Settling differences

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 November, 2000, 12:00am

So many old buildings have fallen into disrepair that the Government has been forced to adopt tough measures to ensure property owners take good care of their dwellings. Last week, it proposed that owners' corporations could apply for loans to pay for repairs by putting a charge on the title of properties whose owners refused to pay their dues towards maintenance.

As scores of people have been killed or injured by falling debris from run-down buildings that also pose a danger to their residents, the proposal seems understandable. But a host of problems is expected to surface after the so-called 'responsible' owners are allowed to take action against allegedly 'irresponsible' ones. One such problem could be angry confrontations between the two groups of owners. While repairs might get done more easily, strained relationships among the owners would be much harder to reverse.

Already, about 30 per cent of 1,931 complaints lodged with the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the 10 months to October concerned building management. Most of the allegations arose from misunderstandings and involved no corruption. However, it is conceivable that such complaints may increase if the owners' corporations are given more powers against unco-operative owners.

Responsible owners who want to maintain their properties properly need all the Government's help. But before allowing them to take any drastic action against unco-operative owners, officials may want to consider setting up an effective mediation mechanism to help the parties settle their differences, just as the Judiciary has tried to help couples seeking a divorce sort out problems through its family mediation service.