A volunteer who helped to run a communal building was wrongly ordered to pay a bill the incorporated owners had refused to settle, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday. It quashed a ruling by a lower court judge who saddled Wong Man-yin, 53, with a $15,000 debt to a firm which supervised renovation work. Mr Wong was a former chairman of the Incorporated Owners of Kam Ming Court on Playing Field Road in Mongkok, serving for four consecutive years. High Court Chief Judge Patrick Chan Siu-oi said if those working for the upkeep of a building were held liable for its debts too easily nobody would take up the work. The Lands Tribunal is the only court empowered to enforce a group debt on an individual property owner when the incorporated owners fail to pay. However, the power must be exercised sparingly, Mr Justice Chan said. Otherwise, 'who is going to take up a public position?' Mr Justice Chan also called on the Government to give 'more positive and effective' assistance to people answering its call to sit on incorporated owners' committees. Mr Wong, who owned a ground-floor shop in the 16-storey building, was appealing against the decision of Deputy District Judge Michael Jenkins who, in August last year, awarded $15,000 plus $300 costs to Vincent Ip & Associates. The firm had charged $39,595 for supervising $1 million in renovation work carried out on the 19-year-old building in 1996. The Incorporated Owners were not satisfied with the work and blamed Vincent Ip & Associates for lax supervision. They refused to clear a $15,839 balance of the fees. The company won a Small Claims Tribunal judgment for $15,000 plus $300 costs in November 1997, but the Incorporated Owners refused to comply. So in August last year it took Mr Wong to the District Court. The Court of Appeal, however, ruled it had taken the wrong route, saying the case should have been heard by the Lands Tribunal, and overturned Deputy Judge Jenkins' order. Mr Justice Arthur Leong Shiu-chung and Mr Justice Michael Wong Kin-chow also allowed Mr Wong's appeal. The firm, however, is free to renew its bid in the right arena - the Lands Tribunal.