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Flat contract from Lawyer NOT estate agency?

  1. #9
    nicolejoy's Avatar
    nicolejoy is offline Registered User
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    You can send it to my hubby to look at if you like (do you have my email addy?) - I think generally those things are the landlord's responsibility. No way I'd be signing that!!

  2. #10
    aussie mum is offline Registered User
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    I have a friend who was in a similar situation. they received a contract much like yours and decided not to sign it. they tried to go back to the landlord to get a more reasonable contract drawn up but the owner refused. in the end my friend had to move into temporary accommodation (they had already given notice on their current flat) and look for something else!

  3. #11
    lisa88 is offline Registered User
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    that draft contract sounds absolutely unreasonable and you should not sign it. I would not even bother wasting time trying to negotiate through the fine print of those 16 pages. Sorry to say that you will have to put your foot down with the landlord/landlady.

    We went through an estage agent (Midlands) and used a 4-page standard form contract. It is reasonably balanced. I believe the big estate agencies like Midlands and Centaline use it, so try to get hold of a copy and convince your landlord/landlady to use that instead.

    I am an inhouse lawyer and recently reviewed our office commercial lease. It was pretty much the situation that you described and I was outraged too. I was told that the totally one-sided contract (favouring landlords) is very common in HK simply because of their bargaining power. Because our company is the largest tenant in our building we were able to hold out on the more important clauses. Still, it took a few months and several rounds of negotiations. I was incredulous at some of the flimsy excuses that the landlord gave for avoiding legal responsibility for the simplest things, like keeping the building free of pests.

    But back to your situation - don't sign that document because when things go wrong, you can be sure your landlord will hold you to it.

    Good luck.

  4. #12
    Shenzhennifer is offline Registered User
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    Great replies, thanks. Looks like I`m not the only one who would have warning bells.
    Today I went to the real estate agent and went through the contract with the agent, who is not fluent enough (of course) to understand such `legalese` as that document. Just to show her how ridiculous it is. She agreed with me on same points, particularly all the ones imdemnifying the landlord of any responsibilities such as structural repairs. Big Owner Dude doesn`t want to use the agency contracts because he already has several HK properties and the lawyers handle them all.
    Granted, about 75% of the contract just went into superfluous detail about what would happen if the rent was late, and how not to rent out the flat to others, house explosives or ammunition, and do other `bad` or immoral stuff:). It`s the other 25% that I refuse to commit to, like us being responsible if things go wrong in a flat that has not been updated in the 12 years it`s existed. And if the owner wants us to do some work on it, we have to oblige `without delay`. What springs to mind is the old early 1980`s Tom Hank, The Money Pit, where he and his new bride buy a seemingly beautiful home but as soon as they move in it falls apart bit by bit. Except we just want to live there quietly with our baby for a year or 2. Sheeeeeeesh.
    So the agent called the lawyer (who now thinks he`s acting for both parties, think again!) who said that they can amend the contract if the owner agrees and they will all talk tomorrow with my (rather detailed:) notes specifying which sections and clauses didn`t fly with us, and the ones that we could live with though were unfriendly.
    I also said that we would in no way be paying any more to the lawyers to amend the contract (can you believe we were already suckered into paying half the cost and stamp duty?). And that I was willing to walk away from this.
    I spoke a tough game, but at the end of the day, we`re the ones who are going to be screwed. Big Buddy Landlord might lose a few grand from lawyer fees and wasted time having to start all over again, but we will have lost a great apartment and also have to start all over and for some reason they are few and far between in this complex at the mo. And the poor real estate agent has already bent over backwards in this and will still have to do so... Nevertheless, I am stubborn and smart enough not to be fooled by some fool with money. It still sucks though.
    We`ll find out tomorrow if we can proceed at all and at what cost. Will keep y`all posted on our exciting world of HK rentals:)

  5. #13
    lisa88 is offline Registered User
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    Sounds like the landlord has been using a commercial lease as the template. The commercial lease will have tons of stuff that is irrelevant for residential leases (prohibition against "immoral purposes, funeral parlour, gambling den" etc are common in commercial leases). It is a complete disgrace that landlord's lawyers are using this version. Unfortunately it is all free-market so there is nothing unethical about it by the Law Society rules.

    For residential leases, stamp duty is shared 50-50 and so is the real estate agent's fee. Management fee and council taxes are landlord's responsibility.

    Honestly, if you can, ask the real estate agent to locate the boilerplate residential lease used by Centaline and Midlands, and wave that at the landlord and his lawyers. It will probably save everyone time and money coz that agreement is simple and quite fair to both parties.

    Unfortunately in HK the landlords and developers have the upper hand, commercial and residential.

  6. #14
    Shenzhennifer is offline Registered User
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    I`m using Ricacorp, which uses a template lease as well (liek we have for this flat), but the owner isn`t interested to use that. Apparently he`s had some strange situations before and those cookie cutter (but adequate) leases didn`t work for him. I`ve agreed to give the lawyer a call tomorrow to try to negotiate a few points. The lawyer already agreed to take out the ambiguous clause regarding extra tax.
    I know they have the upper hand here:(, but if they budge on a few important details like our not being responsible for structural repairs (windows and pipes) unless it`s clearly as a result of our misuse(like I throw a rock through the window), and also adding an additional clause clearing us of responsibility if rainwater causes damage to the apartment (being the top floor), then we might be in business. We`ll see and I will keep my fingers crossed. I already have mail coming to that flat:)

  7. #15
    Shenzhennifer is offline Registered User
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    Well, just to follow up,
    I had a nice chat with the lawyer, who agreed to remove the bogus tax clause, another small wording that said we were responsible for windows regardless of fault, but that was it. I pushed for an additional clause that showed more clarity on the landlord`s responsibilities, and he then requested that I propose a clause which he discussed later with the Big Man.
    Result: a new clause, albeit more abiguously written than my own, stating that the Landlord is responsible for structural repairs from wear and tear.
    Boom! Signed, paid, we move in 3 days.
    Downside is that we had to pay $1500 in lawyer fees. The old custom here apparently is that the landlord and tenant share lawyer fees and stamp duty (this is pre-agency i think). hubbie`s company said NO in the end so we said, sod it, we`ll pay for it ourselves, let this blasted thing be over with.
    I consider it a victory. Shows that the little man does not have to be taken advantage of just because they are the little man, especially when the little man comes laden in common sense and convention:)
    Thanks for your help (again!) ladies~
    Last edited by Shenzhennifer; 03-10-2010 at 11:07 PM.

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