Owners face losing their homes as contractor files for payment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am

Owners of a 40-year-old residential building in Yau Ma Tei are in a desperate race against time to stop a maintenance contractor from seizing their properties and selling their homes to pay off debts.

Benny Fung Construction & Marine Engineering Limited has sought to have the Incorporated Owners of Man Yuen Building declared insolvent following its failure to repay more than $3.36 million, including interest.

The case in the High Court took a new turn yesterday when one of the 40 flat owners, Ted Ma Chun-hoi, appeared and demanded that the case be adjourned until after the owners' meeting on June 15, so that the new owners incorporation could respond to the claim.

Mr Ma told the court that the owners learnt about the winding-up application only on Friday.

Master Simon Kwang Cheok-weung adjourned the case until Tuesday to allow Mr Ma to seek the owners' written consent to allow him to join the hearing formally as their representative.

Benny Fung Construction & Marine Engineering was hired in February 2000 to carry out maintenance work but this was suspended for a year because problems within the owners' group. Although the work was completed in July 2002, the contractor claimed it had suffered loss as a result of the additional costs incurred due to the delay and filed for damages.

The contractor won its claim for compensation the following year but after payment of $123,000 last July, the owners' group failed to continue the payments. It later emerged that the owners had been unable to reach a consensus on how to share the costs.

The company filed an insolvency petition against the incorporated owners in September but this was rejected. After filing of the current petition two months ago, the owners have been barred from putting their properties on the market.

Under current laws, if an owners' incorporation is declared insolvent, the creditors can seize the owners' flats and sell them off to recover their debts.

The owners have been invited to discuss the case at a meeting tonight organised by their district councillor, Chan Siu-tong, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.