Mini storage operators warned on land use violations

April 10, 2015 12:21
The Lands Department has issued warning letters to Store Friendly Self Storage and My Storage, both located at Sing Mei Industrial Building on Kwai Wing Road in Kwai Chung, for alleged land use violations. 
Photos: Ming Pao, Facebook

The Lands Department has warned a number of mini storage operators that their businesses in industrial buildings violate the land use restrictions for industrial or warehouse purposes as stated in the deeds, Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.

At least 300 mini storage businesses might be violating land use terms, according to an investigation by a team of Ming Pao reporters.

Industry representatives said they will not rule out seeking a judicial review to challenge any government decision that will stop them from conducting their business.

Meanwhile, insurance industry players said any government move declaring the mini storage shops as having violated the land use law could have an impact on the operators' third party or property insurance plans, and insurers could refuse to honor claims as a result.

Last October, the Lands Department issued warning letters to Store Friendly Self Storage and My Storage, both located at Sing Mei Industrial Building on Kwai Wing Road in Kwai Chung.

The government agency has since imposed an encumbrance on the two flats after the two companies failed to take any action before the November deadline set by the authority.

A Store Friendly official said it was difficult to understand why mini warehouses would not qualify under the industrial category, noting that their operations were classified by the Town Planning Board as a non-polluting industry.

A representative of My Storage said Lands Department staff conducted a spot check at his warehouse last year to see if the unit had been subdivided into small flats for rental, but the inspection yielded no such evidence.

The Lands Department said it has sent out warning letters to owners of four premises in Kwai Chung within the last three years and an encumbrance has been imposed on all four flats.

However, it added that such actions do not necessarily mean the mini warehouses have violated restrictions stated on their deeds.

Kevin She, chief executive of SC Storage, which operates 60 outlets across Hong Kong, said its shops have yet to receive any warning letters from the Lands Department but said it was ready to take legal action if the government tried to stop its business.

“Just because we are mini in size does not mean we are not a warehouse,” She said.

Self Storage Association Asia (SSAA) executive director Luigi La Tona said there are over 500 mini warehouses in Hong Kong with over 100,000 customers. He said any government decision to declare their business illegal would affect a lot of workers and families.

The business, which offers storage space for families living in small apartments, has existed in the United States for as long as 40 years, while laws have been enacted allowing it to operate in industrial buildings in Singapore and Taiwan, La Tona said.

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