Landlords for Hong Kong’s sub-divided residential units are overcharging tenants for water and electricity, who have little contractual protections during the Covid-19 pandemic according to a government task force.

The Task Force for the Study on Tenancy Control of Subdivided Units – led by Sun Hung Kai CEO William Leung – was set up in April for a term of 18 months and is expected to deliver a report about regulating rent in the first half of next year.

Frank Chan subdivided flat
Housing secretary Frank Chan visiting a family living in subdivided flat.

After meeting over 30 sub-divided flat concern groups over video conference and making field visits in nine districts, the task force told the press on Wednesday that some landlords overcharged tenants for utility bills and that the living conditions were not ideal. Some units had bed bugs and rats.

Leung said that rent prices did not drop during the coronavirus outbreak, adding that most tenants did not sign formal contracts with their landlords.

“We have just had the first round of meetings with the concern groups, they basically have told us first-hand information about the sub-divided unit situation. They mainly [focused] on the living conditions, the inequality between the landlord and the tenants. They mentioned examples about the sub-divided unit rental being exorbitant.”

william leung
William Leung. RTHK screenshot.

He said the task force will conduct public forums in the future to gather views from the public.

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.