First step for new rental bill

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The members of the third standing committee gave their approval yesterday for the final draft of the new rental bill to be sent to the Legislative Assembly (AL) for discussion and voting.
After first being proposed in 2015 by nine legislators, the amendments regarding the rental legislation in the MSAR civil code will now be evaluated in the plenary, before the judicial break starting August 15.
“The signatories were very clear in their initial proposal that it wouldn’t solve all problems, but they expected it would solve most of the problems of renting in the city,” the committee chairman Cheang Chi Keong said yesterday.
An alternative version of the bill, taking into consideration the opinions of the committee members and a judicial evaluation made by AL consultants, was provided on July 14, with the committee chairman stating that legislators still wanted to express their opinions on four main topics of the new proposal before signing the document.

Nuts and bolts
The four contentious topics involve the bill’s proposal for: a control mechanism by the government over rental prices; a mandatory notary mechanism; the extension of the current minimum two-year contract to three years; and the establishment of an arbitration centre to resolve rental disputes.
The discussion on the rental bill led to the change of the initial intention for a permanent mechanism that would update the coefficient used to calculate rent increases.
“It was agreed this system will be transitory and exceptional, meaning that after taking into consideration several factors and the necessity of the market, the Chief Executive (CE) will update the coefficient. This mechanism is a gun given to the CE to use whenever he feels necessary,” Mr. Cheang said.
The CE will also be able to establish a different cap for housing units and areas for commercial use, with the committee chairman stating as an example that “if rents for parking lots are rising too much” the CE could define a coefficient cap only applied for parking lots.
Legislators also questioned if the number of notaries in the city would be enough to fulfil the request to notarise all rental contracts, with the government believing the current number of three public notary offices and 57 private notaries will suffice.
“Maybe our public notaries will have to work 24 hours per day,” Mr. Cheang said.