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LCQ15: Private tenancy allowance for civil servants

     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a written reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Paul Tang, in the Legislative Council today (January 28):


     Under the Civil Service Regulations, if an officer who is receiving a Private Tenancy Allowance (PTA) changes to a new private tenancy before an existing tenancy expires (a change of tenancy), the officer shall continue to receive, for the original remaining period of the existing tenancy, PTA on the scale of rates prevailing on the commencement date of the existing tenancy (locking condition). However, in case an officer is required to make an application for a change of tenancy and a change of accommodation under assistance because of his landlord's instigation of a break clause provided in the existing tenancy, the Director of Accounting Services (DAS) may exempt the officer from the locking condition. I have received complaints from some civil servants that their tenancies were terminated by their landlords, and DAS has exempted them from the locking condition regardless of their wishes, thereby subjecting them to PTA on the most recently announced scale of rates under the new tenancies. However, this has caused them to suffer losses as the new rates are lower than the old ones. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the various factors for determining the PTA rates and the formula for arriving at the rates;

(2) whether DAS exempts, without exceptions, all cases which may be exempted from the locking condition; if DAS does not, of the specific procedures for deciding whether exemption will be granted; and

(3) of the policy objectives of exempting civil servants from the locking condition; for cases in which the existing tenancies are terminated involuntarily by PTA claimants, whether DAS will consider if they wish to be exempted and special circumstances (e.g. the granting of exemption will cause them to suffer losses), and exercise discretion not to grant the exemption?



     The reply to the question is as follows:

(1) Private Tenancy Allowance (PTA) is an accountable rental allowance provided by the Government to officers appointed on overseas terms before October 1, 1990 and to officers appointed on local terms before October 1, 1990 receiving a salary on or above point 34 of the Master Pay Scale. The rates of the PTA are determined by the substantive salary point and family status (including marital status and number of family members) of the officers concerned. These rates are adjusted annually in line with the territory-wide full-year rental trend of the corresponding classes of domestic properties compiled by the Rating and Valuation Department, so as to cater for changes in market rentals.

(2) The current "locking condition" under the PTA scheme was implemented following the approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council on May 19, 2006. Details of the arrangement and implementation mechanism are set out in the Civil Service Regulation (CSR) 852(4).

     The relevant CSR stipulates that if a PTA recipient changes to a new tenancy before an existing tenancy expires, he shall, for the original remaining period of the existing tenancy, receive PTA on the scale of rates prevailing on the commencement date of the existing tenancy. Furthermore, the PTA payable during the period shall not exceed the cost of renting accommodation of the existing tenancy, as if the existing tenancy is not prematurely terminated.

     Nevertheless, the CSR particularly provides that in case a PTA recipient is required to change the accommodation under assistance due to a premature termination of the existing tenancy by the landlord, the officer will be exempted from the "locking condition", subject to the officer's provision of relevant documentary proof to the satisfaction of the Director of Accounting Services (DAS).

     Hence, in accordance with CSR 852(4), any PTA recipient who wishes to terminate an existing tenancy before its expiry is required to apply to the Treasury for a change of tenancy beforehand. If the application is approved, the "locking condition" stipulated in the CSR will automatically apply. DAS will only exercise the power of exemption vested in him under the CSR when he is satisfied that the officer has provided adequate documentary proof to show that the premature termination of a tenancy is due to the landlord's instigation of a break clause and that a change of accommodation under assistance is required.

(3) The exemption from the "locking condition" aims to enable an officer whose tenancy is prematurely terminated by the landlord to cope with the market rent of a new tenancy at that time by using the prevailing PTA rate. In considering whether an exemption should be granted, DAS' decision is based entirely on the facts of the case and whether the documentary proof submitted by the officer concerned are adequate to meet the conditions stipulated in CSR 852(4). All cases are treated with impartiality and are not influenced by the personal wishes of the applicants.

Ends/Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:40


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