NGOs located in a shopping centre previously owned by Link REIT were made to pay extra fees on top of their rent by their new owner, a Ming Pao investigation has reported. Several public figures criticised the new owner for exploiting loopholes in the contracts, but the company asserted that their actions were within the contract and that they were not a charitable organisation.
Their contracts stated that the new owner of these properties must continue the “welfare lettings” rent prices, which are lower than market prices.
However, Ming Pao reported that the new owner of Kwong Tin Shopping Centre, Yau Man Investment Ltd, made five non-governmental organisations (NGOs) pay additional management fees, equivalent to 80 per cent of their rent, on top of their “welfare lettings” rent.
Kwun Tong District Councillor and member of Housing Authority Commercial Properties Committee Wilson Or Chong-sing said that Yau Man was essentially raising the NGOs’ rents. “Even NGOs who provide service to the grassroots were deprived. The purpose is to turn them into commercial premises, forcing the NGOs to leave,” he told Ming Pao.
However, Yau Man’s spokesperson told Ming Pao that the company was merely following the contractual agreements. “Before the government was doing charity work. We are not.”
The Housing Authority told Ming Pao that the new owner could only charge the welfare lettings rent, but did not say whether they could charge extra management fees.
Federation of Public Housing Estates President Wong Kwan admitted that the contracts did not say that new owners could not charge additional management fees. He accused Yau Man of exploiting loopholes, and urged the Housing Authority and Link REIT to clarify whether Yau Man’s actions were in violation of the contracts.
Labour Party legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung was also critical of Yau Man, and said on Monday, “the government and Link REIT are duty-bound to clarify immediately that these extra fees are not allowed and violate contracts.”
“The issue shows that businesses are exploiting loopholes to seek profits. They show no considerations for commercial ethics or community needs. This reflects that if Link REIT continues to sell its properties or outsource the management of its shopping centres and markets, these cases will continue to happen. Hence the government should put a stop to this,” he added.