JAKARTA GOOD TO KNOW: Apartment Renting

Renting in Jakarta was not easy for us. If you are coming to Jakarta as an expat and you have to look for your own place and negotiate with your landlord, without help from your company or embassy, you might encounter the same difficulties we had. Or you might not, I think it depends on what you are looking for and if you have a pet. This was our experience. 

When we arrived it took as more than a month to find a place. We were looking at apartments every day and we had 2 realtors helping us. What were we looking for?

  • We wanted a condominium or townhouse with 24/7 security. If we would live in a house, hiring a security was recommended, but this expense is not covered by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). We noticed that they don’t have closed subdivisions here. Houses usually have their own security.
  • Pet-friendly apartment – All apartments here DO NOT allow pets, most especially dogs. Cats are tolerated. But dogs are considered haram in the Muslim religion so your neighbors will definitely complain and report you to the admin if you have a dog.
  • With maid’s room & bathroom.

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We got 1 week hotel allowance and stayed in Hotel Marco Polo. I wouldn’t recommend this hotel to anyone because…

  1. It’s so dirty, that you wouldn’t want your feet to touch the floor
  2. Hot water in the shower is only turned on at certain hours in the morning and evening.
  3. There were several Filipinos staying at the hotel and all of us experience losing something in our rooms (luggage, jeans, etc.) and when we complained to management, they were very defensive, instead of trying to help us locate our things. They immediately said it’s impossible that it’s their staff took anything because they are very honest.

After 1 week hotel allowance we were already using our rent money so we ended up living in Formule 1, this budget hotel in menteng, for a week. We couldn’t take it for much longer because there were bed bugs. For another 2 weeks, we stayed at my former boss’s Jakarta office. Their office was in a home and there are bedrooms on the second floor. We were really lucky that he let us stay there. No bed bugs. =P

We had to look long and hard before committing to a condo because of several factors

  • When you rent in Jakarta, you pay 1-2 years up front. There is no such thing as paying monthly unless you go for a serviced apartment
  • Serviced apartments are very strict about their no dogs policy
  • In the DFA, if after a year of living in an apartment you would like to transfer to another one, that is your own personal expense. So you try to find a flat/house which you will stay in for the duration of your 2-3 year posting.

We finally found 1 landlord in Brawijaya Apartment that allowed our dogs. He is Muslim, but because he was a customs official, he was rich and well-travelled (in fact his children ended up marrying in other parts of the world because they were sent to boarding school in Europe) so he didn’t mind dogs. We also made sure with the realtor who is connected with the apartments admin, that DiploDog was unofficially allowed, so if we had problems later on, she would help us. I also made sure that when DiploDog was taken for his walks he is well-hiden so as to be respectful and sensitive to other tenants who might be afraid of dogs, or don’t want to be licked by a dog.

DiploDog's DIY Doggie Bag liner-1

Though we wanted to stay in a newer apartment, an older apartment is more lenient about the rules so this was our only option. Throughout our 4 years in Jakarta, we checked the other units in the same building to see if we could transfer (we were on the side of the busy street so it gets very dusty and I consistently had respiratory problems), but either the landlord is a strict Muslim and wouldn’t allow dogs or the units around would be occupied by strict Muslims and would probably complain about DiploDog.

As expected though every year during Ramadan, we would get a letter from the admin telling us that we have to get rid of our dog. And we would just tell them yes, and just be more discreet about DiploDog by hiding him better.  After 4 years, all the guards and maintenance people all know and love DiploDog (at one point he got lost and they had to take care of him until our maid realized that DiploDog was missing).

the diplomatic wife diplo home couch

Why we liked our unit…

  • The rent was reasonable and within our budget
  • The nearby units were okay with dogs.
  • The unit owner speaks to the admin when they try to kick our dog out
  • The kitchen, utility and maids room is spacious
  • The living/dining room is massive
  • We got the unit semi-furnished. The landlord provided window treatments, bed & mattress and kitchen appliances, that were modern and minimalist. The appliances were all brand new (oven, washing machine, refrigerator).
  • Though there is centralized air-conditioning in the unit, we asked for new split level AC’s in each room for easier maintenance and so that we don’t use the vents, which are very dirty and dusty. God knows how long those vents haven’t been used!
  • There were many power throughout our stay and the condo’s generators were a big blessing.

What we didn’t like about our unit…

  • We had to pay 1 year up front each time. When we were up for cross posting but didn’t know when we were leaving, the landlord basically raised the rent by $100/month every time we renewed a contract that was shorter than 1 year. This is despite us being good tenants for more than 3 years.
  • Our landlord only gave us a centralized water filter after 2 years. This is a must if you are living in an old building, if you don’t want to be washing all your clothes and bathing in brown water.
  • They used water-soluble paint (not the same as water-based paint) which means that if you clean the wall with moist cloth the paint comes off! This means that the paint easily comes off the wall, and you are actually breathing in this paint.
  • There are several visible cracks on the paint in the walls in all the bedrooms. Our landlord refused to fix or repaint throughout the 4 years
  • The uncontrollable dust. If you wipe a table in the morning, by evening there will be a thin layer of dust already. After 2 years of getting sick for 1-2 weeks a month, I found draft seals and put them up myself to seal the windows and balcony doors. I also sealed all the AC vents. After which I stopped getting sick so often. But we had to use AC all the time because opening our windows would mean a lot of dust and allergens from the busy street.
  • Once the landlord had his contractor repaint the bedroom doors and closet doors (they were really dirty, discolored and cracked). Because of my asthma and DiploDog, we asked for low -VOC ACE Paints. He said no problem. I told the contractor what color I wanted and told him to ask ACE how to use their paint. He said he asked. But I noticed that he didn’t clean the surface or prime. He didn’t even wait the number of hours needed to do the second coat. Guess what? The paint peeled off like sticker. He had to re-do it. Would you believe it took him about 3 months in total to complete 2 closets and the kitchen cupboards? He was supposed to do 4 doors as well but we had to  stop him midway because instead of making it look better, he was making it look worse. Seriously worse. So for 3 years our white doors had unsanded wood fillers. I just made sure when I had guests I only had warm lighting so things like cracks, etc. aren’t noticeable.
  • Our bedroom has some molds on the wall under the window. When we asked to have it fixed, the contractor just painted over the molds.
  • The doors are rotten and eaten by termites. We let our landlord know and he said he would fix it but nothing was done.
  • The smoke alarms in several rooms were damaged or not present. The building usually checks this and when our landlord was informed he said he would do something about it. Again nothing was done for years.
  • Our realtor was very good in the beginning but she was all talk, because aside from the initial requests she wasn’t able to do much about important things that came later. I would have thought that after being good, undemanding tenants simple and necessary things like keeping structure termite free and having smoke alarms should not be a problem.
  • The water quality was bad because it was an old building. Centralized and point-of-use filters required.

