Owners Club in Hong Kong can help landlords deal with problem tenants
Owners Club introduces service to help landlords shortlist and rent out their property to the right tenants and to collect rents
Diamond Shea is chairman of Hong Kong Owners Club, an association of property owners in Hong Kong. He discusses the grounds on which a landlord can terminate a lease earlier than the stipulated contract period.
What are the grounds for prematurely terminating a tenancy agreement?
The landlord can terminate the lease prematurely on the grounds that the tenant has failed to pay rent within 15 days of the due date, or has used the premises for immoral or illegal purposes, or has caused unnecessary annoyance, inconvenience or disturbance, including persistent delays in payment of rent, or has made structural alterations to the premises without the landlord’s consent.
What if the tenant refuses to move out? How can a landlord evict a tenant?
If the tenant refuses to vacate the premises after the expiry or termination of tenancy, the landlord should apply for possession from the Lands Tribunal (if the amount of outstanding rent is less than HK$1 million) or other courts of law (if the outstanding rent is at or more than HK$1 million) before the tenant can be ordered to leave. The landlord will have to prove to the judge that the tenant has committed a breach of the tenancy agreement as mentioned above. If the evidence is accepted, the landlord will be issued a judgment against the tenant, and then he will be able to apply to the Lands Tribunal or the court for a Writ of Possession. At that point, a bailiff will be engaged in the recovery of the property on the landlord’s behalf. The bailiff will visit the property to hand deliver the notice of eviction. This step is to make sure that the tenant receives the notice of eviction personally and to confirm that the address is correct. The bailiff can also check if there is likely to be any difficulty in accessing the property when they come to repossess it. While the bailiff is allowed to break into the premises and seek help from the police if necessary, he or she will generally first seek to be let in. It is very important to note that it is a criminal offence if the landlord harasses, illegally evicts the tenant, breaks into the premises or cuts off the utilities of the premises occupied by a tenant no matter how badly he or she has behaved.
How can the Hong Kong Owners’ Club help?
We represent and safeguard the interests of landlords. In our experience, sometimes conflicts are just caused by misunderstandings. We believe negotiation and mediation are good ways to resolve landlord-tenant conflicts. We help landlords settle disputes and collect rental arrears in legal ways. Unfortunately, there are also rogues and professional bad tenants for whom eviction is the only way to make them leave. In such a worst-case scenario, we could represent the landlord, with his or her authorisation, in the legal eviction processes to free the landlord from the hassle of having to attend all the court proceedings. Apart from that, we also run seminars and workshops to educate landlords and estate agents on how to identify professional bad tenants. For example, if a potential tenant refuses to provide an employer or business reference or moves in at night, alarm bells should ring. From my experience, rogues and professional bad tenants usually prefer moving in at night to avoid drawing the neighbours’ attention. Recently, we have also introduced a tenancy management service to represent the landlord to shortlist and rent out the property to the “right” tenants at rents set by the landlord and collect rents throughout the tenancy or lease.
Do you have a blacklist of rogue tenants?
I would not necessarily call it a blacklist, but we do have a database of tenants who have an eviction or rent-arrears collection history. Their full names and HKID card numbers can be checked from court records. We also flag tenants whom landlorss have sought to evict on more than one occasion. For a small fee, our members can check potential tenants against our records before renting out the property.