How to rent a Lane House in Shanghai

Old House Living

Having had a wealth of experience dealing with landlords, tenants and renovations, particularly in relation to lane houses, Renting Shanghai kindly put together this FAQ to reveal to expats some lane house truths.

How to rent a Lane House in Shanghai

Are there any other particular conditions or situations tenants need to be aware of with lane houses?

People often think they want lane houses if they have families and want to live downtown. However, we always talk to families and see what is most important for them. Some of the pitfalls of family life in a lane house are that there are a lot of stairs which can be difficult for small children and also there is not the community in place for children that you get in an expatriate-focused new compound.

Are there areas other than the former French Concession that have similar lane or garden houses?

The former British concession, which is in the Jingan district, is up and coming for renovated colonial proper ties in Shanghai. Of course, there havealways been colonial properties in the former British Concession but with expatriates it has so far never been of particular interest as renovated properties have been limited. However, there are an increasing number of colonial apartments and lane houses in the former British Concession which have been bought and renovated with renting in mind and are great options for those who are looking for Shanghai "lane life" in the Jingan area.

Often light is a problem in a lane house, what time of day is best to view a property?

At Renting Shanghai we remind our clients that it’s important to view the property that you are interested in during different times of the day. If you see a property on a wonderfully clear day at noon you may have unrealistic expectations of how much natural light the property will get.

What kind of questions should you ask the landlord?

The questions you ask for a new property are largely the same for a colonial property. Issues to think about are:
- What are my neighbours like?
- Will there be a lot of renovation in the area? Check if the properties around you have already been renovated or if it looks like renovations could start.
- Is the water pressure enough if you are higher than the 2nd floor?
- Is the electricity enough for all the appliances including heaters and the washing machine?
- Is it insulated enough so that I won’t freeze in the winter?

Is it worth investing in any renovations?

You are generally best to rent a property that does not need much work. However, there are people who choose to lease long term and renovate themselves. This is unusual though as most landlords are not willing to allow this and there is also the fear that you renovated and then your landlord decides to terminate the lease and rent it to someone else for more money.

Do you recommend trying to get a discount if a rental invoice (fapiao) is not included in the monthly fee?

We always recommend including the fapiao into your lease. You may get a slight discount by not having a fapiao, however, most landlords don’t care if you don’t need a fapiao as they themselves need it for tax reasons.

Are there any extra costs associated with lane houses?

There are no specific costs that are associated with lane houses and not with others. Be aware that if you have a big property your electricity bill could get high in the winter because of heating costs, but this is the same with large villas in Pudong and other areas of Shanghai.

What associations are there to turn to if tenants have serious problems with their landlord?

Unfortunately in Shanghai there are none that make your life much easier. Officially you can go to the courts and housing bureau. However, in reality if you have a good housing agent, they will be the ones who help you the most. At Renting Shanghai we assist our clients as much as possible with landlord/tenant relationships.

If it is an older property, how much responsibility for maintenance and repairs should the tenant be prepared for?

The landlord is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the property. However, it is important to realize that you may have workers in your house a number of times to fix issues if you’re living in a colonial property. However, this is the same for new buildings also.