It was a morning like any other; wake up, do yoga, drink chamomile hot tea and get ready for work. I was riding my scooter to work soaking in the brandeis blue sky, no cloud in sight and I remember thinking to myself; this life is beautiful. I walked into work that day a little frazzled because of the work load that I just finished and fresh coffee running through my veins – coooffffeeee. I ambled my way upstairs to the second floor with class titles floating through my mind – what homework is due today, what will be do tomorrow, what’s todays lesson? I felt really busy this month and for good reason; I just moved out of my apartment and into my friends apartment who had just left for the states and just started my new schedule from part-time kindy and part-time buxiban to full-time buxiben. When I reached the second floor I sat at our teacher’s table for a few minutes to grade homework. Then the Head Native Speaking Teacher (HNST) came upstairs to tell me the manager wanted to speak with me. Shit. What did I do? I asked if it was good or bad and he kind of shrugged his shoulders, not wanting to show the intensity of the situation. I went downstairs.
I looked at my boss and she looked at me. Her first words – “Soooooooo Kollin, you’re wanted in court”. My first thought was I got caught running a red light across the road, but it was worse.
“Your old landlord is SUING you”. Umm. What? I was absolutely dumbfounded. I had to do a double take in my mind for it to process that.. I was getting sued, in Taiwan, from my old landlord, who doesn’t speak English, who I haven’t talked to since I signed the lease, and I don’t know why? And I really didn’t know why, at first. I asked my manager and she said that they didn’t know anything but that I needed to be in civil court on Tuesday. Then, she asked if there was anything I needed to tell her and if I had any idea why she was suing me. I then remembered why… but how ridiculous would it be for her to sue me? In short form, my AC unit “broke” or stopped working in the middle of August. When my friend contacted my landlord about it, she asked my friend to do all the dirty work (call the AC place, tell them what’s happened and where I live, they’ll tell her what the problem is then report back to the landlord). Then the landlord presumed to tell my friend that if it’s broken that it’s 100% my fault because it’s a new AC unit. I didn’t know what to think except – what if it’s broken and what if the costs are out of my budget?
I stayed with my friend for a couple days and then my other friend’s place for a few more. I went all of August in Taiwan with no air conditioning at 95 degrees and my landlord unwilling to fix the problem. She wanted me to pay for something that wasn’t mine and wouldn’t be using but for another 6 months. Also, I didn’t break it. I didn’t touch it and under contract she had to fix it, but she wouldn’t. So I left – I felt that it was unfair that I was living without AC and I didn’t trust her anymore especially with the leaks I had before and again, her without any desire to fix it. In my contract I’m allowed to leave, but she’d get my 2 months deposit. I made my decision to leave, informed her ahead of time and let her have the 2 months rent. In my eyes, I took the hit.
At school I cried. And in the courtroom, I balled my eyes out when I saw between all the Chinese on the screen that she was suing me for $65,000NT/~$2,000USD. The suit against me? Breaking the AC unit, August and September rent, and the utility bill that she said I NEVER paid (I’m in my 6th month living there, how ridiculous). On top of that, as she was walking out of the courtroom and as I’m weeping, she says that she’ll be charging me for interest, too. For a while I did feel bad for leaving and not paying August rent, but then I remembered her saying that it’s 100% my fault if it’s broken and how unfair that was. I was willing to give her August rent, but that was it.
Thankfully, I haven’t heard from her since and am hoping that she just found someone else to take over the apartment and pay for it all. It’s been two months. God help the person that has to deal with that little woman.
What to take away from this experience?
- Always have a translator when signing contracts.
- If you have the opportunity, reach out to your HR to see if they have a legal representative on-site. Savior.
- Keep record of EVERYTHING and try to do the majority of communicating over email or text if you think it could potentially turn into a problem. Savior #2.
- Have a back-up plan if you do get sued – pay in full or over time.
Enjoyed my story?
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