p) Other Legal Issues
The sub-division or partitioning of flats for rental purposes has become a common phenomenon in Hong Kong. As explained in the question about converting property for short term leases, such partitioning often departs from the original design and purposes of the building. It may run the risk of contravening various laws, regulations or other legal obligations such as the Government Lease, Building Regulations, Fire Regulations and/or the Deed of Mutual Covenant which may attract civil or even criminal liability.
The use of the property for the purposes of short-term accommodation purposes for guests without license may also infringe the Hotels and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance (Cap. 349) and/or the Bedspace Apartment Ordinance (Cap. 411).
In fact, the rationale behind such restrictions is obvious:
- The rental of sub-divided units entails a much higher population density of the unit which exceeds its original designed capacity which renders the use of the unit unsafe;
- The partitioning walls and extra fittings installed by tenants may increase the load bearing capacity of the building structures. Such fittings might elevate risks of casualties during a fire and the emergency passageways may become obstructed as a result;
- The sharing of the property between tenants/sub-tenants may also generate other management problems in hygiene, nuisance (such as excessive noise or foul smell), excessive storage of inflammable matters, fire hazards, high electricity loading, water seepage, drainage blockage, lost mail, poor air ventilation, rental collection, infringement of privacy and security risks; and
- Given the illegal or risky nature of such tenancies, it is often also much more difficult to enforce any rights against any breaches committed by a tenant or other occupiers residing in sub-divided flats.