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Six common misunderstandings to look out for when renting in South Korea

During the Ziptoss service process, we have always paid attention to introducing the South Korean housing law not only to improve the quality and standard of service but also to remind ourselves to carry our work by legal, reasonable rules and procedures. In the past, we have also updated many related articles about the precautions for renting houses in South Korea, legal introductions, etc. on the official website. In this article, Ziptoss has made a summary for everyone, including the six major points in renting an apartment. Understanding these six key points will be of great help for everyone to rent a house safely. If you make any of these mistakes, it may cause legal disputes, fail to protect your rights, and/or cause unnecessary losses.

Misunderstanding 1: Can a contract protect your rights? 

Not exactly. The contract is the most direct proof of your right to rent a house, but there could also be a lot of things that could go wrong in signing the contract. One of the most important questions is who will be signing the contract. 

  1. In South Korea, to obtain the protection of the right to rent a house, it is necessary to sign a valid contract with the landlord himself. So, what will happen if the other party is not the landlord? Once a different landlord signs the agreement, then he will have the payment. For convenience, many international students will find a room to rent online. Especially for those who are not familiar with the language and are not familiar with the location, this way is more convenient than going door-to-door in finding an apartment to rent. And there are indeed many people who check out halfway through returning home or moving to find the next tenant. However, it is undeniable that there will be people who have bad intentions or wish to make money to sign a contract with the tenant in the name of the “second landlord” so that the tenant will give the “second landlord” both the security deposit and the rent. The real landlord might come to the door one day, and the “second landlord” is nowhere to be found. The tenant took an invalid contract and lost a lot of money overnight without having a place to live.
  1. The landlord does not recognize the contract and does not return the security deposit. This situation is rare, but not impossible. This happens when the tenant wants to check out, and the landlord asks for a deposit. The landlord claims that he did not receive the deposit, and the person who signed the contract is a different person, so he will not refund the deposit. There are also some black-hearted landlords that forge contracts to defraud customers of money. To avoid this, whenever signing the contract, everyone must confirm if the owner of the house, that is, the landlord and the person signing the contract are the same people. So, how to determine that the signatory is the landlord himself? Two important points: Find a formal legal intermediary and confirm with the real estate register.

Misunderstanding 2: After seeing your ID card, can you sign a face-to-face contract?

There is a Korean drama called “Another Oh Hae-Young”, where the male lead’s ex-girlfriend and current girlfriend have the same name, but they are not alone. Names like Jiyoung, Jeongyeon, Jisoo, etc. South Korea’s rate of double-names is still a bit high, which might be turned into a loophole by some criminals. Does the name of the landlord in the rental contract have the same legal effect as the name of the signatory? Of course not, if it is “the same person”. 

To confirm the landlord’s information, everyone must confirm their real estate registration certificate(부동산 등기부등본) before signing a contract. This is a key step to see the risk of renting a house. The real estate registration certificate not only records the landlord’s information, but also the rights of the house (whether it has been mortgaged, sold, etc.). Many international students don’t know this. Some real estate agencies will try to avoid trouble by ignoring and not taking the initiative to provide this information to international students.

If they are not careful, people could be fooled very easily. Every tenant must ask for proper information and confirm that it is correct before signing the contract. At Ziptoss, we will agree on a signing time with the landlord and guest. On the same day, we will actively help the customer to confirm the real estate registration certificate(부동산 등기부등본), confirm the landlord’s identity information, and signing details on the spot before we let you sign. If there are language difficulties, English translations will also help communication between parties.

Misunderstanding 3: Paying the rent on time

In paying rent, most people would usually choose wolse in Korea(monthly payment plus security deposit. Yes, the rent must be paid on time and in the correct amount, but are you sure you’re giving your payment to your landlord? Is it the same person as the landlord on the contract?

