Better protection plan for tenants
People convicted of harassing tenants and of unlawful eviction will face tougher penalties if a draft bill proposed by the Government is enacted.
Under the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance enacted in 1973, harassment of tenants and unlawful eviction are offences which attract a fine of $50,000. On subsequent conviction, the penalty is 12 months' jail plus the fine.
Members were told in a government paper that the Housing Bureau was proposing to impose heavier penalties - a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment of 12 months on first conviction, and a fine of $1 million and three years' jail on subsequent conviction.
The proposed stiffer penalties follow repeated pleas from legislators and the public amid growing concern over the use of unlawful means to evict tenants and recover premises for redevelopment or self-occupancy.
Officials also propose to amend the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) (Amendment) Bill 2001 to make it easier to prosecute alleged culprits.
Under the proposal, the prosecution would only be required to prove that the defendant 'knows or has reasonable cause to believe' that his or her act is likely to cause the tenant to give up occupation of the premises, rather than to prove the defendant's intent.
A number of proposals have been put forward in the draft bill to streamline tenancy renewal procedures.
They are aimed at making it simpler for landlord and tenant to reach agreement and to give the Lands Tribunal the discretion in handling tenancy renewal applications involving notices not served or submitted within statutory time limits.
Other proposed amendments include measures to improve the basis of calculating compensation for tenants and sub-tenants occupying small premises repossessed by landlords for redevelopment.
The bill, endorsed by the Chief Executive-in-Council on May 29, is scheduled to be published in the Government Gazette tomorrow. Officials plan to table the bill for its first reading on June 20.