A government proposal to streamline the renewal of hundreds of thousands of land leases across Hong Kong will see property owners informed of a successful 50-year extension six years before their leases are set to expire, up from a previous proposal of three years.
This is part of proposed new legislation aimed at speeding up the renewal process, with official data showing that more than 300,000 lots are set to expire by 2047, with the first 50 non-industrial lots in Yau Tsim Mong district set to expire in June 2025.
Officials have said the current system – which requires a complex process of title checks and the execution of new land leases with each individual owner – is too cumbersome, given the large number of leases up for renewal.
Instead, it’s proposing to declare such renewals by gazette covering all properties that have leases expiring on the same date. Only properties that have not been granted renewals would be named individually.
A Development Bureau spokesperson said authorities would renew a lease in most cases unless there is "significant public interest" not to do so, and that national security will be taken into consideration. Officials would not reverse their decision once the 50-year extension is granted.
Owners would not be required to pay any additional premium, but they’ll be subject to an annual rent equivalent to three percent of the property's rateable value.
The spokesperson added that officials hope to handle the renewal for leases due to expire within the six-year notification period on the day the new law takes effect.
The government also said that foreign entities who own properties would be required to apply for written approval from the Foreign Ministry's office in the SAR for a lease extension, at least 60 days before the expiry date.
"In the absence of [the office's] approval, the lease will not be extended upon expiry," the paper says.
"In the case of multi-storey buildings, to avoid affecting innocent owners of other units in the same building, the proposed legislation will make clear that the requirement of obtaining [the office's] prior approval and the consequences for failure to comply will only apply to the relevant interest owned by the foreign-related entity."
The bureau spokesperson said the new rule would apply to 63 consular missions and eight international organisations, which have fewer than 10 plots of land between them and about 100 properties in multi-storey buildings.
Decisions by the SAR government and the Foreign Ministry's office in relation to leases would be made independently, the spokesperson added.
The bill will be put to Legco on December 13 for its first reading, and it is expected to come into force in the middle of next year.