There are also two situations where the rent is not paid to the landlord:

1. The rent is handed over to the second landlord or intermediary. This situation is equivalent to that the tenant has not paid the rent. At this time, the landlord can not only cancel the contract unilaterally and drive the tenant out, but also have the right to deduct the corresponding rent from the security deposit. Therefore, in the case of finding a house through subletting or introducing a second landlord, everyone must do these things: 

  • The landlord should have known and informed the tenant about the second landlord.
  • Sign a new rental contract with the landlord.
  • The rent and deposit must be transferred to the landlord. 

2. If the landlord asks the tenant to transfer it to the account in the name of his other half or his children or friends. It is recommended to decline this request directly, indicating that only the payment will be transferred under the landlord’s name. If you encounter a bad landlord and insist that you have not paid the rent to yourself, you may drive away from the tenant on the grounds of arrears and deduct the rent from the security deposit.

Misunderstanding 4: After signing the contract, moving in is complete.

Remember to declare! In South Korea, there are two declarations for renting a house, one is the declaration of renting (details), and the other is the declaration of change of residence address. 

1. Rental declaration     

Starting from June 1, 2021, for a full rented house with a security deposit of more than 60 million Won, and monthly rent for a monthly rent of more than 300,000 Won, a declaration is required within 30 days after signing the contract. Failure to declare will result in a fine of 40,000 to 1 million Won. Both online and offline reporting methods are supported.

2. Notification of Change of Residence of Foreigners 

According to South Korea’s “Immigration Administration Act”, when a registered foreigner changes his or her address, he must bring his passport and alien registration card to the new city, county, district, or new area of ​​stay within 14 days from the date of the change. The immigration control office under the jurisdiction of the detention area applies for detention. If the new place of residence is the same as the city, county, or district of the previous place of residence, a change declaration is also required. This is one of the obligations that foreigners must perform. Failure to make a declaration of detention within 14 days from the date of relocation will result in a fine!. To put it simply, it starts from the first day of the moving day (moving into a new house), and on the 14th day, you need to declare to the relevant agency for the change of residence.

For foreigners in Korea, you can declare at the immigration control office, the regional office/resident center where you are located. There are two ways to apply for immigration management, online and offline.

Misunderstanding 5: Renting a house means it’s my home

The rented house is owned by the landlord and the owner is not the tenant. The tenant only has the right to use it. Therefore, the tenant cannot destroy or renovate the house at will, such as putting nails on the wall, putting wallpapers, etc., nor changing and repairing some large electrical appliances (such as air conditioners, washing machines, etc.) at will. When leaving, they must clear away all their luggage and restore its original appearance. 

If there is alteration or destruction, the landlord will ask for repair fees when checking out. A nail may be worth more than 100,000 Won, or the security deposit will be deducted. If the original furniture and appliances such as air conditioners, beds, tables, etc., are aging or damaged and need to be repaired and replaced, you must first discuss with the landlord and let the landlord handle it. Do not make modifications without any approval from the landlord. 

Misunderstanding 6: Move out when you check out, without talking to the landlord

It is also not possible. South Korean law stipulates that in the six months to one month before the end of the rental contract, the tenant is obliged to inform the landlord that the contract will not be renewed. Because if the two parties do not reach an agreement at the end of the contract, or a renewal one month before the end of the contract, legally, the contract will be automatically renewed at the same price (margin/monthly rent) by default for 2 years. 

If the tenant wants to cancel the default renewal contract, and the termination will take effect three months after the notice is issued, which states the fact that the tenant may have to pay another three months of rent. Moreover, when the guarantee amount is relatively large, if you temporarily notify you to check out, the landlord may not have so much liquidity at once, so according to the jeonse system, the refund of the deposit will be slower than expected. 

*Ziptoss recommends you inform the landlord that you will no longer continue to rent for at least 1 month before moving out. Also, it is recommended to notify the landlord by text message or in writing as evidence to avoid disputes caused by the landlord’s non-acknowledgment.

Red Note: 3 June 2022

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