The Rental Contract
What you need to know about the legal agreements for renting a place to live in Hong Kong...
There are no legally mandated terms that must be included in a rental lease in Hong Kong. This means every clause can be negotiated and apart from the length of time a lease usually runs for, there's no such thing as a standard contract.
Pre-drawn contracts are sold in stationery shops, however, corporate landlords often have their own attorneys draw up contracts specifically for their properties.
Most leases are for two to three years, but if a break clause is included it is usually possible to terminate the contract if around three months notice is given.
It is recommended to have a broker, agent, or trusted friend read through the lease before signing it as there may be some unpleasant surprises: some contracts try to make tenants responsible for the cost of repairing normal wear and tear, and if the home is mortgaged but has been rented without the mortgagee's permission then the contract is void and a tenant can be asked to leave immediately.
There are two types of rental agreements:
- They may be a contract between the landlord and a "company" representing the tenant or
- a contract between the tenant and landlord, making this a "personal" lease.
The only papers necessary for a personal lease is a copy of the Hong Kong ID or a passport. For a company lease, a Hong Kong ID or passport is required plus the company's business registration number. Landlords may sometimes require additional information such as an employment letter or salary statement.
The basic rental contract will contain the names and addresses of the tenant, occupant (when it is a company lease) and landlord. The contract may include but is not limited to:
- terms of lease
- break clause
- monthly rental amount
- management fees
- government rates
- required security deposit
- holding deposit
- tenant's and landlord's obligations
- any other terms that are negotiated into the contract by either party
The contract will also stipulate the amount of Stamp Duty or tax owed and shared by both landlord and tenant payable to the government of Hong Kong.
Both parties sign two copies of the contract – one is kept by the landlord, the other by the tenant. Documents must be sent to the Inland Revenue to be officially registered and stamped, they will then be returned to the landlord and tenant.
Ending a Rental Agreement
Neither the landlord nor the tenant can terminate the tenancy agreement unless there is a valid break clause in the agreement.
The standard lease is for two years with a break clause built into the contract and agreed by both parties. For example, a two-year contract with a one-year break clause may require the tenant to give two months' notice after the first year. Again, these terms can often be negotiated.
A landlord is entitled to terminate a tenancy if the tenant is more than two months late in paying the rent. However, the tenancy can be maintained if the tenant pays all the outstanding rent.
If the property is to be sold, the lease is still valid under the new ownership. It is important to find out which owner will be responsible for upholding the lease terms though. Get this information in writing.
Renewing a Lease
Under the "Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance" which took effect in 2004, the landlord has the right to take back the premises once a lease expires. Upon expiration of the lease, the decision whether or not to renew rests solely with the landlord. The terms of the new lease are negotiated between the landlord and the tenant.
- Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance in full (PDF)
Disputes Involving Property
The government's Lands Tribunal consisting of professional judges, qualified surveyors and officers, has been set up to hear cases involving property disputes.
- Full information on the services of the Lands Tribunal is available online