CONTRIBUTED BY CHARISSE WINDEBANK
It’s been nearly a year since we moved here to Daegu. It’s been quite an exciting experience to say the least. Moving is stressful enough, but relocating overseas brings up a plethora of tasks that needs to be accomplished in order to have a smooth transition.
Prior to arriving in Korea, I requested and confirmed that I would have a sponsor once we landed in our new home. He is also a colleague whom I will be working with in my new department. It was vital that we had a sponsor due to the complicated steps needed to move overseas. He walked me through what needed to be accomplished in order to locate an apartment.
Among the many in processing steps when moving, housing is one of the crucial necessities once I arrived in Korea. I booked a room in Walker Lodge as soon as I received my PCS orders until we found a more permanent lodging.
Kool house Agency is located right outside gate four of Camp Walker. The agents speak English and were pleasant and conveniently located since I would be on foot until we acquired a car. The agents are knowledgeable on how much you are allotted for rent and utilities depending on your rank/GS level and number of family members. Daniel drove us around town and showed us three different apartments within our budget in one afternoon.
We decided that same day which one we would call our new home. As soon as we chose which apartment, I present the information to Housing and a written log which documented locations we visited. An inspection performed by a representative from Housing was scheduled. Once the inspection was completed and if any discrepancies were found, the landlord would have to remedy any issues until the inspection has been passed.
Pro Tip: Even though the Housing office does an inspection, it is to your benefit to also do your own. You might find damage to the property that needs to be either repaired or annotated in order to dismiss any accountability for it once you vacate the premises. I even took photos of the existing damages in our apartment.
It took two months after our arrival to move into the apartment. After the inspection, Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) paperwork had to be in order and turned in for the money to be dispersed into our account. We had to call the bank in advance to ensure that they had the entire amount of the lease available in cash. Most Koreans will refuse to take checks and will normally only deal in won. It was quite unsettling to have all that money on hand.
We met the landlord and our agent at the Camp Henry gate and escorted them on base, where we all proceeded to the Housing Office to finish negotiations for the cost of the rent and utility cap. Most rentals do not have a cap on the utilities at all, but recently a new trend has been emerging and landlords are now requiring a cap. I recently signed a new lease and now the landlord required us to pay the utilities on a monthly basis rather than wait until the end of the lease.
We had initially agreed on a $400 cap, but the director of Housing talked her into raising it to $500. Unfortunately, our landlord disregarded the written amount even after signing the document; she attempted to collect an additional $100 for the utilities. I called Housing and the director stated that according to the SOFA it was illegal for her to establish a double contract with American renters. If I’d wanted, I could have filed a complaint and our landlord would be blacklisted from renting to any US Army Soldier or employee in the future.
After discussing it with my husband and looking at additional apartments, we decided to take the apartment after all. The owner of Kool house and our agent were notified that the landlord was not permitted to attempt a double contract on future deals with the understanding that tenants would not be allowed to rent from her again as a consequence. That was the only snag we encountered in the lease signing. Aside from that unfortunate issue, we are thoroughly happy with Kool house and our new home.
Utilities were already turned on and ready once we were ready to occupy our apartment. The agency made all the arrangements for the apartment’s livable status before we moved in. Any services needed, including interior design details, were also provided. We recently added drapery in our bedroom to block out lights from nearby neon motel signs that face our windows. I notified our agent and he had someone stop by to show us samples of fabric; within four days they had the curtains ready and installed.
When we do have any discrepancies, such as when the elevator recall button stopped functioning, we just call our agent and they call for it to be repaired. We are unable to communicate to our landlord or any of the apartment employees due to a language barrier, so the agency serves as a translator as well as a liaison.
For our family it took two months after our arrival to move into the apartment. The entire process from apartment hunting, inspection, lease signing, money availability just took time. We chose our apartment the week we arrived, but the longest part of the wait was the inspection and waiting for the money to be ready through the bank. The rest took only days to complete. The delay in moving in came from the “red tape”. It may also have been the time of the year we moved to Korea. We arrived May 2014 when PCS season was in full swing.
Walker Lodge extended our stay for the full two months while we waited for our apartment to be available. The cost of temporary lodgings, meals and expenses were covered by Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance. TQSA was provided and the necessary paperwork was needed in order to be reimbursed for the expenses incurred.
We love our new apartment at SK Leaders View! The location is walking distance to Suseong Lake and Home Plus is located right downstairs. Starbucks is also among the numerous bakeries, eateries, clothing stores and salons on the first floor of our building. We also have a music and art academy available nearby.
Our particular landlord does not allow pets. I have spoken to other renters and other owners do allow pets. Unfortunately, we had to left our Doberman, Talon, behind in the states. We had prepared to bring her; we had gotten her ready with shots, microchip and paperwork (which cost us $600), and had made arrangements to board her at the vet clinic located right next door to Walker Lodge. Before we left we decided we couldn’t risk taking her and having the airline refuse to board her due to a heat embargo. If the temperature rose to 80 degrees or higher they would not have allowed her to be in the cargo bay, for her own safety.
Website for Kool house Rental Agency, Daegu: http://www.kool-house.com/