the diplomatic wife diplo home coffee table

There are ups and downs with our unit, but by keeping warm lighting when entertaining, the flaws were not noticeable when we entertained. Though it took about 3 years, I designed and carefully picked out decor so we would love our apartment and enjoy hanging out in it. From being people who went out a lot in Manila we sort of became homebodies content to lounge around at home in Jakarta.

My tips if you are renting in Jakarta:

  • Get all your requirements up front. Once you’ve paid the annual rent up front, it’s very hard to get anything from your landlord.
  • Look for a unit that doesn’t face the mosque if you don’t want to be woken up
  • Look for a place with security
  • Don’t get a place facing a busy street. The noise and dust will affect your health
  • Get a good and trust worthy realtor that is referred by friends. Some even try to run of with your security deposit. Many horror stories of people not getting deposit back even if they didn’t damage the unit.
  • Always tip well maintenance people or you will not get any services done
  • If the building you are moving into is not new and high end, always ask for a centralized water filter for your home. The water will be dirty and rusty if it’s old like ours.
  • Additionally,  have filter for your faucets for brushing teeth and your shower. If you don’t have any make sure to close you eyes and mouth well when showering.
  • The filter is white, so that is all brown crud sticking to it.

    The filter is white, so that is all brown crud sticking to it.

 

Lovely comments

  1. Samantha K. says

    Hi there, diplomaticwife!

    Did the DFA give you the one-year upfront payment right away, or did you guys pay it out of your own pocket, and DFA just reimbursed you?

    Hubby is due for posting soon, so just wondering how this will work out in case we get posted there.

  2. says

    Hi Samantha, sorry for the late reply. I am still neck deep in our move to the apartment. Unpacking is really stressful. In our case we had to pay and get reimbursed. I think now the system is in place for a 6 month rent payment in jakarta. You have to come up with the balance though. Its not a good situation. We had to borrow money from my FIL. Hassle. =(

  3. Gina says

    Hi Diplomatic Wife!

    Thank you so much for this article. Very helpful. I myself MIGHT be posted in Jakarta for work by 2014 (not with DFA). Brawijaya apartments is well recommended among the Pinoys, I heard. Can you lead/introduce me to a good landlord who can give me a convenient but reasonable place for a single person household? I would really appreciate this.

    Does your apartment already have cable TV and internet when you moved? If not, is it easy to get anyone to install this properly?

    Also, you think I will enjoy Jakarta? Im afraid of getting homesick :( as this will be my first overseas assignment. I dont intend to stay long. Maybe 5 years is enough. I just want to gain international work experience.

    Thanks again, and take care in Germany.

    ~Gina

    • says

      Hi Gina,

      Thank you for your message! Brawijaya is nice enough, but I have to warn you that the side near the street can be noisy and very dusty/polluted. I recommend looking at the different sides of the building. The one facing the main entrance has a mosque and it is possible that you will be awoken at dawn everyday by the loud call to prayer. Location of the unit is key.

      We found our unit via their in-house realtor, Ibu Imelda. You can just go to the admin and ask for her. Unfortunately I cannot say I recommend her because she is very good when you are still looking for an apartment, however when you are inside the unit already she isn’t able to do much in terms of negotiating for you. However the good thing about her is she knows the management and will always have a representative in the building if you need help. The prices of Brawijaya also have risen since there are many westerners now so that can be something to think about. The pool is very nice however we didn’t get to use it much because privacy is an issue. Everyone can be looking at you while you are swimming because it is a lower floor from the towers. People are not so used to seeing ladies in swimsuits either. Another good thing about Brawijaya is that cabs are usually standing by in the nearby warungs so it’s easy enough to get a cab.

      We had to apply for cable and internet. We didnt even bother getting a landline. It took us about 1-2 weeks. Sometimes a landlord will have it already installed, but this is not standard.

      Jakarta has it’s pros and cons. And I find that people either hate it or love it. Those people who have lived their long, love it to bits. I found it to be an expensive and stressful post after 2 years (we were there for 4). In the first 2 years I really loved it, but I found the traffic getting worse, high inflation rates and I found myself getting respiratory illness a lot because of the air quality (I have asthma). If you have any medical problems then I don’t advice it. It’s very hard to find a good doctor. I personally know someone who died because of a standard appendectomy. We spent a lot on going home for all our medical check ups, except for my OB Gyne who was very good.

      However if you have no problems with your health and you are wanting to travel Asia then it’s a very good post because we did a lot of cheap travel when we were there. Many Jakartans travel on weekends often because staying in the city on weekends usually means shopping and eating.

      I hope this helps!

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