And, as someone said earlier, public housing given by the government (which many of these hutong apartments are) is usually NOT allowed to be sublet. And, what makes it even worse, is that oftentimes, the actual owners (or rather leaseholders, because this is China) have no idea what is going on. Holly or her husband or both, go around Dongcheng and Xicheng to these individuals, pretend that they are just a fun couple with a kid who are doing their own thing and want a 10-year lease, promise to fix it up and then turn around and rent it out to unsuspecting foreigners. In theory, this could be a totally awesome business model that is socially responsible (preserving the cultural intangibles of hutong life) and, even more importantly, one where everyone wins. The original owners get a renovated apartment with a nice chunk of change every year, Holly and her husband make a nice profit, and her tenants get their dream of living in a comfortable, historic Beijing hutong with their fixed-gear bikes and roof terraces. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different because HOLLY IS A SCAM ARTIST who is only looking to make a quick buck. Had she been honest and forthcoming with both the landlords and the tenants, there wouldn’t even be this website. We’d all be constantly referring our friends to her, the landlords would love her and tell all their friends about her. More hutong life would be preserved and everyone wins. yay.
But whatever. She is the worst and no one should rent from her or continue to subsidize her shitty business. We all know that law and order are malleable and subject to the whims of the state in China and that many things can happen (but usually won’t), so try and protect yourself as best you can by staying as far away from this woman as possible.
More than 800 people saw the website, and I hear more and more people that was about to visit or rent that decided to retract their decision!
Please email me at [email protected] if you want to share your story with HomeUdream.com , it will help people to stay away from her, and really helpful for everyone in Beijing!