Illegal cubicle flats closed after court order issued
Three levels of subdivided flats in a former factory building in Tai Kok Tsui were shut down yesterday after a court ordered their closure - the first time such an order has been granted on a building illegally used for homes.
The District Court ruled that Wallace Kan - who had leased two floors of the building and the rooftop and installed cubicles in which people were living - no longer had an interest in the building after his tenancy ended, and therefore had no grounds to object to the closure order sought by the Buildings Department.
Officials and police went to the premises and closed down the three levels after the order was issued, the department said last night. All tenants of the 60-odd cubicles had moved out before the first hearing in the court case last week. The illegal partitions will be cleared soon, it said.
'[Kan] has no right to object to the application legally,' Judge Stephen Chow Siu-hung said. 'I am not convinced by [Kan's] reasons for objection, and since he was unable to raise any relevant objections, the court needs to approve the government's application.'
On the first day of the hearing last Wednesday, Kan said the closure order would cause him to lose money and that he needed more time to move his property out. Kan told the court he had paid HK$8,800 a month to lease the fourth, fifth and rooftop floors of the building in Larch Street.
He admitted putting up partitions to divide some of the cubicles but said illegal structures had existed before he began leasing the building in 2007. Kan warned tenants they were not allowed to live in the cubicles, the court heard. 'I did not rent out cubicles for living [in] ... I warned tenants against living in them,' he said.
Chow rejected Kan's argument that he had orally agreed a new lease on the building with Shirley Ng Yeung Yuet-wah, the wife of the building's owner, after the previous lease ended on February 8.
The Buildings Department boosted enforcement action on illegal subdivided flats after fatal fires in Mong Kok and Ma Tau Wai last year in buildings with such flats. Last week, social workers said the government's plan to relocate tenants from illegal cubicle flats was inadequate.