Renting a flat in Hong Kong - Things to look out for

Renting a flat in Hong Kong - Things to look out for

Renting a flat in Hong Kong can be easy but also immensely frustrating at the same time. Many things that foreigners take for granted in rental agreements do not apply here or the rules are full of loopholes (not to mention shady landlords who will take advantage of you.) The one thing I want to get across to everyone is that you must protect yourself here because you can't rely on the system to protect you.

- Most rentals are handled through agents. They will generally have a fee of half a month's rent for their service. Some agents only have flats around their small area so if your agent doesn't have anything else in the location you want then just go to a different agent and see what they have.

- Rental/safety deposits are typically 2 months and you will also need to pay the first month's rent upfront. This means you should expect to pay 3 months worth of rent at the beginning, which can be quite a large sum.

- Check the speed of the internet connection yourself. Don't rely on the realtor or owner telling you - go to the internet provider's website and check the internet connections available in the exact location. I made this mistake and was stuck with 8mbps. (If you are in this situation know that there are now many 5g home broadband connections which you can get for cheap but the speed will vary according to your proximity to a cell station).

- Check that all of the AC's work, as well as the hot water and that the taps aren't leaking. If it doesn't work then write it on the contract that it must be fixed before taking possession / don't sign the contract until it is fixed.

- Check the hot water situation - does it have a tank or is it an instant-electric version. It can be quite annoying to turn on the hot water before using it each time with certain tanks. Tanks can also be very small (10-15 mins of hot water) so ask beforehand. Situations will vary so always better to ask and find out.

- Make sure the contract you sign clearly states what you and the landlord are responsible for. I had a landlord give me a very poor contract stating I was responsible for maintenance of all the pipes, fittings, and windows. I protested and he found a proper one (the landlord should be responsible for those things).

- If there is no washing machine, check if there are the connections for one. Alternatively, you could ask the landlord to provide the machine at his/her cost in order for you to sign the contract. Washing machines can be had for $2,000 HKD and are not substantial costs over the long term.

Continued below..

Some of my recent posts you might be interested in:

How to be a douchebag foreigner/expat in Hong Kong

My first $100 of Google Adsense revenue took 10 years

Sep 2021 Net Worth Update - A million (HK) dollars

Working in Hong Kong as an English Teacher – How much can I make?

Hong Kong Sideline Visa - How to work a second job on a work visa

- Check for noticeable leaks in the ceiling or areas that look like they have been repaired. Check what is covered by the landlord in the contract in these situations.

- Check the windows - do they all lock? Many windows seem fine until you realize the locking mechanism is broken which can be a serious risk if you are on a lower floor.

- Check how electric and water are to be paid. If you are in a split-flat then they must state the rate at which you will be charged per unit of electricity or water, as well as a way for you to see the meters. Will you be charged monthly or yearly? If you are the one paying the bill directly with the companies then this doesn't apply to you and will be clearly on your bill.

- If you are looking at subdivided flats - MOST realtors will tell you straight-up that the landlord will not register the contract and pay the stamp duty on the flat. This is because they are either hiding that they have subdivided the flat, hiding the rent from taxation, or hiding it for many other reasons. The stamp duty fee is negligible so the cost is not the issue, and is supposed to be split between the landlord and the tenant anyways. This is a warning sign to me but the casual way the realtors will tell you this seems like no one really cares and they expect you not to care either. (The frustrating part is that the stamp duty must be paid in order to take a dispute to court BUT the dumb system still allows the landlord to go register the contract and pay the stamp duty at that time, without any consequences for not doing it before.) *Shake my head*

-Take photos and LOTS of them before you move in. Document absolutely everything - even send them to a friend for extra safe-keeping. You never know what the landlord will try to blame on you at the end of the lease so better to protect yourself.

- Change the locks when you move in.

- At the end of the lease DO NOT give back the keys of the unit until they have returned your rental deposit. Even though the contract will state they have a set amount of time to return the deposit, tell to the landlord clearly that you will only do it at the same time. Stand firm and protect yourself from unscrupulous landlords. 

Useful links:

Community Legal Information Centre - Template tenancy agreement

GovHK - Renting a Domestic Property

Hong Kong law is pro-landlord (Old and may not be up to date but useful to understand the pro-landlord situation in Hong Kong and the need to protect yourself.)

Estate Agents Authority - A guide to tenancy


Post a Comment