Real Estate

Agent faces hearing over 'rubbish' flats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am

An estate agent at Centaline Property involved in selling 'rubbish-dump' flats in Mid-Levels is facing a disciplinary hearing by the industry watchdog.

The Estate Agents Authority confirmed yesterday that it had completed an investigation into a case related to the sale of the Icon, a luxury residential project at 38 Conduit Road.

Centaline was then the sole sale agency for the project, built by Winfoong International.

The Icon made headlines in January after buyers taking possession of their flats complained about unfinished flooring, tiny enclosed kitchens and heaps of construction debris inside.

'Our disciplinary committee decided to convene a hearing on the licensed person after reading the investigators' report. A date is being set for the hearing,' a spokeswoman for the authority said.

The authority would not disclose the case details, including the identity of the agent.

Louis Chan Wing-kit, managing director for residential sales at Centaline Property Agency, declined to comment.

The authority received seven complaints from buyers against Centaline, of which three were withdrawn and three were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

It looked into whether the agency had supplied inaccurate or misleading information to flat buyers.

The buyers said Centaline leaflets promoting the flats included floor plans showing them with open kitchens. It was then discovered that the developer had submitted plans for approval to the Buildings Department showing the flats with enclosed kitchens.

The discrepancy led to accusations the developer had sought to dodge rules on fire safety for open kitchens, for which a special application is required. It also emerged that it had asked buyers to agree to have the enclosed kitchens rebuilt as open ones and to bear the alteration costs.

Questions were also raised as to whether Centaline agents had misled buyers with the leaflets.

Since the fiasco, the authority has ordered all qualified agents selling new flats in Hong Kong to obtain written approval from developers for the release of any promotional material about the properties.

Most of the 26 buyers accepted a buy-back offer from the developer, getting back 20 per cent more than they paid for their flats. A few chose an alternative, keeping their flats with enclosed kitchens along with HK$600,000 compensation.