A leaky mess, yet owners can't agree to pay for repairs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 12:00am

At Tor Po Mansion in Quarry Bay, water stains streak the facade, staircases, and even the inside walls of some flats.

The corridors of the building in Hoi Kwong Street are wet and lined with shrines, bins and bags of rubbish. It is difficult to imagine how a resident would be able to escape in the event of, say, a fire. The problems have been plaguing the block for years.

The 40-year-old mansion is one of 11,000 buildings in Hong Kong that have no owners' corporation and are not serviced by management firms.

Lo I, who chairs the mansion's neighbourhood association, said residents would not contribute extra money to set up an owners' corporation to manage the building because the lack of maintenance had not yet posed any danger.

'If they had the money, they would have moved out of the building already. Now residents are only paying $100 each month for basic cleaning services, and less than $50 for the electricity used in public areas,' she said.

However, Ms Lo said she was lobbying for residents to support a renovation project, which would cost about $10,000 for each unit. It would eradicate the leakage problems, as well as refurbish the staircases and walls.

'They are so badly maintained, we cannot rent the properties out at a good rate. My 500sqft flat can be rented for $3,000 a month at most,' she said.

But she said that it was difficult to collect money from residents because the neighbourhood association was not a statutory body.

'We have already had four meetings but no consensus has been reached,' she said. 'It will take ages and ages, and I can't tell when this project can be achieved. They all have different opinions. For example, some residents would like the project to be done by this firm and others prefer the other companies.'

Ms Lo, 68, said she had made a big effort to apply for funds for the project from the government's building safety loan scheme, but with no success.

She said owners should be in charge of their own building's upkeep.

'We all agree that private owners should take up the responsibility in maintaining buildings, as the government has said. However, we have no money and the procedures to borrow money from the government [for repairs] are just too troublesome.'

Kong Tze-wing, a member of the Eastern District Council, said maintenance work at Tor Po Mansion would be unlikely to go ahead because it would require the consensus of every resident.

'An owners' corporation, as a statutory body, could resolve this problem as it has the power to decide on such things on their own,' he said.