Working flat out for property justice

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 12:00am

'I want to fight for justice.' That's the mantra of Tsim Chai-nam, known to many through a television property programme on which he uses his tailor-made equipment to show viewers how to examine their flats or new houses.

His own bad experience drives his search for justice.

The poor quality of his property at The Pinnacle, the government sandwich-class scheme in Tseung Kwan O, motivated Mr Tsim to develop a business in the 'flat examination industry'.

'It [The Pinnacle] is famous for its bad quality and I wrote a nine-page defect list complaining about the problems,' he says.

Mr Tsim believes the booming property market from the late 1980s to 2000 resulted in a drop in building standards, because people would buy any flats - even though they were not finished.

'And it's also such a waste that people spend several hundred thousand to renovate a new flat [because it's defective].

'Even now, the quality of flats in Hong Kong is quite varied,' Mr Tsim says. 'Some of the developers want to build flats with 'no defects'. However, some new flats are defective.'

So, he offers remedies to property owners.

Mr Tsim identified a market for 'flat quality checking' as early as 1992 but did not set up his own business until four years ago, after he migrated back from the United States, and having been laid off three times in two years.

'It wasn't very risky to start up a business at that time, as I was unemployed,' he says.

To let more people know how to check for defects, Mr Tsim set up a website more than a year ago providing information such as tools and procedures needed for examining a house.

His website also provides lists of comments and advice about the flats he has examined.

'I am now developing a databank,' he says. 'And I think it will be quite a huge one after a few years' time.'

He also organises seminars every two months to help educate the public.

Mr Tsim - who is also a construction consultant - says he is happy to see 'less flat owners are being bullied by developers'.

'I face a lot of pressure - including from the big developers.

'And whenever the typhoon signal No 8 is hoisted, I am afraid that my clients' houses may leak water, worrying that I have overlooked details during the checks. Luckily this has never happened.'