Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) tenants live in fear as condos transform into shops
19 November 2016
An apartment building full of businesses
Opening fashion boutiques, cafés, and restaurants in old apartment
buildings may be a trendy more for an up-and-coming entrepreneur in Ho
Chi Minh City [Saigon], but for residents neighboring these condo shops it is a
Though the trend already exists in Hanoi, the administration in the
Vietnamese capital requested earlier this week that people stop
transforming their apartments into non-residential spaces.
Looking to their counterparts in Hanoi, apartment tenants in Ho Chi
Minh City are anticipating the local administration will soon enact a
In the southern metropolis locals searching for clothing, dining, and
even spa and sauna bathing, can frequent any of the dozens of
deteriorating apartment buildings that have been transformed to serve
the area’s shopping needs.
famous apartment-turned-business venues
One of the most famous apartment-turned-business venues in Saigon is
the condo building at 42 Nguyen Hue Street flanking the popular walking
street in the city’s downtown area.
Only 20 residential tenants still reside in the decades-old building,
with most of the apartment units leased to shop and café owners.
Though consumers welcome the business, the growing number of clients
frequenting these venues means nothing but nuisance for the ‘real’
V.N., who rents an apartment on the fourth floor, voiced her annoyance
with sharing the building’s only elevator with shop customers.
“There are times when I have to walk four floors to my unit because there is a crowd queuing for the lift,” she said.
For N., an apartment building should never be turned into “something like a supermarket.”
fire and security concerns
“Who will be responsible when there is a fire?” she questioned.
Another tenant, N.T.D., an eighth floor resident in the building, said
she cannot stand the noise caused by customers in the eateries and
cafés in the building.
“The shops do not close until 11:00 pm, and the building is extremely noisy on weekends,” she says.
D. also fears the security situation in the building.
“It used to be much easier to oversee the building when there were only
residential tenants,” she said. “Now that there is always a sea of
people coming and going, it is impossible to ensure security.”
At a condo building on nearby Ton That Thiep Street, the situation is
no different. Residents here are concerned over the threat of fire,
especially since the building already caught a blaze once this year.
While the ban on running business inside apartment buildings in Hanoi
is hugely supported by tenants in Ho Chi Minh City, business owners in
the capital are not happy at all.
It is much cheaper to rent an apartment to open a shop than
street-front premises, and not all shop-in-condo buildings are unsafe,
A 40-square-meter apartment unit at 42 Nguyen Hue is available for rent
at VND15 million (US$670) a month, while a storefront in the same area
in District 1 fetches at least VND40 million ($1,786).
Tran Cong Bay, a fashion shop owner in an apartment in Hanoi, said it
is unfair to get rid of the whole barrel just because of some bad
apples. Bay said he is running his business from his own apartment unit and
poses no threat to the whole building, as “most of the business is done
via Internet and phone transaction.”
Other business owners suggest that authorities only force businesses
with a high risk of fire and explosion to move from residential
HCMC begins forcing business offices out of condo buildings
The Saigon Times
By: Cao Ban
13 December 2016
units at the building at 42 Nguyen Hue Boulevard in HCMC’s District 1
are used for business purposes - Photo: Thanh Hoa
The Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Department of Planning and Investment has urged those
businesses having offices in condo buildings in the city to move out
within 15 days.
They will have to stop operation inside condo buildings and register
for new office addresses. If they fail to do so, the department will
coordinate with the Construction Department and district authorities to
deal with them in accordance with law.
According to Government Decree 99/2015, which guides the implementation
of the Housing Law, business offices are disallowed inside condo
buildings. Those having business registration licenses and using
apartments as transaction offices are required to move to other places
within six months starting from December 10 last year, which means the
June 10 deadline is over.
But many businesses are still operating in many condo buildings around
the city. Data of the Department of Planning and Investment shows the
city now has around 2,000 enterprises whose head offices are based in
such residential buildings.
More than 30 condo units at 42 Nguyen Hue Boulevard in District 1 are
used for doing business. Seven to eight households still live at this
place while the rest have moved to other places and leased their homes
to others, said Tran Quoc Thang, member of the condo’s management board.
“We cannot manage those doing business in these condo units. It is the
right of the owners to lease their properties to anybody as wished. It
is the responsibility of authorities to order those businesses to move
out or stop operation,” he said.
A representative of a business at this condo said it is a difficult for
enterprises to relocate their offices within 15 days. “It will take a
lot of time looking for a new location with a reasonable rental. When
relocating elsewhere, enterprises will have to inform banks, tax
authorities, partners and customers of their new addresses.”
Cu Thanh Duc, deputy head of the business registration office at the
Department of Planning and Investment, said many enterprises are using
condo units as their offices as the business registration rules do not
require them to declare where they are headquartered.
Lawyer Tran Duc Phuong, member of the HCMC Bar Association, said Decree
99 bans enterprises from using condos as business locations but the
decree does not clearly define “business location.”
“The Enterprise Law describes a business location as a place where
enterprises carry out specific business activities. In line with the
law, Decree 99 only prohibits enterprises from using condo units as
transaction locations, but not head, branch, or representative
offices,” said Phuong.
However, authorities can still order enterprises operating in condo
buildings to move out based on the regulation that specifies condos
must be used for the right purpose, which is living.
The lawyer suggested authorities provide specific sanctions against those violating the rule, instead of simply banning.
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