Renting an Apartment in Taiwan
On this page, I'll give you information about how to rent an apartment in Taiwan. Having your own place to stay will be essential if you want to teach English in Taiwan.
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Apartments in Taiwan - An Introduction
Whether through hostels, hotels, a friend or a random couchsurfer, once you have a place to sleep and shower it will be your task to find a job and then an apartment in Taiwan.
Taiwan apartments are most likely going to be a bit different from what you're used to in Western countries. Taiwan's strong eating-out culture has driven the prevalence of the "tao fang", a kind of living arrangement that might seem strange to those coming from the occident.
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Taiwanese Tao Fang
A tao fang is essentially a bedroom with a bathroom and (usually) contains no kitchen or refrigerator, and perhaps no furniture except for a hard bed. These can range from extremely cheap to laughably overpriced, and are the living choice of most of Taiwan's student population.
That said, there are also the kind of apartments you're most likely used to with communal living spaces, shared bathrooms and kitchens. These are not quite as common as the ubiquitous tao fang, but they can be found easily as well. If you anticipate wanting to cook or keep food at home you will need to go for this option.
Finally, there are all kinds of combinations of these two. There are tao fangs with a shared bathroom and a shared kitchen, for example. These are kind of like small dormitories and are called ya fang. Most foreigners opt for the places with more communal spaces such as living rooms and the like, but a tao fang is a nice cultural experience and will force you to try every kind of Chinese food in existence.
Finding an apartment in Taiwan
Important note: If at all possible, you will want to bring a Taiwanese person or extremely good Chinese-speaking foreigner (if you're not one yourself) with you on apartment hunts in Taiwan. This is not necessary, of course, but it will save you a lot of headache and confusion and will generally make the experience far less stressful.
Apartment hunting in Taiwan is essentially the same as it is anywhere in the world - a really annoying and unnecessarily long process. The only things that can make it particularly frustrating are the language problem and the occasional landlord or landlady who likes to take advantage of foreigners, who have a reputation for having lots of cash and no clue what's going on (refer to the "you are probably getting ripped off if…") section below.
Looking for an apartment in Taiwan - The process
If you've ever looked for an apartment, the process will be familiar. You will call people, make appointments, see the place, let them know what you think, hear back from them eventually or never; rinse and repeat.
If you're looking for a place with roommates, it will most likely be these current residents that show you around, not necessarily the landlord.
Things to look (out) for in apartments in Taiwan
You may quickly notice that many (or most) apartments in Taiwan could "use a little sprucing up", as it were. While Taipei and other cities are in the process of rapidly developing new, modern housing, the majority of the buildings in Taiwan were cheaply built a few decades ago, giving your living arrangements a third-world feel that is not representative of other aspects of life in Taiwan. Without discussing (yet) the potential landlord issues, here are some things to think about when looking at apartments in Taiwan:
- Street noise: Taiwanese cities are notorious for their loudness, from the puttering of ancient scooters to the grating rrreerrrrrrr! of rusted bike brakes to traditional religious festivals to fireworks and so on. Living on a major street in Taiwan will almost definitely be loud, so take note of how much you can take and what the apartment offers.
- Air-conditioning: Summers will be crushingly hot and humid, and unless you were raised in the Amazon you will become best friends with your air-conditioner. When looking at an apartment in Taiwan, make sure you know where the A/C units are and whether or not they work. Commonly, A/C is available in rooms but not in communal areas, though exceptions can be found.
- Proximity to public transit: Even if you have a scooter in Taiwan, you will most likely want to use public transit from time to time. Taiwan's bus systems are famously difficult for foreigners to use, but when understood will be highly useful. Taipei's MRT system is famously simple for everyone to use, but is not as comprehensive as the buses. Finally, having an apartment close to a train station will make weekend trips refreshingly convenient.
- Neighborhood: Picking the right neighborhood will depend heavily on your preferences, but it will possibly be the most important part of your Taiwan apartment decision. Checking out the area at night will be helpful depending on whether you prefer your nighttime to be (re nao, lively) or (an jing, peaceful and quiet). Also be on the lookout for places you will want to frequent often, for example parks, gyms or libraries.
