Scams and Possible Safety Issues

Written by Ilia Ryzhenko, OPSA Student Host

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Source: Gemma‘s blog

Overview
Looking for apartments in Hong Kong is stressful: the rent is relatively high, and the best options, it seems, are already taken. However, every once in a while you will come across an advertisement that looks too good to be true. Affordable rent, a nice area, fully furnished rooms with a kitchen – is it all a dream? In this article, OPSA Student Hosts would like to remind you of the possible risks that you may encounter while looking for an accommodation in Hong Kong. However, we will merely cover the basic safety precautions needed, therefore, you are highly recommended to research the topic more thoroughly yourself.

Scams
There are a lot of scammers in Hong Kong who target those who are looking for a budgeted apartment. They usually post attractive advertisements on social media platforms, inviting people who are eager to seek for apartments to rent in Hong Kong that promise a well-furnished, promising living area for a decent price. However, once you message them, their response may  contain some information regarding the owner of the flat not being able to see you in person. Sometimes, the scammers will go as far as to say that they would like to have the deposit for the apartment in exchange for the keys, all while not being present. There are many more fishing techniques that scammers use, such as:

  • They may accept cash as payment.
  • Suggesting to meet a previously unmentioned third party to pass on the deposit.
  • Refusing an in-person viewing of the apartment before payment is made.
  • Asking you to refrain from disclosing any information regarding your payment or agreement

When you are making an agreement, you should ask for all the necessary proof of ownership and agreement-related paperwork, if issues arise, treat this with suspicion.

Safety issues
Unless you are fully sure about the trustworthiness of the owner of the apartment (for example, it is a well-known student apartment or hostel), you should try to visit the accommodation first-hand before you rent it. It is recommended that you visit the apartment twice at different times of the day (or even different weather conditions). Make sure to ask the owner of the apartment all the questions that you find important. Here are some questions that you may ask:

  • Are there any noise issues in the apartment (e.g. flat is located near a railway station)?
  • What is the state of the tubes and canalization (how is the plumbing maintained)?
  • Are there issues with the water flow or temperature?
  • Are there any potential health hazards (mold, chemicals, etc.)?
  • Who are the neighbours?

OPSA Student Hosts will continue to introduce to you all sorts of advantages of living in different districts in Hong Kong. Tips and tricks about living in Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Fanling, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long are available at OPSA website. Please stay tuned with us!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email.

Disclaimer: The above information is for reference only. In case of doubt, please refer to the relevant laws or seek advice from licensed real estate agents.

Points to note when looking for a flat and before signing a tenancy agreement

Written by Vimel Meng, OPSA Student Host

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OPSA Student Hosts, 2016-2017
Are you looking for a flat and about to sign a tenancy agreement? Most landlords of private accommodations tend to consider only leases of at least one year. It is always important to know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. There are a few things you should pay attention to when looking for a place to stay and before signing a tenancy agreement. Tips are available on the Hong Kong Government website! Both English and Chinese versions are available. Please do study it carefully!

Here are a few tips to help:
1) Site Visit
Try to visit the accommodation in person before signing the tenancy agreement. Do not just trust the photos provided by the landlords. Visiting to the nearby community during daytime and nighttime will also enable you to check whether you will feel satisfied to live there for almost a year.

2) Fees Required 

  • Agent Fee: If an accommodation is rented through a property agency, normally the tenant will have to pay a commission equivalent to 50% -100% of a monthly rental fee.
  • Deposit: Deposit, i.e. equivalent to two month’s rent, is usually required.
  • Rental Fee: Some landlords require the tenant to pay 12-month rental fee in advance while some may require to you settle the rent monthly. Usually if you pay the 12-month rental fee in advance, the rental fee will be a bit lower. The furnishing of the accommodation may also vary from nothing to full-furnishing. Usually the rent of an accommodation with full-furnishing will tend to be a bit higher.
  • Utility Charges: Please make sure that you know how the electricity bills, water bills and internet bills, etc. will be charged monthly. Check whether they are included in the rental fee.

3) Responsibility of the repair of furniture, electrical appliance and etc
Please check with the landlord and look into the tenancy agreement carefully for who is responsible for the repair of doors, windows, kitchen and bathroom fittings, piping, drains, furniture, electrical appliance (such as washing machine, air conditioners and fridge) etc.

4) Subletting
Tenancy agreements usually contain a clause that prohibits the tenant from subletting the accommodation to another party. Any subletting by the tenant will breach the clause and the landlord can institute legal action. You are advised to have a direct conversation with the landlord and also check the tenancy agreement carefully before you rent a place from a tenant. Do not pay any fees to anyone except the landlord if you are not sure whether subletting is allowed according to the tenancy agreement. In case you have to leave Hong Kong and would like to sublet your room to other tenant, again, you must check carefully your tenancy agreement, inform the landlord and make sure you have the right to do so.

