Remember the apartment that I told you all about (the one with the nice kitchen and a double fridge)? Jason liked it too and we put in a bid for it. After a few rounds of back and forth we came to an agreement with the landlord on the rental price. This happened over the weekend, and I was so happy that this saga was finally coming to an end that I went furniture shopping. Then yesterday we received a copy of the lease. Now I think we might be back to square one, looking for another apartment.
What can go wrong after the rental is agreed upon? Let me quote some of the terms from the lease so you can get an idea:
Under Tenant’s Obligations: “To reimburse to the landlord the cost of all broken and damaged windows and glass whether or not the same be broken or damaged by the negligence of the Tenant.
Huh? Forget about typhoon or heavy storms, which HK is known for, let’s say the landlord takes a rock and throws it into the window. Window breaks. I have to pay for it?
Another example under Exclusions of Liability:
“The landlord shall not in any circumstances be liable … of any loss or damage to person or property sustained by the tenant … caused by or through or in anyway owing to any defect in or breakdown of any lifts, fire and security services equipment and/or other facilities of the said building…”
So if the elevator that the landlord is supposed to maintain breaks down and kills me, he is not liable??
The list goes on and on. The entire 28-page document was filled with tenant’s obligations, restrictions, prohibitions, and exclusion of landlord’s liabilities, except for three short paragraphs on landlord’s obligation, and it doesn’t even mention maintenance of electrical appliances that come with the apartment.
When we put in a bid for this place, one of things we thought of as being positive was that the entire complex was owned by a very well-known developer. We thought it would be easier to deal with a big corporation rather than a private owner, that they’d be fairer and less likely to cut corners. Our agent assures us that this is a so-called “standard” contract singed by all the tenants, but I just can’t imagine anyone in his/her right mind will sign a contract that so overwhelmingly protects the landlord’s interest. For instance, there’s a whole section on buying third party insurance to cover the contents of the apartment. We are not talking about our personal belongings here. Apparently the landlord wants us to buy insurance to cover any damage to the apartment, including appliances owned by the landlord! When I asked our agent if the landlord is out of their mind for making such ridiculous demands (well, not in those exact words), she said not to worry because all tenants sign it and nobody buys the insurance. Incredulously, I pointed it out to her that it states explicitly in the contract that the landlord has the right to demand proof of insurance including premium payment. She laughs it off and says the landlord never asks for proof, therefore there is no need to either buy the insurance or worry too much about the details. Excuse me, but are we not speaking the same language? Is the concept of a contract completely foreign to them? If I don’t have to do what’s written in the contract, by extension, am I to assume that even if the contract says the landlord has to maintain the apartment, which this contract actually doesn’t, they don’t have to do it, because… well, they didn’t think it was binding??
When we talked to friends in Hong Kong who are either renting from landlords or who are landlords themselves, they all agree that this is the weirdest contract they’ve ever seen. So now we’re in a really bad situation where on the one hand I want to move out of this serviced apartment a.s.a.p. so our normal life can resume, but on the other hand I refuse to enter into a contract that puts us in such a disadvantage where the landlord has iron-clad protection on all sides and we have nothing.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, right after we put in our bid, this apartment complex was all over the news for two days because a buyer sued the developer for falsifying sales record. The story goes that this guy from China bought two units in the complex for an obscenely large amount of money, after seeing past sales record from the developer of twelve other units in the complex sold for similar prices. He later found out that the two units he bought were the only units EVER sold after the building’s completion two years ago. Of course we’re not buying (who would at that ridiculous price!) and we wouldn’t have given it any second thoughts under normal circumstances, but it doesn’t exactly boost our confidence in the landlord/developer, does it? If they can conjure sales records out of thin air, who knows what they are capable of doing to us armed with a contract we ourselves signed?