Concerned about practicality
I REFER to the report which appeared on page two of the South China Morning Post, on February 1, on my comments on the Estate Agents Bill to the Legco Bills Committee.
The main thrust of my comments was not criminal liability. It is a concern among our members, but we also take comfort in the fact that members of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS) have never been the subject of complaints in the estate agency field.
I did not say that it would be unfair to 'exempt lawyers and accountants from criminal liability'.
In the view of the HKIS, lawyers and other professionals engaged by clients to dispose of properties by tender, both private and public, which is a usual practice in Hong Kong, would be brought within the ambit of the proposed legislation.
The main concern expressed by the HKIS is the impossibility among most estate agents who are not fully trained and qualified, for example, under Section 37(2), particularly 37(2)(d) to provide 'any restrictions on the user of every particular such property which are imposed either by or under a Crown Lease or by or under, or by virtue of the publication of, any instrument prescribed of the purposes of this paragraph or any instrument which is of a class or description so prescribed'.
There are altogether seven such paragraphs specifying the information that 'may' be 'included'. Members of the HKIS are by comparison better equipped to satisfy the requirements of the bill.
This, however, does not alleviate their serious concern about its practicality. Members of the HKIS are already subject to two other ordinances, namely the HKIS Ordinance and the subsidiary code of conduct, and for those who are also registered professional surveyors, also the surveyors registration ordinance. Both prescribe stringent rules and disciplinary procedure and powers.
HKIS members practising as estate agents would be subject to three pieces of legislations while other estate agents are only subject to the present bill.
Another point which I brought to the committee's attention was the cost of meeting the requirements of the bill to estate agents and ultimately to their clients.
Estate agency fees in Hong Kong are, at present, the lowest in the world.
C.Y. LEUNG President, HKIS