OPSA Student Hosts will continue to introduce to you all sorts of advantages of living in different districts in Hong Kong. Tips and tricks about living in Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Fanling, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long are available at OPSA website. Please stay tuned with us!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email.

Disclaimer: The above information is for reference only. In case of doubt, please refer to the relevant laws or seek advice from licensed real estate agents.

Out of the CityU Blocks – Off-Campus Peer Support Ambassadors (OPSA)

Written by Florence Woo & Frank Yung
Photos taken by Cocoon Cao & Maxwell Li

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We are often told to be more culturally and globally aware, and our University has been providing ample opportunities for students to increase their international exposure. With activities and programmes like Student-initiated Projects (SIP), International Friends Club (IFC), Global Mixer (G-mixer) and G-mix programmes, etc., we are able to meet and interact with students of different cultural upbringing and backgrounds.

Even so, is there a better way to truly immerse ourselves in an intercultural community by having more personal cultural exchange?

What’s better than a hands-on experience and the sharing of living space with a few other students of different backgrounds? And by that, I do not mean only dipping your feet in the water, but living full-on for a whole semester or even more.

In the academic year 2016/17, the University has launched a new programme called “Off-Campus Peer Support Ambassadors (OPSA)”, which means YOU, as a seasoned resident in Hong Kong, will be hosting some other exchange/non-local students who are also living off campus and be honoured with the name of “Student Host”.

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What do I get as a Student Host?
You get subsidized for your hosting services and even better, most of your accommodation fee simply by being a Student Host.

Let’s talk a bit about what a Student Host does.
There are two main roles that a Student Host performs — as a local guide and a peer. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, most exchange/non-local students want to know what the local experience is like. The Student Host is the first person they meet and the one person they rely on to build an impression of the local experience.

Also, it is usual to experience cultural shock and homesickness. The Student Host is the person who provides help to these students who are “away” from the University dorms to assimilate to the local culture, develop a sense of belonging, and even live like a local. This is to be done through the sharing of information such as living tips, housing options, job, internship, further study and scholarship opportunities, a variety of fun-filled social gatherings with other peers and even non-local alumni in Hong Kong.

Is all of this spiel not convincing enough? Check out what OPSA’s participants think and seek it for yourself!
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Charry (Student Host)
“Campus integration between local and exchange students is still rare despite the large number of exchange students. It is easy to have class or join activities together, but hanging out as friends is more difficult. OPSA can solve this problem.”

Ilia (Student Host)
“I would have never imagined knowing a random area like Tsuen Wan like the back of my hand, especially since I don’t speak the language nor do I know the city too well at the beginning. But now, Hong Kong has become my home and my OPSA experience has enhanced this.”

“It has also made me understand a lot more about expatriate experiences which are shared by people who struggle to understand how the city works at first. I believe to truly explore a place, one needs to go out from the generic tourist spots and reach out with a guide’s help; and to be that guide is really nice.”

Lili (Exchange Student)
“Living with a local host (Charry) has allowed me to see a more real side of Hong Kong, especially in the cultural aspect.”

“Charry has really inspired us to explore further and deeper into the local scene e.g. visiting local markets to buy groceries and dining at small local restaurants.”

Zoe (Exchange Student)
“Living in Tsuen Wan has also given me an authentic Hong Kong experience in comparison with the westernized Hong Kong Island – it’s really interesting to immerse in a rather local community and this has definitely influenced me in my everyday lifestyle such as food.”

“It’s extremely easy to meet other exchange students and to build your own ‘campus community’ due to the facilities provided and the feeling that you are hardly ever alone as you share a unit with a few other CityU-ers.”

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Interested?
Did anything spark a bit of your interest in OPSA? If yes, then what are you waiting for? If you want to help exchange/non-local students to fully experience and adapt to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, and at the same time enrich your own global mind-set, OPSA is something you shouldn’t miss!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email.

Are you searching for roommates to share a flat with?

Written by Victoria Yang, OPSA Student Host

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Before you start looking for a roommate, you need to think about what type of people you want to share a flat with. Do you want a best friend who will go to parties and movies with you? Or someone who is quiet and give you a lot of privacy? Or even someone who is from a totally different culture so that you’re able to gain new experiences and expose to new ideas.

Here are some tips of how to pick a good roommate:

  • Whose schedule aligns with yours (e.g. time to go to bed/wake up etc.)
  • Will divide the rent/payments with you clearly and fairly.
  • Have similar Cleanliness Habits.
  • Have shared Interests.
  • Always maintaining respect and understanding with each other.
  • Have good communication with you.
  • Divide household chores (e.g. set up a duty roster).
  • Agreeing to basic house rules once you decide to move in together.

