Developers oppose law to define flat size

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am

Real estate developers and the government have rejected calls for legislation to standardise the definition of saleable areas of flats to curb misleading sales practices, despite mounting pressure for such a law.

In yesterday's Legislative Council's housing panel meeting, the Real Estate Developers' Association (Reda) insisted there was enough transparency in the system and it was up to the government to decide whether to legislate on the issue.

Acting Permanent Secretary for Transport and Housing Mary Chow Shuk-ching said confusion over definitions and consumer protection could be solved by raising consumer awareness.

There is a commonly agreed definition on saleable area, but no law governing how to calculate gross floor area.

Developers refer to gross floor area when calculating sale prices, which allows them to include common and ancillary areas, such as lift lobbies and corridors.

The practice is subject to growing complaints from consumers angry that new properties have poor efficiency rates, meaning the ratio of living space to gross floor area is low, sometimes by up to 20 per cent less than stated.

Vice-chairman of Reda's executive committee Stewart Leung said a new law would lead to further chaos.

'We have already plugged the loopholes and increased transparency,' he said. 'If things are working, why do you want legislation? If there are developers not following the rules, you can sue them.'

Ms Chow, in response to lawmakers' complaints that the government had failed to tackle the issue, said the administration did not want to interfere with a free-market system.

'The main problem now is not lack of information but too much information which is confusing consumers,' she said.

The Consumer Council, which supports legislation, yesterday called for property specifications to include the 'floor-to-ceiling' height of the property, rather than the developers' specification that measures the height from the floor slab into half of the thickness of the concrete dividing two floors.