Surviving Summer Without a Housing Allowance

More than just a few things bother me about my current school. But the one that irks me most is that the housing allowance covers only 9 months. This leaves teachers with 2 choices:  1). Give up your apartment when summer rolls around & find another one when you return. Or, 2). Take what amounts to a month’s salary & hand it over to your landlord to cover June, July & August.  I opted to move.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just pay the rent & spend the summer months in-country? Believe me, I would if I could, but I’m driven to go home & spend time with my aging parents & a handful of longtime friends. Like most international educators, I live in two worlds. I have a life back home & among other things, I continue to have financial responsibilities. Student loans are a biggie for me. Throwing away good money on an empty apartment is simply not an option.

The school does allow us to store our belongings in empty classrooms while we’re gone. The problem is, all summer long the maintenance people & who-knows-who-else have complete access to these classrooms. Leaving anything of value for 3 months unsecured is not a good idea. Renting a storage facility (in scarce supply) or taking really valuable stuff with you could be the way to go. But what a hassle!

The practice of creating homeless teachers at the start of each school year throws all our lives into turmoil & severely diminishes the level of instruction. Personally, I’m not at my best when I’m preoccupied with getting my living situation in order. For those who haven’t found an apartment by the first day of school, admin recommends staying in a hotel (expensive) or bunking with a friend (problematic). It’s no wonder this school doesn’t hire many couples & absolutely no couples with kids. I can’t imagine what that would be like!

I do love it here. I have wonderful students & parents, & the city offers an endless array of cultural attractions. The school, unfortunately, is owned by a tight-wad. Still, I’m willing to put up with him, at least this one last time. Yes, I must be a glutton for punishment ’cause I signed on for a third year!

Has anyone dealt with this situation? Does anyone have a creative solution?

Signed:  Movin’ Man

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26 Responses to Surviving Summer Without a Housing Allowance

  1. It’s a bit of a crap setup – but I still think anything you are told about prior to signing your contract is kind of fair enough if you’ve agreed to it. I’d find it really annoying too having to find a solution for those three months – but if you have nine months to either make some local friends, or even reaching out to some of the parents, you could probably store your things for free somewhere.

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  2. Grumbles says:

    Good post, and a lot of good comments. I agree with much of what’s been said, including your perspective that the owner is a tight-wad and comments that this is–in many ways–common.

    I suggest looking at the big picture. What’s the total compensation package, and are you happy with it? Whether we have to divide by 12, 10, or 9, we’re capable of doing the math and making more apples-to-apples comparisons, even when schools get “creative” with how they frame their offers. I almost accepted an offer from a school that camouflaged (in my opinion) their package by offering a hefty summer “completion bonus” but only paying 10 months of salary. When I found out the offer wasn’t generous as I originally thought, I was disappointed but did some new calculations.

    Obviously, in IE we have to be vigilant about getting clarification (and written assurances in the contract) regarding how many months we’re paid, how the housing allowance works, etc. But as other commenters have noted, even in western countries there are different payroll systems. We all have to adjust. If you know there’s less money in the summer, you set some aside (or take advantage of a program that allows you to get paid in 12 installments, although I just view this as an interest-free loan to the school).

    I appreciate that you note that you like the school overall, and are choosing to stay. That makes your critique seem more objective and balanced. And I agree with you that it’s silly that the school plays games like this that incentivize teachers to be “homeless” over the break. I would encourage them to pay a housing allowance for the summer months for returning teachers. But in the end, the total offer is the total offer. If they want to spend X on teachers, providing 3 more months of housing allowance is going to come from somewhere (lower salary, lower monthly housing allowance).

    One other little thing. The OP wrote that the “housing allowance covers only 9 months.” Assuming this is a fixed amount (i.e. not reimbursed against actual rent), you’re really just getting a lump sum chopped into 9 installments. It’s yours to spend as you see fit. Is it sufficient for a year’s rent? If not, absolutely speak up and insist on higher allowances. If so (and this is just a matter of inconvenient budgeting by the school), I’d agree that you should ask them to reframe the allowance based on 12 installments.

    When allowances are involved, there’s nothing stopping a teacher from saving money on housing by living in a cheaper accommodation, or going “homeless” for the summer (or any month, for that matter). The OP writes that “throwing away good money on an empty apartment is simply not an option” given their other financial responsibilities. That applies whether there’s a housing allowance provided (and the teacher pockets the money) or not. The decision to travel home, rendering the apartment empty, is just that–a decision.