- Bathrooms: Most likely your bathroom in your Taiwanese apartment will have a western-style toilet and a non-western style shower. Most showers are simply showerheads attached in the corner of the bathroom and there will be a couple drains on the floor throughout the room. If you find this detestable you can search a bit harder (or pay a bit more) and find places with tubs or enclosed showers. Also be on the lookout for reliability of hot water, which can be spotty.
What to ask the landlord and/or current residents when shopping for an apartment in Taiwan
You will be faced with a number of different options, leading you to have a lot of questions, the first of which being "which questions should I ask?" The best thing to do will be to bring a high-level Chinese speaker who is familiar with the ropes. If you're totally on your own, though, here are the basic questions to ask:
- Are utilities (electricity, gas, water) included in the monthly price?
- Is there internet and cable or will I have to sign up for them myself?
- Is it furnished?
- How long will the lease be signed for? One year? Nine months?
- Scooter parking - is it available? If so, where? Do I need to pay extra?
- When do I get my deposit back?
- What is the penalty if I have to cancel the contract?
You're probably getting ripped off if:
There's no way to know for sure, unfortunately. However, you're probably getting ripped off if…
- You are charged more than two-months' deposit
- The landlord/lady is insistent that you sign the lease as quickly as possible
- The landlord/lady can't produce any English-speaking references for you
- It's not clear how utilities will be charged
- You are charged nonsensical extra fees, such as finder's fees, furniture rental, internet installation fees, etc.
Utilities are generally not included in Taiwanese apartment prices unless you decide to put up in one of the up-and-coming "living communities", large, insulated buildings in more Taiwanese suburban areas with basketball courts, internet, cable, gyms and so on included. Utilities in Taiwan are generally inexpensive, and as a foreigner will almost never be in your name. Mostly utilities management will be covered either by a Taiwanese roommate or by your landlord.
This goes for optional utilities, too. It will make everybody's life easier if the landlord or a Taiwanese roommate takes care of signing up for internet, cable or a home phone. Most utility companies in Taiwan are skeptical of offering services to foreigners who have a reputation for ditching the country without paying out their contracts.
Garbage and Trash Collection in Taiwan
Trash collection in Taiwan is a very peculiar thing, most likely one of the more interesting stories you'll be able to relate back home. Usually, trash collection in Taiwanese cities is done nightly or weekly, with trash trucks making the rounds through the cities on specific days at specific times. The trucks announce themselves with easily-recognizable melodies blasted through megaphones, which signal that it's time to for the local community to come bearing gifts of waste. When you hear the ringing, you will bring your trash and recycling, which should be separated, to the trucks and distribute it accordingly.
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Signing a lease on an apartment in Taiwan
First of all - don't sign a lease for an apartment in Taiwan until you are totally confident in the place. Looking for apartments in Taiwan is annoying and drudgingly slow, but finding the right place will be vital to your peace of mind, especially when the world around you is most likely going to be a bit unfamiliar. Small problems that you see in apartments in Taiwan initially will only be exacerbated as you spend more time in them.
Once you have found the place you love (or don't hate), it's time to sign a bunch of documents in a language that you most likely don't understand. If you don't have the native-speaker advantage and aren't totally sure about the legitimacy of your landlord, you might want to suggest using a template contract that can be bought at convenience stores for about NT$15.
In Taiwan, most leases will be 12 months, and apartment rent is generally paid on the 5th or 15th, which lines up with the dates that most Taiwanese people get paid. If a landlord/lady can't give a good reason for why he or she wants to get paid earlier, you may be justified in being a bit skeptical.
The information contained within the apartment lease in Taiwan will be fairly basic and predictable - your name, location of apartment, your ARC ID, passport number, length of contract and so on. Be wary of anything sounding out of the ordinary.
Need more information about apartments in Taiwan?
If you need more information about Taiwan apartments, make sure to check out Teach English in Taiwan: The Official Survival Guide.
I hope you found this page about Taiwan apartments helpful.
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