2. My tenant has failed to pay rent for several months. Can I regain possession of my property by breaking open the door, throwing away the tenant's belongings and changing the lock without resorting to Court proceedings?
It must be borne in mind that if the property is still being occupied by the tenant (or some other occupants), any forcible entry by the landlord into the Property without obtaining any court order may amount to criminal offence under section 23 of the Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245).
The landlord may also face other criminal charges such as ‘harassment’. Section 119V of the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance (Cap. 7) expressly provides that any person who unlawfully deprives a tenant of occupation of the relevant premises commits an offence and may be liable to a fine or even imprisonment.
A tenancy document will usually contain a clause that allows the landlord to re-enter the property if the tenant fails to pay rent. In the event that the landlord is sure that the tenant has deserted and abandoned the property in a vacant state (or only with inexpensive belongings left behind) for a reasonably long time, the law may recognize a right for the landlord treat the tenancy as terminated and quietly re-enter the premises by himself without resorting to court proceedings (i.e. self-help). For some owners in Hong Kong, this might be a convenient and inexpensive way to recover possession against absconding tenants.
However, it is generally unsafe for the landlord to rely solely on such method and re-enter the property by self-help. There is always a risk that the tenant may reappear a few months later and allege that the landlord has wrongfully re-entered into the property or that valuables left in the property became misappropriated.
Therefore, even if it may be quite certain that the tenant has deserted the property, the landlord should go through the appropriate legal procedures, which will eventually lead to the recovery of the property with the assistance of the bailiff.