Despite identifying over 1,500 suspected breaches of the law protecting tenants of subdivided flats since January last year, only three Hong Kong landlords have been convicted.

jordan yau ma tei subdivided flats old building
Apartments in Yau Ma Tei. File photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

The figure was revealed by a government official in a Legislative Council meeting on Friday after lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok questioned the efficacy of the legislation.

Citing a February court case, Ma said one landlord convicted under the law had only been fined HK$2,000. “It does not even cover one month of rent. How can the authorities expect to use subdivided-flat rental controls to protect tenants’ rights?” Ma asked, urging the government to raise the penalty under the legislation.

The Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance, amended in January 2022, bars landlords of subdivided flats from raising the rent within a two-year period. It also made it illegal to overcharge tenants for water and electricity. However, it was criticised by a concern group for being merely a “paper tiger.”

Responding to Ma, the Commissioner of Rating and Valuation Kevin Siu said a total of 1,524 cases of suspected violations of the legislation had been identified as of March.

Kevin Siu
The Commissioner of Rating and Valuation Kevin Siu speaks at the Legislative Council on April 14, 2023. Photo: LegCo, via video screenshot.

While the legislature had previously heard that only two landlords had successfully been prosecuted, Siu said a third landlord was convicted on March 11 of three offences and fined HK$18,600.

The official said that as each case was different, the Department of Justice would be consulted before making any prosecutions.

“In about half of the time – or in 788 cases – the Department of Justice’s opinion was that issuing a warning letter would carry enough weight,” Siu said.

He added that “the law has only been enacted for just over a year” and said that the Covid-19 pandemic had also played a role in why they opted for warnings instead.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.