Tenants angry over Phoenix evictions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 1994, 12:00am

TENANTS in Phoenix Tower in Causeway Bay are crying foul after the landlord's refusal to compensate them for breaking their leases and evicting them.

According to a number of tenants still in the building, they were informed in April that the building had been sold and that the new owner was to demolish the building and redevelop the site.

As required by their leases, they were given the mandatory six months (until the end of August) to move out.

Even more irksome to the tenants is the fact they must also pay for gutting the premises before leaving.

To date most tenants have moved, leaving only a handful who are still packing.

Some tenants are philosophical about their eviction.

Others said they wrote to the old and new landlords demanding some sort of compensation.

They said they wanted reimbursement for all or part of the office decorating costs. In some cases, this ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some tenants said they had not heard a word from the new landlord and others said they were ''aggravated'' by his high-handed manner.

One tenant running an office supply and interior design business said the new owner sent them a letter requesting they sign an undertaking to the effect they would not seek compensation. In return, they would get their two months' deposit back.

Repeated phone calls and a registered letter to the former owners received no action and letters to the new owners apparently fell on deaf ears, a spokesman said.

''In the lease, it said they have the right to evict us if the property is sold. But there is no clause that they have to or do not have to compensate us. We are just fighting for the decoration cost,'' the spokesman said.

After consulting a lawyer, they were told if they signed the letter they would not be able to seek compensation from the original owner.

To date they have not signed the letter and fear there is little chance to work out some kind of a settlement.

A spokesman for EBC Hassell, an architectural firm that leased two floors in the building, said they were advised by a lawyer not to bother seeking any form of compensation.

''We were 14 months into our lease but it wasn't as bad as one tenant on the 16th floor who only began leasing a couple of months before the eviction.'' She described her company's eviction as ''painfully inconvenient'' for their business.

''We didn't try to challenge the owner,'' she said. ''You are powerless in this town when the value of the land goes up. The landlord has the upper hand.'' The tenants believed, their only course of action was to refuse to pay their last couple of months' rent, which apparently some did.

A spokesman for the management company, Asia Standard International Group Ltd refused to comment.