The law that allowed landlords to evict tenants on the expiry of their leases failed to protect flat owners from tenants' transgressions, legislators heard yesterday. Hong Kong Owners' Club chairman Shea Hing-wan told the housing panel that the law was not tough enough to get compensation from unscrupulous tenants who damaged the property or moved out without paying the rent. 'Tenant rights groups always call for compensation when their landlords try to sell their flats and tell them to move out,' Mr Shea wrote in a statement. 'By the same logic, then, should tenants also share the debts shouldered by their landlords whose properties have fallen into deficit equity? 'Even if the law has given landlords more power in resuming their properties, we still receive complaints from some flat owners that the problem of unscrupulous tenants continues to exist.' Since the amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance was passed in July 2004, landlords are able to evict tenants on the expiry of their contracts only after they have given them a 12-month grace period. But this provision does not apply to leases signed after July 9, 2004, in which case tenants can be evicted as soon as the contract expires. These amendments abolished the right of renewal enjoyed by residential and commercial tenants since 1981. Tenants' group representative Mak Wai-chau said that the law had put tenants in a vulnerable position, especially low-income families who could not afford higher rentals when they moved to other flats in the same neighbourhood. Madam Mak said the problem was common in old urban districts that were under redevelopment. Legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee expressed sympathy for tenants. 'The law allows a 12-month grace period for tenants; [but] it remains useless if the tenants cannot afford to find a new home,' Mr Fung said.