I am really stressed out by conflicting information I have heard about "stamp duty", so any advice from someone more knowledgeable than myself would be very much appreciated. I know this situation is the fault of my own ignorance.
Last week I signed a tenancy agreement to rent a flat in a New Territories village house. The agent explained that the landlord didn't want to pay stamp duty, but that stamp duty is optional and not paying it would only put the landlord at risk. She said the landlord trusted me and therefore paying stamp duty was not necessary.
At the time I had no idea what stamp duty was, so I trusted the agent, agreed, and signed the tenancy agreement.
My colleague subsequently asked if I had paid the stamp duty, which prompted me to do more research online. To the best of my understanding, I have come to learn that:
- the contract is not legally enforceable if the stamp duty has not been paid
- not paying stamp duty is illegal
I'm alarmed by this as I want everything to be 100% legal. I told the agent I wanted to pay the stamp duty, and she pointed out that I had earlier agreed not to and she insisted that neglecting to pay stamp duty is not illegal. Meanwhile, my employer told me the exact opposite that I could "go to prison" for not paying stamp duty.
Additionally, the agent said I CAN pay the stamp duty myself, but that I shouldn't tell the landlord (???). My employer, on the other hand, says I CANNOT pay it unilaterally as I would need to bring both the tenant's and landlord's copies of the contract.
Currently I do not trust the agent OR my employer, and I'm more confused than ever. I just want a legal contract and I want to pay all necessary taxes. I am OK to pay all the stamp duty myself. I would like to ask:
- is paying stamp duty "optional"? the agent is lying or mistaken on this point, right?
- can I pay the stamp duty myself, unilaterally, using only my single copy of the tenancy agreement?
- does the fact that it's a village house have any bearing on my landlord's reluctance to pay stamp duty? (i.e. is it illegal to let out a flat in an indigenous village?)
- if I CAN pay the stamp duty myself, without informing the landlord, does it somehow put the landlord in a bad position?
- what would you do in my shoes?
I also didn't pay stamp duty on my current (old) place, and now I'm depressed that I have no legal recourse if the landlord decides to withhold my deposit once I move out.
Any advise would be much appreciated. Thank you.