Lawmakers unite to back motion cracking down on developers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 April, 2010, 12:00am

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum last night endorsed an amended motion calling for legislation and stiffer penalties against misleading sales practices adopted by unscrupulous property developers.

In a rare show of unity, directly elected members and those affiliated with trade interests voted 43 to one in calling for measures to enhance transparency and fairness to protect the interests of homebuyers.

These include reviving a bill proposed but shelved in 2000 targeting misleading tactics in selling uncompleted flats.

The non-binding motion also urges the government to make the just-tightened guidelines on sales brochures and internal sales part of the 'consent scheme' when giving approval for flat sales. The scheme sets conditions that developers must comply with when they put uncompleted flats on the market.

Wrapping up the three-hour motion debate, James To Kun-sun threatened to file a no-confidence motion against housing minister Eva Cheng if legislation was not in place within a year.

To, who put forward the motion, said that since 2000 the government had mentioned 11 times that it would not rule out the possibility of legislation. But these were mere threats.

Many of his colleagues agreed and criticised the government for laws such as the Trade Description Ordinance, which protects consumers buying various products, but not property.

Lam Tai-fai said people were outraged by unscrupulous sales tactics such as misleading advertisements. 'Asking the developers to be self-disciplined? It's unrealistic,' he said.

Only Abraham Razack, who represents developers and the construction sector, voted against the motion. He defended developers, saying they had followed guidelines issued by the Real Estate Developers' Association guidelines, which reflected the government's views.

Cheng rejected suggestions that sales tactics were regulated by the Lands Department's consent scheme. She said nine measures announced last week to increase transparency in flat sales, would be incorporated into the scheme.

If developers fail to follow the rules, the Lands Department could hold up, or withdraw, its consent.

The new measures call on developers to publish a price list three days before flats go on sale, to allow prospective buyers to take measurements at show flats, and to sell more flats in the first batch of sales in a development to limit potential for price manipulation.