If you think about renting in Hong Kong, you can start searching for a place online or by having a look at the classifieds section of the local newspaper. However, if you don’t know your way around the local real estate market, the best solution is to hire a real estate agent to help you find the right place you could be renting in Hong Kong.
As is the case with buying property, renting in Hong Kong is a rather difficult and expensive undertaking - housing in Hong Kong is highly sought after. Therefore finding a place can at times be nerve-wracking, especially in Kowloon where the population density is the highest. On the upside, most apartments easily meet the highest standards of living. Older buildings are often renovated to offer their tenants the same comfort as new housing developments.
If you decide on renting in Hong Kong, you can deal directly with the owner or you can hire a licensed estate agent. The latter will probably be the better choice if you are unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s housing market and not fluent in Chinese/Cantonese. Make sure to clarify all details with your estate agent beforehand, such as your preferences and needs as well as the agent’s commission and the time of payment.
No matter whether you decide to look for a place on your own or to hire someone who specializes in renting in Hong Kong, make sure to search the land registry for information on the property you are about to rent. Check if there is a mortgage on the property or not and whether the mortgagee has agreed to lease the place. This is important! If you rent the property without the mortgagee’s consent, you run the risk of being evicted on short notice.
If something seems dodgy to you and you are not sure if you can trust the owner of a property you are interested in, you can always hire a lawyer to investigate the offer for you. Expats and foreigners are often subject to fraud as they are unfamiliar with local customs and the usual procedure for renting in Hong Kong.
A general rule of thumb: If something does not feel right, no matter what it is, don’t sign the lease. Better to be safe than sorry. If you are searching for a place online, try to do some research on the landlord or landlady. If other expats had a bad experience with this person, they will probably have shared their experiences of renting in Hong Kong in blogs or on expat forums.
Always insist on looking at the apartment or house before you sign anything or pay a deposit or the first rent. Do not rely on pictures only as they can be misleading. Although it may be nice to have a place to live right when you arrive in Hong Kong, it is always safer to meet with the landlord and to visit the apartment in person. In this way, you will have a good idea of what you might be getting into if you sign the tenancy agreement.
Tenancy agreements are usually limited to two or three years and can be renewed if you and your landlord want to continue the tenancy. In some cases, you can also terminate the contract with two or three months’ notice. Read through the tenancy agreement thoroughly before signing it to make sure if the rules and responsibilities which apply to renting in Hong Kong are similar to those in your home country. You should know in advance if certain details are handled differently in Hong Kong.
Your landlord will inform you if the property you are renting in Hong Kong is going to be sold. Your tenancy agreement will still be valid, and you will be able to stay in the apartment under the same conditions. You should, however, try to find out if the old or the new owner is responsible for you as a tenant.
Renting in Hong Kong is not always all-inclusive. As a tenant, you are responsible to get connected to utility services yourself. Unless you have rented a serviced apartment, you have to get in touch with the responsible utility companies yourself.
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