Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers to state the problems they have faced with house renting in Viet Nam. Here are some responses.
John McDonald, Australian, Ha Noi
It makes good sense to use a rental agent in Viet Nam. They are certainly invaluable if there are language problems, acting the role of honest brokers between two parties.
The rules on renting are not easy to find and, like many other things, sometimes difficult to follow or implement. A good landlord or landlady makes up for all this, but there are many inexperienced and greedy owners in the marketplace.
For instance, what do you do if you want to take a girl home? Indeed, are you allowed, as a single male, to take a girl home? The rules flap all over the place, depending on the nationality of the woman.
When in doubt, landlords often collude - or are advised - by police. It is not uncommon to receive a demand for a VND1 million or more a month to handle such matters. Maybe this is not common around the Western enclave in Tay Ho or HCM City, but it certainly is a tricky problem in older sections of cities.
Rogue landlords also have a way of attracting people to apartments that are about to be surrounded by demolition work or new buildings. An agent can quickly negotiate a new deal or end the old one on terms to suit both parties.
Left alone, many landlords play dumb and pretend not to know how long the work will go on for. Renters in the know, or those with agents, push for rent cuts of up to 50 per cent - and they get them!
Rie Watanabe, Japanese, Ha Noi
I believe house hunting in Viet Nam is less frustrating for expats compared to about five years ago.
On my first trip to Ha Noi years ago, I faced many problems in finding a place to live. It is much different in my country where you can trust agents when renting a house. The agents can show you a list of available options based on your categories of renting.
In Ha Noi, I needed lots of help from other Japanese to find a suitable place as there was not much information around. I eventually found a cozy room in a house shared with the owner's family downstairs. It provided exactly the quiet enjoyment I wanted.
After all the difficulties in finding the house, I found my landlady was a wonderful person. She treated me like a family member.
She owned a food shop and offered me fresh produce and sometimes invited me to her family dinner. Her children taught me many things about Vietnamese culture, traditional customs and lifestyle.
I should say I was lucky to have such a lovely landlady. I came here to learn about Viet Nam and my first landlady was the best teacher.
When I returned three years ago, I was much easier to find a residence as there were more real estates agents offering options and information. I found my present apartment through an agent specialising in Japanese customers. I got what I requested. I think real estate companies should go this way, focusing on specific groups and offering better services.
Solongo Simone, Mongolian, Ha Noi
Differences in culture and language are the main reasons for possible disputes between landlords and tenants. I was kicked out of my apartment by my landlord last month because of an argument. I was later told it could have been avoided if we had better understood each other.
I took my place over from a French woman six months ago who was in a hurry to leave the country, so I did not have much time to get to know the landlord. The landlord did not speak much English so we rarely had good communications.
As a result, disputes gradually grew as the landlord kept a copy of the key and visited any time he wanted "to inspect the house". Of course, I expected more respect for my privacy and we started quarrelling.
Huong Thieu Huyen, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I have heard thousands of complaints from my friends who rent houses in Ha Noi. They are both Vietnamese and foreigners.
Some moved to Ha Noi as university students, others went to Viet Nam for voluntarily activities or work. At the beginning, most of them struggled to find suitable accommodation.
They faced rents that were far too high, bothersome landlords and differences in lifestyle - all leading to a degree of insecurity. Things are much more difficult for foreigners because of language and culture barriers.
In many cases, Vietnamese friends become interpreters who help foreigners communicate with their landlords and local authorities, including police, who are responsible for supervising residence.
It is helpful to check out expat forums and seek the experience of other foreigners who have spent time in the country. Creating a network of Vietnamese friends and asking for their help is also useful.
Some people wisely use property agents to free them from cumbersome administrative procedures and time-consuming negotiations. One of my friends told me that she was most annoyed with greedy landladies who visited the houses, demanding tenants pay more for unnamed or unofficial things.
For examples, they said increased fuel/power prices had led to higher maintenance fees. I would like to recommend making rental contracts as clear and detailed as possible to minimise any problems later.
Vietnamese landlords should try and remember that they are service providers.
James Cayanan, Philippines
I had a bad experience with my last landlord in Ha Noi last year. He was the worst of three landlords during my two years in the country.
Just before ending my tenancy, he claimed I had damaged my room interior and insisted on keeping the two-month deposit as compensation. This was unbelievable because he didn't say so three days before that when he inspected the room and declared everything alright.
My advice: Get all agreements and disagreements with your landlords clearly noted down in bilingual documents. — VNS