Guesthouse law strengthened

July 10, 2020

The Home Affairs Bureau announced today that the Hotel & Guesthouse Accommodation (Amendment) Ordinance will take effect December 1.


The ordinance seeks to improve the existing licensing regime, facilitate enforcement action and enhance deterrence against unlicensed hotels and guesthouses.


It empowers the Hotel & Guesthouse Accommodation Authority to take into account in the licensing process the relevant restrictive provisions in land documents, local residents' views, and whether the licence applicant is a fit and proper person.


It also provides for a differentiation between a hotel licence and a guesthouse licence, and empowers the authority to impose a licence condition on a guesthouse licence to prohibit the use of the word "hotel" in its business name.


In addition, the ordinance introduces a strict liability offence. The owners and tenants of the premises will be held criminally liable if there is evidence to prove the premises are used as an unlicensed hotel or guesthouse.


Moreover, the authority is empowered to apply for a search warrant to allow enforcement officers to break into, with reasonable force when necessary, a suspected unlicensed hotel or guesthouse to inspect or collect evidence.


The authority has the power to apply to the court, upon the second conviction within 16 months of operating an unlicensed hotel or guesthouse or the new strict liability offence in respect of the same premises, to issue a closure order for the premises for six months. Under the ordinance, the maximum penalty will be increased from a fine of $200,000 to $500,000, and imprisonment from two years to three years.


To allow existing licensees to prepare for migration to the new regime, there will be a transitional period of 12 months after the commencement of the amendment ordinance.


For details, visit the Office of the Licensing Authority’s website or call 3107 3021.

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