Bangkok Apartment Hunting – Oh The Irony
Imagine my surprise when reading Stick's latest weekly column and hearing about his harrowing tale when looking for an apartment when I was going through a similar difficulty with my own apartment hunt.
So we were very specific on what we wanted, we were looking for a place that was close to the MRT and close to a mall where my buddy plays ice hockey. I know what you thinking – what are two grown men doing moving into an apartment together? Well the logic was this: I would be out of the country for a good portion of the time on business and didn’t like the idea of leaving my goods in a room for a month at a time.
All places required a 1-year lease and I agreed with my mate that I would commit for 6 months after which my overseas business activities would slow down and then he would keep the current apartment and I would move on to something new.
We met the two agents, a British chap (let's call him Bob) along with a Thai woman (let's call her Sun, and the first building we looked at they claimed was 800 meters from the MRT. Let's just say that their measurements were just a tad off. We ended up walking at least 2 km to get to the building. We met Bob and Sun and while Sun seemed genuinely pleasant there was something I did not trust about Bob. He seemed a bit shady to me and if someone were to mention that he was a child sex predator I would not have been surprised in the least.
So the two apartments they show us are nice enough but I wasn’t feeling them – unlike Stick's concerns about cell phone reception and escaping a building I will just be up front and say I despise heights and living that high up just didn’t sit well with me. They then mentioned that they had another apartment block for us to look at.
The minute we entered the apartment block I was feeling it! Fantastic gym, good swimming pool and the apartments they showed us were fantastic. We decided then and there that we were going to take the second apartment they showed us. While we were there they asked us if we were smokers. We responded in the affirmative and they mentioned we were not allowed to smoke inside. Straight away we said we never smoke inside our own houses regardless as the smell on the furniture is disgusting and the entire apartment stinks up. We mentioned the only place we would smoke would be on the balcony and they agreed that would be fine.
So there and then we pay 20k to reserve the apartment with the date for occupancy set at 22nd of July. This all took place on the 14th of July. So my experience at this stage was a good one, the agents seemed fair and professional and I was really looking forward to the move.
If this all sounds too good to be true that's because it was. I have always trusted my gut and on the 19th of July the first bombshell drops. A section in the contract stated that if we or any of our friends were to be found smoking in any part of the building except outside the building we would forfeit our entire 40k deposit (20K was the first month's rent). Now I was really pissed off to say the least!
I contacted the agents and said that this clause was unacceptable particularly as they had mentioned there would be no issue with us smoking on the balcony. Furthermore, what would determine a breach of this contract? Would they need photographic evidence or would they be able to determine we smoked from the mere smell of smoke? On top of this would we lose our deposit if one of our friends smoked in a non-designated smoking area? It just seemed a bit too one-sided for my liking and left me feeling a bit too exposed. Forgive me for seeing the glass as half empty but I do not really trust the impartiality of the Thai justice system should we have needed to contest this anti-smoking clause through legal means.
I also explained the mere inconvenience of it all. I mean, I wake up in the morning, make myself some coffee and then have to go down 9 floors and walk outside – it's just madness! Now if they had told us right at the start that we would not be allowed to smoke would we have paid the 20k up front? Let's get real!
I then said I felt it only fair that they return our deposit (20k) as they had misrepresented themselves in this instance. They then sent me a mail stating that if I had laid this complaint on the 15th of July then I would be entitled to the deposit but since I had left it this late they would keep the deposit.
Ok, so if I understand this I had until the 15th of July to disagree with the terms that were sent to me on the 19th of July? That makes perfect sense right? Never did they state we only had one day to complain and even if we only did have one day what could I contest without even seeing the contract?
So I said that we should change the wording in the contract, the wording would state that we were not allowed to smoke inside the apartment and if we did tangible evidence such as nicotine stains, burn marks or photographic evidence would be needed as proof. Now what this meant was that if there was a complaint against us for smoking on the balcony we could plead ignorance as the contract had stated no smoking “inside” the condo and we saw the balcony area as “outside” the condo. If this was the case then we would cease smoking on the balcony as we would know that a neighbour complained or the like, although we wanted to smoke we didn’t want to be a nuisance to our neighbours.
So all was agreed to and I check out of my apartment on the 22nd of July to move into the new condo. As I arrived at the condo I had noted that the agents were not there. I attempted to phone them on numerous occasions but to no avail. It was then that my friend phoned me and informed me that they would not be coming as we had not sent in one piece of paperwork that was needed. Oh boy was I livid! They didn’t even have the decency to phone me beforehand.
I tried calling over and over and after 2 hours of standing outside the condo I got a taxi back to my original apartment building. Finally they called back and told me that we could move in the next day. NO MORE I felt – I informed them that we want our deposit back and we don’t want to deal with then any longer. It was the last straw as far as I was concerned.
Where do we stand now? Well, we are looking at legal avenues but will it really be worth our while for 10K each? I am almost certain that most people looking at condos in Bangkok at a certain price point would be facing similar difficulties such as the ones we faced and I completely agree with Stick, if someone could cut out the scumbag agents who grossly misrepresent themselves through a website of some sort they could be onto something big.
Very interesting turn of events today and my instinct about them being dodgy was proved correct. So late last night they sent us a message stating that they will not return the deposit and we can either choose to move in or forfeit the deposit. We then noted that the advertisement for the room was back up – these guys were reselling our room and keeping our deposit!!!
So we sent them the paperwork they required and said we would move in this afternoon. We then get a really snotty email back saying that they didn't want us as clients anymore and were going to return the deposit to us.
My feeling is that they resold the room and were hoping to get a double commission, but we managed to throw a spanner in the works. Wow, what an ordeal – advice to fellow readers, do something I did not do – ask for a contact list of their previous clients, do multiple Google searches or as Stick said – POUND THE PAVEMENT!
Sorry to hear of this bad experience. I think there are two issues here. I would never hand over any money until I have read the contract! The agent clearly misrepresented the contract so yeah, they sound kind of dodgy too. All around, just not good!