TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Chang Shu-ching (張淑晶), who has been dubbed "Evil Landlady" by local media outlets for swindling numerous tenants over the years, has been sentenced by a high court to nine years and eight months in prison on Wednesday (Dec. 23) — an even heavier penalty than the previous one.
Chang, who was notorious for using leases to trap and blackmail tenants, was accused of repeatedly falsely accusing tenants or joint guarantors of fraud or embezzlement in 2014. After being exposed and sued by 78 victims, she was sentenced by a lower court to eight years in prison for 18 counts of false accusations, three counts of fraud, and one count of extortion.
She pleaded not guilty and appealed the case in a high court. However, on Wednesday morning, the court handed her the even heavier sentence of nine years and eight months, of which one year and two months can be commuted to fines, while the rest can be appealed, reported CNA.
Chang (51), was prosecuted in 2014 for renting five houses for low prices in New Taipei City's Zhonghe and Banqiao districts, using inferior materials to break the apartment into suites, and leasing them out for around NT$9,500 each.
She lured vulnerable groups such as students and single mothers, made them sign "bulk leases," and deliberately concealed key pages from the documents. She would also not give them copies of the contracts or only give them part of the documents after they were signed.
Most of her tenants lacked experience, and they did not think to obtain the original or copy of the full lease agreement and did not notice that there were inner pages concealed beneath the contract's stamped seal. Chang took advantage of their inexperience by secretly adding terms to the lease such as "four months rent for early termination" and false claims including "did not receive the deposit or rent because the tenant does not answer the phone," to justify a reason to increase fees charged to tenants.
In addition, Chang also asked the tenants to sign the names of relatives and friends in the "joint guarantor" field of the rental agreement, claiming that they are only used as contact persons to avoid rent arrears or loss of contact. Not only did the tenants fill in the names of their parents and other relatives as required, some even wrote down the "joint guarantor" information before deciding to rent.
If they changed their mind and decided not to rent a place, Chang would falsely accuse them and their "joint guarantor" of misappropriating the keys, remote controls, and other items. If tenants asked for repairs, Chang would often refuse to answer the phone and even forced them to terminate the contract by cutting off the power and other tactics, and then invoke a "trap clause" (坑殺條款) that imposed fines on the tenants.
The lower court ruled Chang should be punished to a "considerable degree" for her false accusations. The court did not believe that the fraud and extortion she had committed was as severe, but she pleaded not guilty and did not fully compensate the victims.
Therefore, based on 18 counts of false accusations, three counts of fraud, and one count of extortion, the court handed her a combined sentence of eight years and two months, of which one year and two months could be commuted to a fine of NT$600,000.
In the high court proceedings, Chang again pleaded not guilty. This time, the court ruled that Chang's behavior constituted one extra false accusations count in addition to the three counts of fraud and count of extortion.
Among the false accusations, two were against minors, thus the court deemed that her sentence should be more severe. It handed her a sentence of eight years and six months in prison for the false accusations as well as the commutable one year and two months for the fraud and extortion.