The Lands Department is investigating allegations that the Link REIT has been renting out parking spaces in subsidised housing estates to non-residents in breach of regulations, Apple Daily reports.
The Link REIT, which owns 217 car parks and about 69,000 housing estate parking lots, is understood to have launched multiple campaigns to promote hourly parking since 2008, including 12-hour and 24-hour parking discounts.
It has recently started a collaboration with the MTR to promote the “Park and Ride Scheme” which offers discounted parking prices for people changing rides.
According to an investigative report by FactWire news agency, parking lots in Link REIT malls warn the public about the use of the parking spaces only by residents in fine print, attracting unsuspecting users and maximizing rental income .
About 14,500 parking lots could be rented out illegally on an hourly basis, the report said.
FactWire, which used concealed cameras to record employees of parking lots, reported that anyone can use the parking spaces as long as they entered with their octopus card. The employees are heard in the recording telling customers that “there are spaces inside the parking lot”.
In accordance with the law, the Link REIT should have applied for a waiver to modify the lease terms of these parking spaces.
If all the 14,500 spaces were rented out to tenants not specified in the leases — residents or occupiers of the corresponding housing estate and their guests — the Link REIT might have avoided a waiver fee of up to HK$163 million a year, the report said.
FactWire said it had verified the ownership of 116 private cars at Tin Shing car park in Tin Shui Wai between 10 p.m. on Sept. 12 and 1 a.m. the next day and found that 36 of them were registered to addresses outside the housing estate.
It also acquired information on the waivers granted by the Lands Department throughout 2010 until May this year and found that so far only one parking lot has been waived from among 129 requests in the past few years.
The Link REIT said the report does not prove that the hourly rental spaces had been leased to unqualified people.
It said as long as the users of hourly and monthly parking fulfil the relevant legal requirements, no waiver is required.
“We are very disappointed with FactWire’s report, which lacks legal grounds,” a spokesperson for the Link REIT said.
A Lands Department spokesman said it is investigating the report and will seek legal advice if necessary.
He said if the department found that any land lease was breached, it would issue warning letters to the Link REIT.
If no action was taken within a period of time, the department would announce the breaches in the Land Registry and might even take back the property.
Barrister Duncan Ho Dik-hong said the scheme targets shoppers or drivers who want to park cheaper, meaning the Link REIT could have already violated the conditions of the lease.
- Contact us at [email protected]