All the paperwork is in English and Cantonese but expect spelling mistakes in the English! Once you’ve found the apartment you want at the price you want then there’s a fair amount of paperwork but it can get sorted quite quickly. This is where you have to think about money!
I spent several, very intense days looking at various apartments. In general this was after work since the agents are open from 10.00 am until 10.00 pm. I viewed some on the Saturday and had an agreed price on the one I wanted by 8.00 pm on the Saturday when I’d been in Hong Kong for only nine days. I had to get quite a lot of money together including getting some transferred from the UK so I paid HK$2000 to “secure” the apartment and had to fill in a “preliminary tenancy agreement” with the landlord present at the agency.
One thing that is quite useful about Hong Kong, well certainly City University, is that you can apply for an advance on your salary when you start. They offer up to HK$15,000 – I must admit, I asked for HK$18,000 and they gave me HK$16,000 as a cheque which I then cashed at the bank. Another good thing is that they don’t just take this out of your first pay packet (when you’ll have additional “start up” costs), they deduct HK$ 4000 per month from my salary for the first four months. A well thought out system!
For a tenancy agreement and getting your apartment you will need money to cover the following:
- First months deposit upfront
- Two months deposit
- Commission to agency (you typically pay half a month’s rent and the landlord pays half a months rent)
- Stamp duty (paid by the tenant) – this is about 2.5% of a months rent (i.e. HK$200-250)
This is over three months rent. You will get receipts for all of this but it is worth considering when sorting out finances before arriving. When signing contracts I had to show my passport, National Identity card and a copy of my contract. Various pieces of information (passport number etc.) are written on the contract. One quirk of the system, is that the landlord will typically give you 5-7 days “free” in the apartment. So, I moved in on the Monday and the Friday after this was 14th January….. my rent is now due on the 14th of every month and they term that as I lived in the apartment for “free” from Monday 10th January until the Friday.
There is a standard government tenancy agreement that all agencies use – they just have their logo on it. Renting in Hong Kong is done on a twelve month contract after which you can serve a one month notice – this means, even if you are on a twelve month contract and leaving Hong Kong after twelve months you have to pay/are tied into a 13 month contract. It is useful to consider this when deciding how much you can afford/want to pay for rent.
So, on the Monday I sorted out money and after work I went to sign my tenancy agreement. The agent was helpful in setting up utilities and arranged for me to have the gas people come and reconnect the gas on the Tuesday evening so I would have hot water! This gave me time on the Monday evening to dash to IKEA to buy a duvet, bedding other household essentials (cutlery, crockery, detergents etc.) and also buy a kettle! By the time I went to bed I was shattered…. less than two weeks in Hong Kong and yet so much had happened!