Guide to Renting in Hong Kong
Renting an apartment in Hong Kong should be a straightforward process. This city has an abundance of consistently good rental properties due to the locals continuing love affair with property, and the number of transient residents that come and go under work contracts. Supply generally meets demand in the rental market, however there are always some hard and fast rules that you need to be aware of to make your renting experience in Hong Kong both relaxed and enjoyable. It is a privilege for every tenant to be allowed to live in a house or apartment that someone else owns, but owners too have to be responsible of the well-being, comfort and safety of their paying tenants.
Use A Professional Agent
Although there is a standard contract governing residential tenancy agreements between landlords and renters, many provisions can be optional so it is absolutely important to review such proposed agreements in detail before signing them off. After all, a few hours of your due diligence could save a couple of years’ worth of potential household misery. This is where a professional Real Estate Agency is well worth engaging in for your search, to walk you through and explain or advise on certain details and provisions and to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding on either side. The balance of power within the real estate negotiation table favors landlords than the tenants in a dispute in Hong Kong so you want to be protected and sure upfront.
There are certain things you need to look out for in tenancy agreement documents. Review their wording and try to include them if they’re missing. Again, seek the advice of your professional Real Estate Agent. A good landlord and a good tenant will not find it difficult to form a harmonious relationship for sometimes years so long as they both understand the boundaries of the undertaking.
Some General Considertions (each landlord will differ in what they accept or will not)
Upon confirming your tenancy lease, you might negotiate for rent-free period from the landlord, up to two weeks before your lease contract commences. This is a period when you start moving your stuff and setup things (Internet connection, utilities, etc) even before you formally move in.
One frustrating experience that afflicts some of Hong Kong neighborhoods is pollution caused by construction works on nearby location. If you observe no construction work has taken place, get an assurance from the owner that this is true. Otherwise, significant building works or nearby building construction/demolition that commence in the middle of your apartment lease contract could bring discomfort and cause annoyance.
Apartments are sometimes advertised as “fully furnished” with appliances hoping to attract tenants who will save time, money and effort scouting for refrigerators, washing machines and furniture and trying to fit them into the house. But make it very clear that you also “rent” these appliances and be aware of the ownership. Therefore, the landlord should be responsible for repairs, replacements and preventive maintenance of such appliances.
Since there is no clear cut rule as to who is responsible for what, the tenancy agreement is a good platform to get things in black and white. For example, if there is a need for a handyman to unblock the drainage or dripping air conditioners. Also ensure that there is a fair “wear and tear” and reasonability clause (i.e., if damage was done due to negligence, tenant will be responsible) in the tenancy document.
Some properties are located within a pest-infested estate so try to insert a clause that pest control is part of the landlord’s responsibility. On a newly-developed estate, pest problem might not yet be a nagging problem so landlords may not mind it included in the clause.
It is understood that the apartment has to be bare, unless furnished with appliances in working condition, but to make things certain, get assurance from the landlord that the apartment is cleaned (and painted) before you move in.
Make the landlord agree to transfer electricity, gas, and other utility account under your name before commencement of your lease. This is to grant you more control and convenience when transacting these utility accounts. Note: Certain landlords may opt to charge you on a monthly basis which can be more convenient for shorter rental periods without the need for any name transfers .
State clearly in the contract that the tenant is only responsible in covering their own properties for insurance, and a separate one for the premises itself should be borne by the landlord.
We all know management of flats isn’t only going to involve monthly rental payments, there are also other expenses such as cleaning, security and management. Therefore, who is responsible for payment of management fees, government rates and other fees should be clearly identified, and this is usually the landlord.
It is a standard within the world of property rental that the tenant is required to put up cash worth two month’s deposit and one month advance payment prior to getting the keys and officially start the tenancy contract. But sometimes ending a contract can lead to disputes and definition of “deposit” may be vague to begin with. Can the money deposited in landlord’s favor be used to defray cost for damage or repairs? Should it only be for the purpose of paying for the remainder of the contract? This must be clearly defined as well.
While the tenancy contract is signed and in effect, sometimes the landlord will receive a lucrative offer from a buyer and decides to sell the property. Should this occur, the apartment is usually sold with the tenant contract in place honored for the duration of the lease period. If the new owner wishes to move in to the property, the tenant should have enough leverage such as ability to utilize the deposit or granted enough time to look for new home before leaving the premises.
Once the tenant notifies the landlord he does not intend to renew the tenancy agreement, the landlord will start putting the apartment on the market to rent. This could also mean strangers accompanied by property agents start knocking at your door to inspect the premises. While there is no way you can refuse entry of legitimate visits, you can arrange with the landlord regarding frequency of inspections, allowed hours of visit and other details such as no shoes inside.
Discuss with the landlord regarding repairs and defects discovered at the apartment. Should a repair be required, make sure to have an understanding with the landlord of who will secure services of a third-party repairman, should the agent be involved in sorting out the problem or will the tenant arrange for repairs and deduct repair costs against the monthly rental upon presentation of service receipts.
At the day of your handover, often during the moment you sign the contract and have paid the required fees, make sure you get the following from the landlord:
- Prior to occupying the residential premises, landlords are expected to repaint the apartment. This is a common practice in Hong Kong, so you (or the landlord) may use this as a bargaining chip; tenant may give up demanding the repaint job in return for lower rates or landlord may justify the brand-new look of the apartment to ask for more.
- Complete set of keys (front door, inside doors, mailbox, etc)
- Detailed list of contents such as appliances, fittings and furniture and their working condition
- Accessories such as remote controls for air conditioning, ceiling fans, TV’s etc.
- User manuals for any appliances provided
- Access cards to building entrances if existing