Ways to look for a roommate:

  • Ask friends around you.
  • Search through your social media (e.g. Whatsapp/Wechat groups, Facebook etc).
  • A trusted friends Referral.
  • Research on reputable websites.
  • Search on Off-Campus Accommodation System of Student Residence Office.

Here is a list of websites that might help you with roommate searching (Some of them allow you to rent an apartment and roommates will be allocated to you):

If you’re looking for a roommate whom you meet for the first time, it is important to get to know each other more before moving in together!

OPSA Student Hosts will continue to introduce to you all sorts of advantages of living in different districts in Hong Kong. Tips and tricks about living in Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Fanling, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long are available at OPSA website. Please stay tuned with us!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email.

Disclaimer: The above information is for reference only. It does not constitute endorsement by City University of Hong Kong(CityU). CityU has no involvement in or liability for the license agreement between the student and any landlords and/or housing service providers.

Living Tips & Tricks in Yuen Long

Written by Emily Yu
Photos taken by Crispin Chan

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Emily Yu, a Year 1 local undergraduate student, is one of the Student Hosts of Off-campus Peer Support Accommodation programme (OPSA).

Yuen Long is a new and sprawling town on the Yuen Long Plain located in the New Territories West of Hong Kong. You may be surprised to discover that this once rural area has become a modern town with advanced residential and commercial developments and convenient transportation, including the West Rail Line of Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and buses. Besides, there are tons of restaurants and gourmets here. During holidays, people love visiting here for its amazing food and great natural scenery. As a resident myself, I am going to recommend a few places that you must go and food that you must try.

Ha Pak Nai 下白泥

Located in Lau Fau Shan, the northwest side of Yuen Long, the shoreline of Ha Pak Nai is one of the best places to admire the sunset in Hong Kong. This 6km stretch of coastline is dotted with mangroves, fish ponds, farms, shacks and muddy beaches sprinkled with oyster shells.

Transportation:
It takes about 30 minutes to travel from the city center of Yuen Long to Ha Pak Nai. You can take the green minibus no.33, located at Tai Fung Street Minibus Terminus, and then get off at “Ap Zai Hang” station (鴨仔坑). Remember to check the sunset time of the day at Hong Kong Observatory website.

Nam Sang Wai 南生圍

Slightly further northeast lie the wetlands and salt marshes of Nam Sang Wai. The mangrove-clad shores of the Kam Tin River and the abandoned fish farms are ripe feeding grounds for an abundance of birdlife.

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You can take a bike ride to get there as it is only an 8km circular route starting and ending at the Yuen Long MTR Station (Exit B). Along the route, you can also try the soybean pudding at Nam Sang Wai Store. The soybean pudding will surely give you a cool and refreshing sensation under the scorching sun.

Fabulous food can be found everywhere in Yuen Long. Here are my favourites!

Shilin Taiwan Shop 士林台灣麵

This is the most authentic and the best Taiwanese gourmet I have ever had. The braised beef noodle and bubble tea are the best combination of Taiwanese food. Many people would travel from other districts just for a taste.

ShuangShuang Noddle 爽爽麵店

Another must try is Shuang Shuang’s drunk chicken noodle and its homemade chrysanthemum tea.

Yuen Long is a great place to live in. It is not just a place for leisure and food. If you live here for long, you will love the interaction with your neighbours and also be able to tell the differences between other districts and Yuen Long.

OPSA Student Hosts will continue to introduce to you all sorts of advantages of living in different districts in Hong Kong. Tips and tricks about living in Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Hung Hom, Sheung Shui and Fanling are available at OPSA website. Please stay tuned with us!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email.

Different Housing Options in Hong Kong 香港住屋何止一種選擇

 Written by Cindy Cheung

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Cindy Cheung, a Year 4 local undergraduate student, is one of the Student Hosts of Off-campus Peer Support Accommodation programme (OPSA).

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Different housing options along the street in Hung Hom (Photo taken by Crispin Chan)

Hong Kong is not so big, surprisingly, there are a variety of accommodation choices. Based on the locations and the sizes of the accommodation, the rental fees can vary a lot. Here are some common housing options in Hong Kong that you may be interested in!

Old Apartment Blocks 唐樓
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Old apartment blocks in Tai Po (Photo taken by Cindy Cheung)

Old apartment blocks are common in residential districts, such as Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Kwun Tong, North Point and Tai Po. Upper floors (from 2/F up to 9/F) are mostly for residence while the ground floor is for commercial use. Since the buildings are old, lift is not provided. So you can have good exercise by walking up the stairs every day! The rental fee of this kind of flats is generally cheaper.

