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Renting Property

Vietnam - Renting Property

Renting a property in Vietnam for a medium to long term stay is a challenging process which can lead to the inexperienced being overcharged or even ripped off. However, if you follow a few simple rules, you should be able to find an affordable, comfortable home from which you can enjoy your new life in Vietnam.

Ensure that you arrive in Vietnam with a visa which permits you to stay more than three months. Under housing law, a landlord cannot accept you as a tenant unless you have the right to live in the country. Stay in a guest-house or hotel before you make longer term accommodation arrangements. This will give you time to adjust to the weather, culture, lifestyle and food, and will then give you time to work out where you want to live for the foreseeable future.

Being near available properties gives you the chance to look around and compare the real estate agent’s hype to the reality of the accommodation and its surroundings. If you get to know some local people, you will not only discover many of the advertised rents are much higher than the real average rents for the area, but you may find yourself being offered affordable properties owned by someone’s relative.

Waiting a while also gives you a chance to work out what sort of property is right for you. The hot and humid weather may mean that it’s worth the extra expense of a swimming pool for your children, or you may decide there are too many cool months when the costs of an outdoor pool can’t be justified. If you are single, you may decide to rent a room with a family, a practice that is much more common than in western Europe, rather than paying substantially more to live in a one-bedroom apartment.

You might be told that certain districts are off limits to expats. The reality is that some landlords don’t want the hassle of documenting your presence with the police, so would prefer a local tenant. Where expats are willing to pay premium rental prices, the landlord is will be more motivated to arrange the paperwork!

Be wary of real estate agents and online websites. You will see listings for two bedroom detached homes which are actually for a double room in a guest house, often with shared bathroom. Or advertised rents within a low-price band may all turn out to be unavailable, meaning you are pushed to consider properties at twice the monthly cost. The real estate agent will be working for commission, so wants to persuade you to take on the highest rent possible, but will also charge you for showing you around, meaning you can easily spend time and money looking at unsuitable properties. Of course, if your time is more precious than money, then having a fluent English speaker arrange an afternoon of viewings and liaising with the landlord will justify a higher rent. If you chose a property online before arriving, you have little chance of pulling out without high costs, so you should avoid doing this.

When you are exploring the streets of an area you’d like to live in, you may see nhà cho thuê (for rent) signs which include the landlord’s contact details. Many Vietnamese cities have alleyways and dead-ends that are packed with apartments, and so are well worth exploring for these signs. The alleyways tend to be quiet, and the absence of passing expats means the rent will be reasonable. It is unlikely that the landlord will speak English well, so find a Vietnamese speaker to help you negotiate with them over the phone; if the rent level is acceptable then arrangements can be made for you to visit the property.

Another useful way to save money when renting in Vietnam is to only consider unfurnished properties. The difference in cost would justify buying new furniture and appliances for your own use over the next year and more. If you start by getting the basics, you can cheaply collect more possessions when expat friends head home or to their next destination. There are some surprising things even furnished homes won’t offer, such as an oven, because the local population doesn’t use them.

Once you have found the property you want to live in, you and the landlord must sign a tenancy agreement. This is your legal protection should things go wrong. Make sure the contract sets out who pays all the various costs and what they are. As a legal minimum under the housing law, the lease must set out:

• Names and addresses of landlord and tenant(s)
• Description of the property
• The tenancy start date and duration
• Rights and obligations of the two parties
• Any undertakings
• Signature of all parties, to be dated

You need to consider all the extra costs that renting a particular property incurs. Electricity, water, cooking gas, TV and internet access are some of the many extra services which must be covered. Air conditioning units make summer temperatures bearable, but they use a lot of electricity. If housekeeping is provided, you will be paying for it somehow. Don’t assume any of these costs are included in the rental rate unless they are specifically included in your tenancy agreement. Internet speed can be very good in some city locations, but you may need to investigate data packages if you live further afield.

Rising rents is an issue in Vietnam which expats may not realise they have signed up for. The state owns all land across Vietnam, which means that real estate sales are only for the leasehold properties sitting on the land. However, property prices have risen dramatically over the past decade. Since 2015, restrictions on foreign ownership of property have largely been lifted, but there are strict limits of the number of properties migrants can buy in each local government ward or individual apartment block. Otherwise, anyone living in the country or elsewhere can purchase leasehold property in Vietnam. This is likely to keep the market buoyant in areas popular for investment. Landlords try to capitalize on this by increasing the rents, sometimes even monthly, to a point where the tenant is prepared to move on.

Does your tenancy include a break clause? If something happens to your family back home, or your employment position changes, you will be legally required to keep paying the rent for the rest of the tenancy term unless you have one of these in place.

If your tenancy will last less than six months, the agreement does not need to be notarized. Otherwise, housing law requires this to be done.

Landlords in Vietnam typically ask for three months’ rent in advance. This is quite a sum for most people to find.

Unfortunately, some expats have fallen prey to scams at this stage. Some bogus landlords have rented out properties which aren’t theirs, or rented out properties flagged for demolition. Other landlords have returned signed leases because they have found new tenants willing to pay higher prices. It is difficult to mitigate against these risks, but talk to Vietnamese colleagues and friends about your rental plans in case they have relevant local knowledge, and always walk away where a situation feels wrong. Problems getting access to view an apartment, requests for reservation payments in cash, or the promise of rent which seems unbelievably cheap are all red flags. Always make payments from your bank account so that an electronic record exists in case you need to take court action or contact the police. Avoid making any cash payments at all to a landlord or real estate agent.

Your residence must be registered with the local police, and a copy of the tenancy agreement submitted; the landlord will normally do this. This involves an inspection of your passport. The landlord is expected to have checked your right to stay in the country before accepting you as a tenant.

Throughout the duration of the tenancy lease, you have legal right to live in the property as long as you continue to pay the agreed rent at the agreed time. This applies even if the property is sold to a new landlord.

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