• Sun
  • Nov 23, 2014
  • Updated: 12:14am
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 3:17am

How about treating your client with respect, my (land)lord?

Life can be tough for a small tenant or when you set up a factory in an industrial building

Teasing landlord's operatives is probably disallowed under the Basic Law but, trust me, it's harmless and almost certainly the only form of entertainment you'll get when dealing with these people. The person in question was one of many officious managers working for the owners of a building housing a restaurant in Kowloon my company has just closed.

As a tease I suggested that as we regularly paid his company quite a lot of money, he might like to treat us as customers as opposed to supplicants on the receiving end of instructions.

This is hardly the way this landlord sees things. It is a major property company employing a small army of clipboard-wielding operatives who made a habit of coming into the restaurant and issuing orders about this and that. When they wanted my company to do something, it was expected to be done yesterday, but when a request was made for them to do something, a great deal of time elapsed because of "company policy".

The concept of "customer" clearly bothered the tease-ee; he mulled the word as if it had somehow just entered the vocabulary. "Yes, customer," I said, "we never treat our customers the way you treat us." He thought about this novel idea and then mumbled something about us being tenants.

Well, I can't deny that we were indeed mere tenants, quite like other tenants from small and medium-sized enterprises that account for the bulk of Hong Kong's commercial property rentals.

If you want to use an industrial building for industrial use, you clearly need to be patient

Life being what it is means that being outside the charmed circle of large companies can be tough for corporate tenants. Yet property prices are said to be falling and vacancies in commercial buildings are said to be rising so you might have thought that landlords would be accommodating.

By coincidence, at the time I was dealing with the Kowloon landlord, I was also negotiating with another landlord in Central. This landlord adopts such a different attitude that it is hard to believe that these two companies are in the same business.

The matter in hand was a lease renewal. As you might expect, this meant a big rise in the rent but we managed to have an amicable negotiation. The net result is that a deal was done with a landlord that actually regards our company as customers. This is why we have rented its premises for more than two decades as opposed to just three years with the clipboard wielders in Kowloon.

I rather doubt my company's rentals will make or break a big landlord but even the mightiest may care to consider that when the going gets tough (a periodic occurrence in Hong Kong's turbulent property market), the tough might consider nurturing a good relationship with tenants who have the temerity to think of themselves as customers and could well decide to move to where they are better treated.

Meanwhile, if you've ever had to tackle a persistent and mysterious drainage odour, you will appreciate that dealing with landlords tends to require tenacity. Thus soon after recovering from one set of landlord trauma, another loomed into view. This time it involved setting up a factory in a so-called industrial building.

I am well aware that establishing a factory might be considered eccentric these days but for those of us in the food industry, with critical delivery deadlines, a factory across the border is not much of an option.

Anyway, to get the factory in operation required the building owner's co-operation in facilitating extra electricity supply alongside some other structural work.

Although these premises proclaim themselves to be an "industrial centre", the building management clearly regards industrial activity as a nuisance. They have got used to the idea that most industrial premises are either used for offices or storage or simply left unoccupied awaiting sales by speculators. Maybe the building owners prefer to break the law by using this building for residential or some other unlawful purposes?

So, if you want to use an industrial building for actual industrial use, you clearly need to be patient and ready for building management resistance. Then there's the even more tedious process of dealing with government bureaucrats over licensing. I don't have the heart to go into that right now; trust me, this is a major test of character.

Stephen Vines runs companies in the food sector and moonlights as a journalist and broadcaster


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This article is now closed to comments

Hong Kong landlords have always had a bad rap and deservedly so. There seems to be some atavistic Chinese characteristic which makes them greedy, arrogant and uncaring. No wonder that when the Communist cadres liberated areas during the civil war, they often beheaded these oppressors of the people. Now THAT is one aspect of the CCP to which many would welcome a return.
f-ck you pierce lam
The odor is the smell coming from the waste (sewer) pipe’s sewer gas. Your sink and/or floor drain should have a U-trap installed connecting with the waste pipe. The purpose of the U-trap which must fill with water acts as a seal stopping the odor from passing through. It is difficult to say without a site inspection to attribute if U-trap hasn’t been installed or the water in it has dried out for unused drains. I think U-trap is required by law in Hong Kong.
The SARS was spread through faulty plumbing at the Amoy Garden. By the way there is still no official acknowledgement it is so except the architects and engineers institutes donated money for the retrofitting work. Plumbing is a well developed science. Public’s health and safety can’t be guaranteed when plumbing is not properly installed and used.
Buckminster Fuller said that plumbing has make city possible – that is to say aren’t living like a peasant with an open ditch to carry away our sewer.
f-ck you pierce lam. i am going to out you to the world. you just wait.
Welcome back, Stephen!
Dai Muff
I might dislike your comment, but I somehow never manage to get through them.
the frequent racial abuse by this guy is no longer funny
SCMP needs a moderator to approve postings so this colonial hating gwxilo hater crxp is deleted or he is suspended
this guy needs PIERCE d typing fingers
LAM inating
along with his Alter Ego 'whymak'
nice. Pierce Lam. got it. does anyone know his place of work?
In my opinion a racist
who nevertheless appears wiser than blind fools
caractacus Sep 3rd 2013
“ …. Why can't (you) lighten and stop carrying around all the racist baggage on (your) shoulders? After all, (you) are not saints when it comes to racial sensitivity towards others.”
I’m above responding to dirty agent mouse
lacked of thinking faculty it knows only how to dig background
I’m above responding to yellow-eight kkk
lacked of thinking faculty it knows only how to swear and howl
They fear my reasons and I, not their brute
Those who can think and gave my comment a dislike
tell us why and where for example is the fault you find in this comment
then we may discuss
A fair person I respect reasons
and despise scumbags who try to intimidate




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