A grassroots organisation on Sunday renewed its call for the government to regulate initial rent levels for subdivided flats, saying the rent control imposed in January is not enough to protect tenants.
At a press conference, the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) said its survey of around 300 tenants showed that some landlords had recently raised rents at a higher rate than over the past two years as they knew they couldn't ask for a further rent hike until the end of the two-year contract, and that would be capped at ten percent.
A tenant surnamed Chan said her landlord demanded a HK$500, or 10 percent, rent hike when her tenancy contract ended in January.
"In the past generally the rent hikes would be HK$200... [But now] it's HK$500. It's nothing to other people but HK$500 is enough for us to buy food for a week," she said.
SoCO's community organiser Angela Lui said 60 percent of the survey respondents agreed that the current rent control is not comprehensive without regulation of initial rents.
Lui said for rent control to be effective, authorities need to cap rents at 120 percent of the unit's rateable value.
"Most of the respondents think [the initial rent level] is the core problem of the subdivided unit market, because the rent is really high. So if the legislation doesn't cover this part, the problem can't be solved no matter how the legislation is executed," she said.
The government had said it expected to look into regulating the initial rent levels after doing more research in 2023.
SoCO also urged the authorities to step up enforcement efforts, saying they need to do home visits to see if landlords are compliant with the legislation, instead of only launching an investigation on receiving complaints.
The organisation noted that half of the tenants surveyed said they wouldn't lodge a complaint even if their landlords broke the law, as they are afraid of being kicked out.