Students from mainland pay dearly for flats
Hong Kong landlords with flats close to universities are putting the screws on mainland students seeking accommodation by demanding pre-payment of up to one year's rent - plus two months' deposit in advance - before handing over the keys.
Housing estates in Tai Wai, Sha Tin and Hung Hom, near Baptist University and the City University of Hong Kong in Kowloon Tong and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom, are in highest demand among mainland students.
Rents in these areas range from HK$9,000 to HK$25,000 a month subject to the location and size of the flats.
'Most mainland parents are more generous than locals when it comes to leasing flats for children who are going to study in Hong Kong. But up to three or four students may share a flat, except for those with deeper pockets,' said Kelvin Kwan, sales manager at Midland Realty's Festival City in Tai Wai.
The one-year-old Festival City estate is close to the Tai Wai MTR station, which is just one stop from the station serving City University, and it is one of the favoured rental locations among mainland students.
'We recently closed more than 10 tenancy deals at Festival City involving mainland students using them as accommodation. In most cases the students were asked by landlords to pay one year's rent in advance plus a commission fee,' Kwan said.
The flats, which ranged in size from 900 to 1,200 square feet and have three or four bedrooms, were leased for between HK$18,000 and HK$25,000 a month.
As most universities in Hong Kong start their academic year in September, non-local students - most of them from the mainland - are now trying to secure accommodation for the new year.
Roy Leung, sales manager at Midland Realty's Sha Tin branch, said some landlords raised the rents they were asking after seeing a rise in the number of mainland students looking for flats.
'Two mainland students agreed to rent a two-bedroom flat even after the landlord increased the monthly rental from HK$9,000 to HK$11,000. The rent may have been raised because the students asked the landlord to provide some furniture.'
Leung said mainland students were mostly quick to make decisions if they liked the apartments and they were close to their universities.
In one case, it was reported that a 584 sq ft flat on the King Tin Estate was leased for HK$11,000 a month, or HK$18.80 per square foot, to three mainland students, a record for the estate.
Jessica Chow, sales manager at 21st Century's Sha Tin branch, said City One in Sha Tin was also popular with mainland students.
'We have signed 20 leases there with mainland students,' she said.
As a safeguard, she suggests that landlords collect a year's rent plus two months deposit in advance from the students, as they were different from tenants who were able to provide proof of income.
Steve Leung, sales manager at Hong Kong Property Services, said three-bedroom flats at Harbour Place in Hung Hom were most sought after by mainland students.
'Most are looking for flats to move into at short notice,' he said.
Roy Leung of Midland Realty said some landlords were not keen to lease their flats to mainland students even though they could get higher rents.
'They worry that some students are not tidy and have heard stories about some flats that were returned in a mess after the leases expired.'
Such owners preferred to rent their flats to individuals with regular incomes or to Japanese or other expatriates, said Leung.
The increase in applications from mainland students this year to study at the University of Science and Technology