Village Houses 村屋
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Village houses in Fanling (Photo taken by Crispin Chan)

Village houses with 2-3 levels are commonly located in New Territories such as Yuen Long, Sheung Shui, Fanling, Sha Tin and Sai Kung. You may have to take some time to go to the city centre by public transport like buses, minibuses or even bikes! However, you will enjoy the quietness and the fresh breeze a lot.

Apartment Blocks 洋樓
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Photo taken in Hung Hom by Crispin Chan

It is commonly found everywhere in Hong Kong. The size of each flat varies but two to three bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom are often provided. Some students may share the flat with their fellows and the monthly rate can be reduced to HK$3,000 – HK$6,000 per head.

New Apartment Blocks with Clubhouses屋苑
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Photo taken in Sha Tin by Crispin Chan

It is similar to apartment blocks where clubhouses with swimming pools, gym rooms and functional rooms are available for residents. Some of them even have their own shopping mall with shops, restaurants and supermarkets. However, the rental fee is generally high. Again, some students may share the flat with their friends and the monthly rate can be reduced to HK$4,000 – HK$8,000 per head.

Studio Flats 套房開放式單位
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Photo source: Apple Daily

Studio flats typically consist of one room which serves as the living room, dining room and bedroom. The rental fee of studio flats is comparatively low with better privacy.

Serviced Apartments 服務式住宅
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Serviced apartments in Ma On Shan (Photo taken by Cindy Cheung)

The rental fee of the serviced apartments are relatively high. It’s similar to hotel as room service and all the furniture are provided. Obviously, the quality of living and services is promising.

OPSA Student Hosts will continue to introduce to you different tips on living out of campus. Tips and tricks about living in Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Hung Hom, Fanling and Sheung Shui are available at OPSA website. Please stay tuned with us!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email.

Tips and Tricks: Fanling & Sheung Shui

 Written by Asuka Murayama

1Asuka Murayama, a Year 2 undergraduate student from Japan, is one of the Student Hosts of Off-campus Peer Support Accommodation programme (OPSA).

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Fanling Wai, located near North District Park (Photo taken by Crispin Chan)

Fanling and Sheung Shui in North District are around 30 minutes away from Kowloon Tong by Mass Transit Railway (MTR). You can simply take the East Rail Line of MTR without making any transits to get there. North District is quieter than the busy city centre with many attractions. There are shopping malls and restaurants, and recently a movie theatre (GH Fanling) opened just near Fanling MTR station! It’s a place where you can get everything! As a person who lived here before, let me tell you why this is a lovely place to live in.

Attractions

Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail
Walking along the trail, you can enjoy seeing old villages, traditional buildings, temples and the beautiful natural scenery. It is a little-known tourist attraction and I highly recommend you to take some time to stroll through the trail to get a glimpse into historical Hong Kong.

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Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail (Photo taken by Asuka Murayama)

On Lok Mun Street Playground
Do you enjoy skateboarding? If so, you’re in luck! On Lok Mun Street Playground is regarded as one of the the best skateparks in Hong Kong. It is large, well-equipped, and FREE to use. Please do practice and learn some skateboarding tricks here!

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A very spacious skatepark (Photo taken by Crispin Chan)

North District Park
If you feel stressed from all the studying, North District Park is a perfect place to take a walk.

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North District Park (Photo taken by Crispin Chan)

It is serene, and the beautiful pond is populated by cute turtles and fish. Walking through the spacious park filled with vegetation and flowers will definitely relax you. While you’re there, you can also stop by and take a look of Fanling Wai, the historical walled village.

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Day view of the beautiful pond at North District Park (Photo taken by Asuka Murayama)

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Evening view of the beautiful pond at North District Park (Photo taken by Crispin Chan)

Facilities
Large shopping malls such as Landmark North are close to Sheung Shui MTR station.

Fanling Swimming Pool and Recreation Ground are located along San Wan Road and are great places to get a great workout.

Fanling Swimming Pool (Photos taken by Crispin Chan)
Different sports grounds are available in North District (Photos taken by Crispin Chan)

If you want to party with your friends and have a buffet dinner, Neway Karaoke Box inside the Fanling Centre is surely a good pick. Don’t worry, many English songs are available so non-Cantonese speakers can still sing to their hearts. Or come and have some affordable sushi at Sushi Express in the same mall. If you’d like to cook at home, groceries are cheaper in the wet markets.

OPSA Student Hosts will continue to introduce to you all sorts of advantages of living in different districts in Hong Kong. Tips and tricks about living in Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Hung Hom are available at OPSA website. Please stay tuned with us!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email