9 Things To Know Before You Move

Ensure your rented apartment is the right one by reading up on win-win ways you can work with your landlord in Hong Kong.

October 17, 2017

If you are an expat who is new to the residential leasing scene in Hong Kong, you may have more options when negotiating your lease than you think.

To help give you peace of mind that you've found the right new home, here are some win-win ways you can work with your landlord.

1.      Inquire about a rent-free period

In return for you agreeing to the full rental asked, you may be able to ask the landlord for a rent-free period of between one to four weeks, subject to negotiation. The net result is that the landlord gets the sought-after rent, and you get lower total rent payments over the course of a standard two-year lease.

2.      Get your keys early

If the flat is unoccupied, a landlord may be willing to give you the key up to one week before the commencement date on your tenancy agreement, to give you time to put everything in order before you move in.

3.      Request renovations and upgrades to the apartment before you sign a lease 

These can range from professional cleaning, painting, and polishing the wooden floors, to installing or removing kitchen appliances and built-in furniture.

4.      Request curtains and light-fittings

You may love your new harbour views, but not having curtains will be less appealing when you are woken up at the crack of dawn! Often, unsightly bare ceiling bulbs are also overlooked during flat viewings. It may be possible to negotiate with your future landlord to put up light fittings and curtains.

5.      Inspections are important

If the landlord hasn't recorded the condition of the flat prior to the handover, it will be hard for you to prove that you are not to blame for any broken fixtures and furnishings found after you move in.

Have you checked the flat is in good working order? Run through a checklist: windows, sliding doors, toilets, water heaters, oven, stove and refrigerator. Is the gas, water and power supply still on? Are there any leaks under the sinks? How about the condition of the shower, bath tub and air-conditioners? Dripping air-cons are punishable by law.

If you negotiate repair works and the replacement of faulty equipment before you sign the lease, you can be sure to move into a flat in optimal condition.

6.      Leave the property as you found it

Most landlords don't mind if you hang up pictures or install fitted wardrobes, provided you seek their permission first. However, they do object to holes drilled into wood or marble. If you damage the walls, you will be expected to re-plaster and paint them. Not returning the flat in good working order will result in repair costs deducted from your upfront deposit. Find a contractor yourself, and you may get a better price on the repair work.

​7.      Distance from transport connections

If you have young children, does the school bus stop close by? Don't forget to enquire about how far it is to a range of different public transport options.

​8.      Construction concerns

Find out if construction is scheduled near your building. Piling works are a noisy disturbance, and building work can generate a lot of dust. When bamboo scaffolding and thick nets cover your building, there will be less natural light, so it is worth finding out if your chosen property is about to undergo ​improvement works.

​9.      Review your break lease clause 

A standard tenancy agreement lasts 24 months; but after the first 12 months you are allowed to give two months' notice if you plan to move out. You are, therefore, legally bound to pay the rent for a minimum of 14 months. You can negotiate a shorter lease period before you take the flat, but this may be at the cost of a higher rental. 

​Alternatively, if you need to move out early, you can find a new tenant to take your place, subject to your landlord's approval. If you do break your lease, you can expect to pay agency fees and stamp duty costs, as well as any legal fees, renovation costs or rental subsidies.

Our best advice is to negotiate as many terms and requests in your favour before signing a rental lease, to save you time, inconvenience and money in future. Key to securing a great deal is developing a good relationship with your property agent, who can serve as your negotiator, go-to person when you need to contact the landlord, and may even act as a mediator to resolve any issues with a property before they escalate into a dispute. 

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