Owner of collapsed To Kwa Wan block 'won't get URA payout'

Prospects of a lawsuit may be getting in the way of compensation for To Kwa Wan landlady

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2013, 3:12am

The owner of a To Kwa Wan tenement building that collapsed in 2010, killing four people, has failed to get any compensation from the Urban Renewal Authority over redevelopment of the area, it emerged yesterday.

Chak Oi-luen, owner of 45J on Ma Tau Wai Road, was instead likely to obtain a payout from the government, which took over the land resumption from the URA, a source said. The Development Bureau declined to confirm this.

Chak has been seeking her share of the redevelopment compensation since the authority offered affected flat owners a record acquisition price of HK$9,785 per square foot of saleable floor area in May 2011.

But it is understood that families of the victims are applying for legal aid to sue her.

"She has contacted the authority for her offer but has failed [to get an offer]," a person close to the URA said. "The authority should not acquire that property as it needs to protect itself from any possible legal case."

The government is taking over the work of resuming land in the old neighbourhood - with 26 property interests still in private hands - 20 months after the URA started the acquisition process.

A spokesman for the authority said it had obtained 84 per cent of the 159 property interests.

The remaining landlords were holding on to their shops and flats because they were unsatisfied with the offer or failed to prove they were owner-occupiers, he said. Owner-occupiers get higher payouts than investors.

The Lands Department will put up the last offer, equivalent to the market rate of seven-year-old properties in the district. The owners have three months to consider it, after which the government will evict them without any payment.

Chak's building collapsed almost three years ago in January 2010. In an August 2011 judgment, coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu described Chak as an "unprofessional owner" as she had not tried her best to look for a qualified person to do repairs, and had hoped buildings officials would solve all her troubles for her.

After the tragedy, the bureau asked the URA to redevelop the collapsed site and nearby buildings, totalling 33 blocks. The HK$2 billion, 3,380 square metre project will see two 30-storey blocks rise up on Ma Tau Wai Road and Chun Tin Street.