Speech – Improving property management and operation of owners’ corporations (Lo Wai-kwok)

President, there are many very specific matters in property management, even to the extent of being trivial. But they are closely related to the people and the question of whether or not they can live comfortably. As the saying goes, nothing can be called trivial when it comes to matters of people’s livelihood. I think that this motion proposed by Dr Priscilla LEUNG today and the amendments proposed by a number of Members will help urge the authorities to pay more attention to this issue.

We can see in recent years that disputes have arisen in many housing estates over problems in property management. These disputes are caused by various reasons. Some of these are due to the inability of small owners to set up their OCs. In some cases after an OC has been set up, there is a lack of effective support and monitoring. In other cases, there are disputes between the owners or the OC with the property management company concerned. Lawsuits may be filed as a result. Since property management involves different stakeholders, such as developers, owners, OCs or other residents’ organizations, as well as property management companies, it is not easy to resolve these disputes.

I would think that if the authorities are to effectively address problems in property management, they must approach the problems from three aspects. First, the existing regulatory system for building management should be reviewed and improved and the relevant provisions in the Building Management Ordinance (BMO) should be amended. An example is in the DMC. The function of a DMC is to delineate the rights, interests and responsibilities of the owners. The existing mechanism should be improved to allow owners to amend unreasonable terms and conditions in a DMC under specified circumstances and after going through certain procedures. Another example is in section 40 which confers on the competent authority or authorized persons the statutory power of intervening in the management of a building, such as attending a general meeting of an OC or checking the account books. Regulation in these aspects can be enhanced and permission can be granted to allow instant intervention when the building management company concerned fails to appropriately perform its duties or when some unpredictable events have occurred. This is to protect the interests of small owners.

Moreover, the pace of enacting legislation to regulate property management companies by imposing a licensing regime should be expedited. Now there are some 800 property management companies in Hong Kong and they manage about 24 000 private buildings. However, there are no uniform standards across the property management industry. In 2010, the Government announced that it would enact legislation to impose a licensing regime. This will impose basic requirements on property management companies and their staff and to establish a statutory regulatory body for the property management industry. However, the relevant bill is expected to be introduced to this Council only in this year and after the bill is passed, there will be a three-year transitional period. I agree with the industry view that this legislative process should be accelerated and consideration can also be given to shortening the transitional period from three years to two years.

President, good building management hinges on effective support from the Government. There are about 40 000 private buildings in Hong Kong. Apart from the 60% or so such buildings which are managed by property management companies as mentioned above, there are about 9 000 buildings which are managed by an OC or other residents’ organizations. The remaining 7 000 buildings are old tenement buildings, that is, the so-called “three nil” buildings which do not have any OC, no property management company is hired and for
which there is no proper maintenance.

Since building and property management involves many matters and even expertise, for ordinary members of the public, even if they want to, they may not have enough knowledge and information to take part in managing their properties. I think that the SAR Government should put in more resources to set up a one-stop platform to help owners and OCs get the support from various government departments. On the other hand, the Government should increase the front-line staff and resources for the Home Affairs Department to handle
matters concerning building management, including adding the number of Liaison Officers in various districts. These will enable such staff to perform their duties specifically and to concentrate their efforts on giving professional support in building management. In addition, for those owners who take part in building management on a voluntary basis, the authorities should provide them with systematic training to enhance their knowledge in property management.

All in all, if the quality of property management across Hong Kong is to be upgraded, there is a need for collaboration among the different stakeholders. The laws regulating property management should be amended promptly as when necessary. Moreover, resources from the Government should be increased to provide support in various aspects.

President, I so submit.