Shanghai Daily had the following headline that caught our eye: “Suicide’s wife ordered to compensate landlord.” What sort of damage could an event as emotionally traumatic as a suicide cause that would justify any sort of compensation to a third party? Turns out, the kind of damage that most elite in Shanghai fear the most: property devaluation.
The husband hanged himself in the apartment in November, 2005 when his wife was not home. Guan [the landlord] then provided several options to the wife since he believed the apartment was inauspicious — to rent the apartment for another two years to “dilute the horror environment in it,” to buy the apartment based on its market value, or compensate the landlord for the depreciated value of the property. The widow rejected all the options.
Guan then filed a lawsuit against her in Changning court 14 months after the suicide, seeking 200,000 yuan as the depreciation based on the assessment of a professional property value.
We realize that it’s a brutal world out there, but doesn’t this seem a little too cold? Yes, property owners want to protect and maximize their valuations, especially when purchasing an apartment in Shanghai can be an incredible investment. Still, we’re not feeling much humanity here. We are also a little suspicious of the landlord’s claim that the apartment has lost 200,000 RMB in value because of the “horror effect.” How exactly does a property professional quantify the monetary equivalent of said effect?
It turns out the court sided with the landlord, citing that, given traditional Chinese customs, the owner now had a shadow cast over him (and we’re guessing by default, the apartment itself). But the victory in principle probably didn’t taste too good for the landlord when the court, in an effort to be fair to the woman, ordered her to pay only 20,000 RMB in damages.
Should we be cutting the landlord some more slack here? As PanAsianBiz points out, the fair thing to do would have been to sue the husband, but we’re pretty sure the court wouldn’t have allowed that. Not sure how to feel about this one; discuss among yourselves.