CHINA should introduce tenancy laws as soon as possible or risk a torrent of litigation and disputes over the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants, a specialist lawyer in mainland property says. Johnson Stokes & Master partner Billy Ho Kun-lok said yesterday there were many uncertainties surrounding tenancy issues in China because of a lack of law on the subject. He feared conflict between tenancy laws now being drafted by local authorities and prior tenancy agreements. 'The sooner the legislation comes into force, the better, otherwise it will open the door to a lot of litigation and disputes,' Mr Ho said. The tenancy issue was becoming more pressing as 1997 and 1998 - the harvest period resulting from the 1992-93 property development boom - drew near. Mr Ho said there would be a growing number of tenants moving into properties in China starting from next year. He expected tenancy laws being drafted by the local governments in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to be introduced soon. 'The future direction is certain, which is to control and register all tenancy agreements in line with the urban property leasing management measures which came into effect in June 1 this year,' he said. 'But how and to what extent the local authorities would like to control the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants remains unknown.' He said 99.9 per cent of the existing tenancy agreements were not registered and that safeguards should be built into tenancy agreements to protect both sides before the tenancy law was implemented. New measures, which were not compulsory, stipulated that landlords could only evict tenants after they failed to pay rent for six months. Until now, it had been normal for landlords to vacate premises as soon as tenants missed a payment. 'We are now shooting in the dark,' Mr Ho said. 'We are drafting a number of tenancy contracts but it is uncertain whether they would be declared void by the new legislation.' His law firm was drafting tenancy agreements in accordance with the new measures to minimise discrepancies between agreements and the new law. He said it would be a serious problem if tenancy agreements now in place were made void because of inconsistency with the new legislation. The new legislation would mark the first time China codified tenancy law.