Two weeks from now, 7,000 residents living in a 14-block housing estate are likely to face an electricity blackout - because two-thirds of them refuse to pay their building management dues. This is a vivid illustration of the weak sense of civic responsibility felt by many Macau residents. Even with the threat of power cuts, many Hoi Pan Gardens families insisted it was not in their interest to pay their management fees. 'I don't believe all my neighbours will pay, so our power supply will be cut anyway,' one man said. 'I think I'm better off not paying.' The unpaid fees leave the management company unable to settle its power bill, which exceeds 1 million patacas. If it is not paid by December 12, then power will be cut to public areas: this means no lifts, no lighting in the parking lot and no water supply, because the water pump is powered by electricity. This will affect 1,680 housing units at the complex, in the Areia Preta district. One resident insisted he was correct in refusing to pay. 'One million patacas is nothing for our electricity company. They make a lot of profit every year,' he said. Like many conflicts in Macau, this one has convoluted historical roots. Two property management companies have been vying in court for the right to manage this housing estate. For 14 months starting in February last year, residents received management-fee invoices from two different companies. The court battle was resolved in April, when Veng Va Management became the official property manager. But many residents were not convinced that their management bills had been calculated correctly. 'If residents are saying that to you, it is just an excuse for not paying,' said a frustrated spokesman at Veng Va Management. 'We have carefully calculated the fees, but still some residents insist we have not.' The truth is that a task as routine as paying monthly fees to the management company is often ignored in Macau. Many residential buildings have papers posted in their lift lobbies, detailing the fee-payment track records of every flat in the building for the previous 12 months. In the lift lobbies at Flower City, a middle-class residential complex on Taipa, conspicuously posted notices remind prospective buyers to check whether management fees have been fully paid for the flat they are about to purchase. If not, the notices say, the new owners will be held responsible for those fees. Unfortunately, attempts to resolve the problem have been in vain, leaving a pathetic impression for any overseas investor scouting out Macau flats. The case of Hoi Pan Gardens is merely the tip of a large iceberg.