24th November 2022 – (Hong Kong) An owner of two premises was fined HK$20,000 at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts yesterday for the premises being used as unlicensed guesthouses which contravened the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance.
The court heard that officers of the Office of the Licensing Authority (OLA), Home Affairs Department, when searching the Internet for intelligence about unlicensed hotel and guesthouse activities, identified two suspected unlicensed guesthouses that were being operated in Jordan. The OLA officers posed as lodgers and rented rooms through an online platform in the concerned two premises on a daily rental basis. These two premises allowed guests to self check-in through providing them with passwords. No person-in-charge was present in the premises. According to the OLA’s records, these two guesthouses were not issued with valid licences on the dates of lodging. The OLA invoked section 5A(1) of the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, instigated prosecution against the owner of the premises.
Section 5A(1) of the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance stipulates that if any premises are a hotel or guesthouse while no licence is in force for the premises, each of the owners and tenants of the premises commits an offence.
A department spokesman stressed that operating or managing an unlicensed hotel or guesthouse is a criminal offence and will lead to a criminal record if convicted. The owner of the subject premises, unless a statutory defence can be established, also commits a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $500,000 and three years’ imprisonment. A six-month closure order may also be issued for the premises involved in a repeated offence.