    So while I view the school’s approach as a bit quirky (especially considering they let you store your things in classrooms), the “you should pull a runner” crowd is going off the deep end here. Fixed amounts of money is just money, regardless of whether it’s salary/housing/utilities/travel/”settling in” and regardless of how many installments it’s divided into. If the total is insufficient, demand your worth or move on. If the school offers some option to help you save (e.g., letting you store things for free), it’s just an options. Sure, it seems quirky combined with the structure of the housing allowance, but it doesn’t really “create homeless teachers” the way you frame it.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    I worked at a school in Switzerland which paid a 10 month salary and we had to vacate our accomodation every summer.

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  4. Paula says:

    Could you leave your things with a friend and pay them some money?

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  5. Expat_Egg says:

    In four states in the US, the first year was a 10mo salary. New hires were a different employment category and didn’t qualify for 12mo.
    In 20 years, 10 international schools, and 5 countries, about half did a version of 10mo pay. Most did 2 year contracts and went from August Y1-JuneY2, so really 23mo.s of pay for a 2 year job.
    Some gave half of summer pay at then end of Y1 and half upon return–which I think is actually fair for everyone.

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  6. DIEGO says:

    What city, country and school do you work at, do i can avoid this place. YOU DONT VALUE YOURSELF ENOUGH, if you put up with this. School should be ashamed of itself for treating its staff like vagrants!

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  7. Homeless says:

    My school in Sudan kicks us out of summer housing but I shan’t go back there anyway! Too dangerous.!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    In the US, many states pay a 10-month salary with a summer supplement, only a 10-month salary, or spread the salary over 12 months as either a voluntary or involuntary option. I think it depends on which state in which you live. I’ve always taken the 12-month spread choice so as to not be caught short-handed financially. In my international experience, I’ve been provided housing by the school either on campus, rented apartments, off-campus, or having the option for a housing allowance. As far as salary goes, your contract should state when you will be paid, how often, and for how long. The schools I’ve worked at have always paid me through the end of my contract which usually ends sometime in August. The pay is either received through the end of the contract date or given in a lump sum, sometimes in cash, on the last working day.

    I agree with everyone else; find a better employment option and carefully read your contract concerning anything financial, including housing.

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  9. Sam Thompson says:

    Your summer break is 3 months long (June, July & August)…..probably not, so where exactly does the shortfall go (between being homeless yet still working)…..this doesn’t seem to fit…..you should leave as this is a big red flag about the type of school you are working in….this is not normal (even in the world of private business type international schools) but if they can get away with being cheap, they will…schools like this invariably have a high staff turnover with some doing a “runner”….get out asap and find a school with a good reputation, a contract that is up front and honoured hopefully with good management….find a “trust” type school where profits go back into the business in the form of decent salaries, medical, buildings and conditions upgrades etc instead of into the pockets of some unscrupulous group of owners

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Sublet your place during the holidays. Or put it on AirBnB.

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    • Tony DePrato says:

      Sublets, are generally Illegal. I’m fairly certain AirBNB now Requires proof of ownership, or proof of a sublet agreement from the owner to the tenant. The first rule about living abroad, don’t break the law. It’s better to find another job with a better situation. The decision should be financial first, and emotional second. There’s no reason to lose money, when there are plenty of options that prevent you from losing money.

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  11. Tony DePrato says:

    I haven’t ever heard of that. I’ve been in four countries over 16 years. I’ve worked with 100s of people and been part of the committees that work on things like housing. Do they explain this during recruitment? It’s nearly impossible to get a 9 month lease. It seems like the school owns the apartments, and it’s trying to run a summer sublet to recover loses. I can’t see any school recruiting teachers at a job fair with this scenario. If you have Student Loans, go to a boarding school. I wouldn’t deal with a company running a shady housing program.

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  12. Chuck says:

    Wow. 20 years of international teaching and never heard of a school doing that….do you really want to work there? Sounds like a temp job.

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  13. B says:

    I’ve worked in 4 schools over the years and every one of them covered summer rent. Never sign a contract without summer pay and rent!!!

