Rent house or flat in Beijing


Renting an apartment in China requires planning. There has been a recent boom in real estate and there are a range of apartments available for rent by foreigners. Apartments are the primary form of housing, especially in the city center. Accommodation may be furnished or unfurnished, and the price should reflect that fact. Most ads, business, and contracts will be in Mandarin Chinese, but using an agent will help you navigate.

Rental Market

Western style apartments are concentrated in areas specified for foreigners. Large expatriate communities include Shunyi (villa housing) with families and embassy workers, Sanlitun for a foreigner party scene, Wudaokou is the student hub, Lido and Chaoyang Park has been a long-established foreigner hangout, and Wangjing is becoming increasingly an expat spot. The prices in these areas may be very high because of their popularity and proximity to the city center and various amenities.

A private one bedroom flat costs about 4,500 RMB per month.
Two-bedroom flats are about 6,000 RMB per month
Three-bedroom accommodation are about 9,000 RMB per month.
Houses start at 15,000 RMB
In general, prices increase significantly within each Ring Road approaching the city center. Housing is usually the largest expenditure.

Note that the higher the floor level the more high quality the apartment (in most cases). These also come at a higher price. It is also important to many Chinese the direction an apartment faces. This is due both to feng shui and that it might determine the TV signals that you receive.

How to Search for a Rental

Rental Agent

After you have determined what kind of place you would like and your price range, you need to decide if you would like to use a real estate agent. Most expats do because of unfamiliarity with the area and laws, as well as difficulty with the language barrier. An estate agent is a useful resource for finding the right place quickly. An agent will provide you with a description of available properties, escort you to viewings, make sure your contract complies with expected standards. Agencies are easy to find, but ask for recommendations from friends and contacts to find the best candidate. Estate agents are self-regulated, working under codes of conduct regulated by their professional bodies. Look for agents who are members of organizations such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the National Association of Estate Agents.

The site, Beijing Real Estate, is an excellent resource for finding the right agent for your needs.

According to the Chinese Law, tenant and owner have to share the payment of the commission for the real estate agent. At higher rent points, it is common to negotiate so that the landlord pays the whole commission fee.

Online Listing

Online listings can give you a great feel for the market and allow you to determine if a place fits your specifications before you spend time going to look at it.

Public Postings & Forums

Many places have billboards offering advertisements for a variety of goods and services. Watch these boards for useful postings. Laundrettes, cafes, grocery stores, community centers, and bars all might have private ads.

Expat and social forums and classified's are another resource for job seekers. You can get a realistic expectations of what it's like to live in Beijing as well as make helpful contacts. Check out Easy Expat's Classifieds for China as well as the forum to connect with expats there.


If you know anyone in China- get in touch! Friends and family, or any contact you have may have information about places available or advice on how and where to look. If you have already moved to Beijing, talk to people and make contacts.


Several papers have a helpful classified's section.


Once you've found a place you like, talk to the landlord. Make sure this is the type of person you can rent from and that you are in agreement. Most problems arise from difficulties with your landlord, not from the place itself. From there, you and the landlord (and the agent, if that's how you found the place) will discuss and agree upon a contract. Landlords will generally ask for at least three months rent and one months rent as a deposit. Make sure all questions have been answered and all clauses understood before signing.

Ask Questions like: 1) How long is the lease?
2) How much is the security deposit?
3) Are utilities included in the rent? If not, how much are they?
4) Are pets allowed? (if applicable)

Contracts must be in writing. If the owner does not want to write out an agreement- insist. This is a vital step to protect yourself.

    What should be include in a contract:
  • Duration of agreement: Most leases last for a period of at least 6 months, but more often a year. During this time a landlord cannot increase the rent. The notice period that either you or the landlord have to give in order to terminate the agreement should also be included.
  • How rent is to be paid: Usually paid in cash RMB a month in advance, it may be possible to pay by money transfer if you hold a Chinese bank account.
  • Responsibility for household bills: Usually rental prices do not include utilities. Determine if any or included and how you should pay the bills you are responsible for.
  • Forfeiture: If you are deemed to be in breach of your contract you can be evicted from your accommodation. Be sure you understand the dos and don’ts of the contract.
  • Deposit: In almost all rental agreements, the landlord will ask for a deposit (usually two months rent). The deposit is used to cover any damages you may cause, along with any outstanding debts you may owe at the end of your tenancy. The receipt for the deposit is called shouju and is a written recognition that the landlord has received the money. Should the property condition be deemed acceptable upon lease expiration, the security deposit will be refunded in full.

To make sure the contract is adhered to and you are not later charged with pre-existing damage, you should do a walk through with the landlord before signing the contract. This is the time to ask any last minute questions.

Management Fees

Rentals frequently include a Management fee. Payable monthly to the management company of the estate you rent, it covers the cost of maintenance, security of the building and amenities. The fee depends on the building age and facilities offered to the Tenants.


Most apartments require that tenants submit a termination letter at least 30 days before their move date. Some leases automatically renew, so check the terms and conditions listed on your lease contract to avoid unnecessary charges or fees. It is also usually require that the intention to leave is in writing, so write a lease termination letter to your landlord or management company stating the date you plan to move out of your apartment. Mail the termination letter to your landlord's office and send it certified so that you have a postal receipt or turn it in personally.

If you are leaving before your contract is up, you may incur a penalty. That should also be clarified in the contract. Some leases contain an "early-out" or "early-release" clause, which states under what conditions you can break your lease and the amount you owe the landlord. This may be dependent on a visa not being issued/renewed, or other unforeseen circumstances. Keep in mind that your security deposit may also be forfeited, depending on tenant laws.

When you reach the move out date, meet with your landlord to complete a walk-through. Review your contract to find out what repairs or damages are not covered under your lease. Have your landlord check for potential damage or repairs before you move out to avoid surprise fees down the road.

Discuss how and when you should expect to receive your security deposit with the landlord. You may also ask if you may use your security deposit to pay the last month's rent.

Update 12/05/2011


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