Widow and son kicked out of 80 sq ft cubicle after rent raised from HK$2,650 to HK$3,950
Lands Tribunal rules that landlady has right to take back subdivided unit after raising rent from HK$2,650 to HK$3,950 a month
A widow and her six-year-old son are set to be evicted from their sub-divided flat after the Lands Tribunal ruled against them yesterday.
Landlady Tang Sau-fong filed an application to take back the 80 sq ft space last month, saying the mother and son could not afford to pay the rent after she raised it from HK$2,650 to HK$3,950 a month, an increase of almost 50 per cent.
Tao Xiaorong, whose Hong Kong husband died of lung cancer in 2011, has been living in the Sham Shui Po unit with her son since they moved from Guangdong in March last year when the boy reached school age.
As a Hong Kong permanent resident, he is not entitled to free education on the mainland.
And Tao has been ineligible to work in the city or receive social welfare while she waits for the Immigration Office to issue her with a Hong Kong ID card.
The two of them have been surviving on her son's HK$3,900 monthly welfare payment.
"If I pay the new rent, I don't even have money for utilities," Tao said before the hearing in Jordan.
Giving his ruling in favour of the landlady, Lands Tribunal adjudicator Lo Wai-kwong told Tao: "I feel sorry for you. I really do. But there's nothing I can do under the current legal system."
Lo said Hong Kong's rent control legislation was abolished back in 1998, and that "[Tang] has the right to take the unit back under the current ordinance".
Natalie Yau Pui-shan, of the Society for Community Organisation, which has been helping Tao, said the government should bring back rent control and prevent landlords of subdivided units raising what they charge by more than 20 per cent within two years.
"The court said we lost the case under the current legal system. But the legal system is problematic," Yau said.
Tao said earlier: "I just want to stay for another six months until I can get my Hong Kong ID card. Then we can afford to move somewhere else."
In court, Tao offered to pay the HK$3,950 a month but Tang insisted on taking the unit back. Tang said: "I know Tao will have difficulties [finding another apartment], but I have no responsibility to help her out."
She added that she and her children had moved back into the apartment and wanted the extra space. The flat had been divided into five units and Tang said her family was now occupying three of them.
Outside court, Tao claimed: "She evicted me because she thought I was not tough enough to fight back."
Tao and her son, who is happily enrolled in a school in the city, will have a couple of weeks to find another place, with Lo saying that the enforcement of Tang's possession order would take some time.
"It's not like she can evict you from the unit tomorrow morning," he said.