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  14. Will Riker says:

    That sounds like a school to abandon. I admire that you want to stay for the kids, but clearly you value them more then they, the families, and the owner value you. If you have to foot the bill, in any way shape or form, to remain in country to do you job it’s time to go.
    Put yourself back in the shoes of “old you” when you worked in your country of origin. Would you stay at a school that chose not to pay you during the off months and just said “you’ll have to figure it out, see you in July!”

    Time to reconsider if the school is treating you like nothing more then imported labor or like a valued educator.

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  15. Max says:

    Not only does my school not pay a summer housing allowance, it does not pay us for the summer months. I’m new to international teaching and took this job because I was so excited to go overseas. I’m sure there are lots of schools like this out there that take advantage of teachers just like me. It all sounded Okay until now with the long vacation approaching and I find my life in limbo. I won’t be so quick to say yes next time around.

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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s a false assumption. I’ve been on in international circuit for over 20 years, in four different countries. Like many others here, I’ve never heard of a school that didn’t pay summer housing, or for 12 months. Time to change schools

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    • Jean Gurr says:

      A corollary to this… in the west we earn a % of our annual pay each month to defer to summer for pay: when I parted ways in CIS Bangladesh (mutually agreed when as a certified Cdn principal I would not do what was asked after requesting to see full student files in prep for grad) I negotiated what I believed included 6 months deferred % summer salary plus 1 month leaving-surprise-they did straight monthly pay and disclaimed this % accumulation-even their so-called Canadian agent who was involved in hiring me 14 months earlier decried any knowledge of this standard practice! So after advocating for CISB not cheating leaving teachers of their bonus and summer pay the prior school year (against their Cdn agent advice) I ended up in a loss!

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      • Sam Thompson says:

        You should do a runner because not only are they taking the mickey but it sounds like the school is being run by him as well…..this is nothing short of outrageous and I’ll bet you don’t get any medical either (or very poor cover)….there are lots of good schools out there…..leave these cowboys, do some research and find a well run and managed establishment

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      • Anonymous says:

        “In the West….”. Not true.

        Most countries in the west pay summer holidays. Not sure about America but I know Canada (or certainly BC) don’t and only pay 10 months. I assume, like everything else, Canada just follows America and it is the same in the US. Certainly OZ and UK 12 equal payments over the year.

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    • Anon says:

      No way! Never heard of a school paying only 9 months. Basically that isn’t an international school but a fourth tier hell hole. Run away!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Time to quit that job immediately!!!!

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  16. omgarsenal says:

    There are a number of practical solutions:

    1) Get together with the other teachers in this situation (all of them at your school) and rent a small,secure house where you can store your goods AND spend a few weeks at the start of school, while looking for a new apartment.

    2) Rent a big place,where you can store your stuff until you return and then move right in with your co-renters, especially if you have a place that has separate apartments available, like condo units .

    3) I imagine the admin. don’t have this problem so maybe approach them and get them to talk to the school owner….maybe they can advocate for their teachers a little bit?

    4) Check with other international schools (if there are any) and find out where they or their teachers rent apartments and see if you can make a deal for a 12 month rental of a place that is relatively close to your school.

    5) Try and find fellow teachers or visitors who plan to spend the summer in your city and offer them a discounted rent (paid in full,up front with a security guarantee as well) for the three months you’ll be away. By signing a 12 month lease you can be sure of having the apartment available on your return…you are risking that the temporary renters might be messy but at least you’ve got a place to come back to and don’t have to store your goods..or worry too much about damages. You’ll need your landlords ok for this.

    6) Go to a local hotel and ask them about a 1 week minimum rent for a large number of staff who will be looking for apartments after they book in. Make a package deal offer and if they refuse, go elsewhere.

    7) Speak to school parents to see if they have rental property available at a reasonable price. Explain your situation and maybe they’ll pressure the owner to show more generosity.

    8) If your home country has an embassy or consulate in your school country, seek their counsel and help in finding appropriate housing, even if on a temporary basis.

    There are surely other options you might consider but trying to do it alone is NOt one of them…there is power in numbers.

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  17. Almost summer says:

    I live in Western Europe, and I don’t get any housing allowance. So, I have to pay rent all year round. When I was living in Latin America(3 different countries/schools), they paid the rent for me until the end of June of my last year. So, I guess it all depends on which school and where.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Fortunately, my school pays for summer rent.

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