Leasing nightmare on Causeway Bay street

The prospect of restive spirits wandering the hallways of commercial buildings is enough to scare off many prospective tenants and buyers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 10:02am

What do you think really scares property buyers and tenants most? If you think it's sky-high asking prices or exorbitant rents you'd be wrong.

More than dollars and cents, their greatest fear lies in the restless souls of the dead that might be roaming or haunting premises that are offered for sale or rent. For Chinese people, this inevitably means bad fung shui - and possibly bad luck.

Falling under this category are flats, offices or commercial premises that were once the scene of murder, suicide or sudden death.

The buzz in the city's property world is that the premises in Causeway Bay occupied by DR Beauty, have now become a "haunted shop" for understandable reasons.

One of its customers died on October 10 after receiving a high-risk blood transfusion at the centre.

The 46-year-old client was among four women who suffered septic shock after having transfusions at the beauty centre's outlets in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. The three other women are in critical condition.

Located along Causeway Bay's Yee Wo Street, Hong Kong's busiest shopping area, the 5,100 square feet, three-level premises occupied by DR Beauty commands a monthly rent of about HK$350,000, cheap compared to the much steeper rents in nearby shops. A Chinese herbal shop covering 1,400 sq ft on the ground floor and first floor, is paying about HK$600,000 a month.

DR Beauty's landlord could have potentially sharply raised the rent when the beauty centre's lease expires next year.

This hope has been dashed by that tragedy. Other beauty clinics definitely will not lease the same shop in order to avoid being associated with the DR Beauty chain.

What do other retailers think?

"Although the woman did not die in the centre, she received the treatment there," a fashion retailer at another shopping centre said.

Another fashion retailer said: "Honestly, I don't want such incidents happening in any other shops on the same floor as mine or even in the same building.

"We fear the death of a customer will bring bad luck. No matter how low the rent or selling price that the owner offers, if similar incidents occurred in the premises, we won't go for it."

Some businesses, it seems, might be less suspectible to the spirit world than others.

A fung shui master suggests restaurants, which require a flame to cook food and bright lights (representing yang energy), can counter the yin energy of death. An excess of yin energy on a premises can bring sickness and bad luck on the occupier.

After the DR Beauty incident, beauty clinics are expected to face tougher requirements if they want to open their outlets at the city's prestigious shopping malls.

"Even if they are willing to pay more money than other retailers, major developers won't likely run the risk of leasing spaces to them in case a similar tragedy is repeated on their premises. Mall operators are more concerned about the image of their centres and cannot afford to allow such things to happen on their properties," a property consultant said.

Sandy Li is the Post's deputy property editor. Bricks and Mortar appears every Tuesday in the print version of the SCMP.