Hongkongers in the UK frustrated by London rent prices

Hongkongers in London have expressed frustration at rising rent prices, with many forced to pay upwards of six months’ rent upfront.

Earlier this year, the UK Government announced a widening of the British National (Overseas) visa (BNO), allowing Hongkongers born on or after July 1, 1997 to apply for a UK visa.

Home Office figures reveal that since the scheme’s expansion, more than 88,000 Hongkongers have applied for the BNO visa.

Meanwhile, data from Rightmove shows that since 2021 rental prices in central London have increased by 16.1%.

A BNO visa holder, who wished to remain nameless, moved to Wallington 18 months ago.

He said: “The letting agent told me that by paying six months up front, I could stand out from other potential tenants: I followed her advice as I did not have any choice.

“This fell through however, but the agent then found me another flat which is a bit more expensive.

“The lease required me to pay every six months even after the 12 month fixed term ended.

“It also included a lot of other unfair clauses, like a two month notice period when we moved out, and a 5% rental increase in the second year.”

The visa holder faced similar problems when he and his family wished to move to West Croydon to be closer to his daughter’s school.

He added: “My new landlord originally said that it would be okay to pay monthly, but then a so-called credit-checking agency said that my income was from overseas, and they therefore would not count it.

“Then, my family income fell below their requirement, so the landlord asked me to pay 12-months up front.

“In the digital era, it’s natural for Hongkongers to generate overseas income, but some landlords and property agents use it as an excuse to prey on them.”

Denise Chan moved to the UK with her husband in December last year.

She said: “Before we arrived we sent eight to ten emails to property agents, asking for further details of some rental properties in north London, there was no reply and we got quite frustrated.

“Finally at the end of November, we signed a rental agreement.

“We were told that we have to pay a six-month upfront payment, applied to the end of the tenancy, so for the first six months of our tenancy we made monthly rental payments, but we have already paid for the last six months upfront together with the rental deposit that we paid upfront.

“Of course it would be better if we didn’t need to pay upfront rental payments, but in a way I can understand the reason behind it.

“There are always ways to improve the whole process, but I guess this is another matter.”

Timothy, who wished only to be quoted by his first name, moved to the UK in December 2021, and initially found temporary residence before finding a finding a long-term rent in Wembley in February.

He said: “I was charged a small fee along with the first rent, which I find reasonable and I believe is within the advertised rate.

“However, I was required to pay six months’ rent up front, and then another six months’ after that.”

Many private landlords request rent upfront for BNO visa holders as they either do not have a UK based job or proof of UK-funds.

Timothy explained however that this policy overlooks younger renters coming from Hong Kong.

He said: “I do think it would be better if we are able to pay monthly, as if we were just local renters.

“It will help a lot when some of us, especially those who are younger, do not actually have a very handsome bank account.

“I think that legislators or local authorities could up their efforts to protect tenants.

“Upfront rent is quite an unreasonable thing to pay, isn’t it?”

Featured image credit: Julie Kertesz via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence


Recommended For You