Too late to object to flat-sale law

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am


No one willingly gives up an advantage. Property developers have always had the upper hand when selling flats, being able to market and sell to buyers in whichever way they see fit. Naturally, they are unhappy about a law planned for next year that will regulate their activities and set tough penalties for violations. But disagree or not, they have had plenty of time to make their opinion known and a fresh salvo of objections and counter-proposals is unhelpful and too late.

A flat is the most expensive purchase many of us will make, so buyers should have the best possible protection. The Real Estate Developers Association (REDA) agrees with this concept and the idea that there should be a balanced playing field for sellers and purchasers. Yet in its latest submission to legislators, REDA suggests the draft law could be unconstitutional. It has put forward counter-proposals, some of which leave matters unchanged. But the proposed legislation - covering show flats, promotional brochures, the definition of flat size and the release of data about prices and transactions, in addition to stipulating penalties of imprisonment and a fine of up to HK$5 million for offenders - is exactly what is needed.

Self-regulation has not been healthy for Hong Kong. Flats have got increasingly smaller and more expensive, leading to cramped and stressful living conditions. Some developers have profited enormously, putting false information in sales brochures, using complicated formulas to calculate sizes and employing underhand tactics to boost prices. Laws are much needed and long overdue.

A government-appointed committee spent a year formulating the legislation and a two-month consultation ended last week. A total of 950 submissions were received and the views expressed have to be considered and the draft law amended where appropriate. But the time for lobbying has passed. What has to emerge as soon as possible is a fair law that ensures new flats can be purchased with confidence.