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Should I get a lawyer? (Lands Tribunal)

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  1. #1

    Should I get a lawyer? (Lands Tribunal)

    Hi all,

    I rented out a flat in a year ago. I used to live in it.

    There were two problems with the flat:
    - One of the kitchen tile had crack on it, which we both acknowledged (and tenant photographed to prevent wrong blame).
    - There was a minor seepage problem that caused mold in one of the walls, which I didn't mind much. But the tenant complained to in week 1, so I paid 25000HKD to fix it, and as a compensation, provided one-month rent waiver + 1 week hotel fee. Repair work took 3 days, with guarantee of 2 years (tenant found the contractor).

    Agent:
    Although the agent said that compensation is excessive, I wanted a good start (and my fault + inconvinience for tenant).
    After all was done, the tenant commented that "I should have asked more", to which I did not reply (felt speechless).

    Six months fast forward, the crack in the kitchen tild got bigger.
    I told the tenant I can
    - have gap filled + replace tile (acceptable fix for me); OR
    - he can make suggestion.

    I could sense that he wanted money like last time, which I didn't offer.
    He kept complaining that it's not a permanent fix (how does he know?).

    Since it's an old building, I suspected external wall issue and filed complaint on 1823 and shown him screenshot of report to wait for next step.
    I once again reiterated one of the two solutions above, or he can terminate the contract. He didn't reply.
    Eventually, Buildings Department came to inspect and said there is crack in the outside wall, and it is Owner's Incorporation/management office's responsibility to fix and not me (and I am not allowed to alter external wall because I technically don't own it). BD gave "voluntary" notice to Owner's Incorporation, which they ignored.

    PAYMENTS: He wasn't really "punctual" tenant. He only paid second month (after waiving first month rent) on time, but all others few days late. Sometimes he paid 8 days, 10 days late (beyond grace period). I didn't chase agressively or something, just gave a reminder that it is overdue (which he ignored few days all the time until he felt like paying, with no apologies or barely any explanations)

    1.5 months ago, he didn't pay until 9th day, and I had cashflow issues myself. I got annoyed and said I will take legal action if not paid. He then paid 2 days later, and I apologized (for threatening legal action) and told him that he should let me know if he has financial issues instead of keeping me in the dark. He did say thank you and admitted he is having financial issues.

    LANDS TRIBUNAL
    Fast forward one more month, he didn't pay again, and I waited 2 weeks to give him stronger warning that I will take legal action. He still didn't reply. After waiting 1 month from original due date, I gave him final ultimatum that I will go to the lands tribunal. I filled up Form 22 that day and "notice to vacate" 3 days in a row (legal requirement) on front door. Still no message from him.

    Today, I got a letter of objection (Form 7) from him saying that:
    - He is suffering from water seepage in the room and hasn't been properly fixed (dude, you never escalated the issue to me that it was not fixed?)
    - kitchen tile crack is serious and he fears doing major things in the house (you rejected my proposals)
    - Given above two points, it was difficult to live and he suffered so much stress and needs compensation.
    - Until it is fixed, he will not pay rent.
    - Why such hassle with only 13k rent a month? (seriously? You can pay to avoid hassle)


    Lawyer: I talked to a lawyer over email, and his comment was: if he claims the flat is uninhabitable, he should move out instead of occupying my flat and refusing to pay. Anyways let's have a in-person chat to discuss fees.

    Now: based on my research, the lawyer fee is around 16-20k, paid upfront. And if the tenant "Suddenly" pays, the case gets closed and I lose lawyer money. I want to kick the tenant out even if he pays--I tried to be nice but he is blaming me, and trying to extort me.


    Question: Lands Tribunal session will be in Cantonese and they asked me to request a interpreter if I want translation in English. I know how "enthusiatic" and "motivated" those interpreters can be.... which is a concern. I do believe my case is simple. What he said is not really a justified reason for occupying other people's flat while not paying rent. BUT the language barrier (having to go through interpreter) concerns me.

    Perhaps the Lands Tribunal will be protective of the tenant's right to live? After all, shelter is a basic human need. Especially a "greedy" non-local guy who can't even speak Cantonese trying to kick out a "poor"/troubled local tenant.

    Should I be getting a lawyer, although the case will be closed by default if tenant simply pays overdue rent? (I doubt that he can though...)

    Thanks for reading a long post.

    Last edited by WineLuver; 02-04-2024 at 08:42 PM.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2024
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    The only comment I have is that in my limited experience (which was in a non-contentious environment) the government-provided interpreters are very professional.


  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by PLamHK:
    The only comment I have is that in my limited experience (which was in a non-contentious environment) the government-provided interpreters are very professional.
    Thanks for the comment. That is a relief...
    The staff that checks documents in Lands Tribunal (by the entrance) felt even less motivated/energetic than Transport Department staff.... so was worried...

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Tl;Dr .. but you cannot take a lawyer into a tribunal hearing as far as I know. Definitely the case at the labour dept tribunal.


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    6,541
    Quote Originally Posted by PLamHK:
    The only comment I have is that in my limited experience (which was in a non-contentious environment) the government-provided interpreters are very professional.
    Agree, they are highly trained, talented at their jobs.

  6. #6

    Join Date
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    Location
    Hong Kong
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    logically there is no point repairing interior until the external wall has been repaired and the wall has dried out.

    it might be more effective to send lawyer's letter to IO chair pointing out the report by BD, and the consequential and accumulating losses of income from tenant as a direct result of the IO's continuing delay/negligence

    Editor likes this.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Nov 2019
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    2,204

    Ask Centaline to see how much they charge:-

    https://www.centalinesurveyors.com.h...ession-service


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2019
    Posts
    2,204

    Database of judgement handled by Lands Tribunal since 2005

    https://www.hklii.hk/en/cases/hkldt/


  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by ArrynField:
    Ask Centaline to see how much they charge:-

    https://www.centalinesurveyors.com.h...ession-service
    I have.... they initially quoted 16k, but now they said since I started the case (submitted Form 22), they will not take on the case.

  10. #10

    Just for future reference for anyone who may encounter similar situation...

    I have visited the lawyer and he quoted "around 20-30k, depending on development".

    But he was straightforward with me and said I have sufficient evidence to proceed on my own; it is a simple case and his reasons (these conditions make it uninhabitable yet I will continually live in it but not pay rent) are not justified.

    I requested court to provide an interpreter and will meet the tenant next week.

    ArrynField, rani and Beanieskis like this.

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