The Changing Status of House Tenants in Modern Chinese Law

Dec 7, 2015 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Sun Huei-Min (Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/Discussant: William Alford (Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law, Harvard Law School)

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and East Asian Legal Studies, Harvard University

Please note Vanserg Hall location

Although rental housing itself is not at all modern in China, the laws that regulate rental housing are. This talk will introduce the development of rental housing laws in the first half of the 20th century in China, with a focus on the changing status of tenants. Until the end of the 19th century, there were hardly any rules on house leasing under Chinese statutory laws. However, since the 17th century, the style and content of house leasing contracts was distinct from those of land leasing contracts, and the provisions in the contracts became more and more circumspect while the subordinate status of house tenants in the contracts never changed. In the beginning of the 20th century, the judicial government of the International Settlement in Shanghai put the first regulations on rental housing into effect, in order to ensure that tenants would meet their contractual obligations and to enhance the administration of floating residents. On the other hand, the ever-enlarging population of middle-class house tenants in Shanghai became vanguards in the push for tenant rights. Inspired by the logic of moral economy, foreign (particularly British-American) experience in coping with urban housing problems, and socialists’ objections against exploitation, the welfare of house tenants came to be a key issue in the legislation of rental housing laws.