After spending the last 2 years in the same flat, I moved out to a place nearer to work. My overall experience living in the ex- flat was good,though there were occassional complaints about how small and old it is. Ex-landlord was easy to deal with, responsive to request for repairs and never harrassed. I had a (false) sense of confidence that the ex-landlord is honest despite several people cautioning me about landlords who try to forfeit rent deposit for whatever reason.
On the day I returned the keys, the flat was cleaned, fixtures and fittings were intact and working. I even greeted the ex-landlord warmly, seeing that we have had a 2 year relationship. Then she disappointed me – she wanted to deduct 1 month rent from my deposit, although the pro-rated rent owing was only 10 days. The reason she gave was this is not a hotel and therefore rent is not calculated on pro-rated basis. When i had recovered from my disbelief, I had the sense to argue back in my limited cantonese that it is not stated in the agreement. After arguing for a while, I got weary and relented to her deducting more than 20 days rent. I relented as a way of containing my loss, worried that she would try a popular trick to withholding deposit, by claiming that I’d caused damage to the property.
More than the loss of money, I was more disappointed and angry. Disappointed that she would resort to such low tactics just to get a few extra dollars from me, disappointed that my initial judgement of her was wrong, angry that I had allowed myself to be bullied, angry at being cheated and allowing myself to be cheated. This episode so affected me that I continued to stew over it for several days.
I came across this post of someone facing a similar situation. In his case, the landlord was withholding rent deposit on account that the tenant had damaged the floor and he (tenant) had to replace the entire floor. Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of tenant rights in HK. Tenant’s recourse is to file a claim at the Small Claims Tribunal though the outcome is not always as expected. From my own experience at Small Claims Tribunal in Malaysia, the consumer is always screwed.
The suggested solution to not be cheated by landlords is not to pay the last 2 month’s rent. That way, you have nothing to lose and the landlord has nothing to hold against you.