Abolish Home Affairs, set up a building affairs tribunal The president of the Hong Kong Institute of Housing, Ellis Ip Chi-ming, has a letter in today's Letters to the Editor in which he complains of unfairness in a previous Lai See piece entitled "Review of building management opens a can of worms". The HKIH is an industry body for the property management industry and according to its website has as its key object, "to promote the standards and ideals of the science and art of the profession of housing management". Ip's basic argument is that while the Building Management Ordinance may have a few issues, it is essentially not too bad in that it "ensures a degree of fairness to all stakeholders including property owners and seeks to reduce abuse of existing ambiguities and loopholes in prevalent laws and regulations". Ip seems to think that these issues can be ironed out by urging the Home Affairs Department to be more proactive in handling grievances by strengthening public education. Readers may recall that we have been calling for an overhaul of the BMO in view of the evident widespread dissatisfaction with the ordinance. It is hard to avoid the impression from Ip's letter that building management companies like the BMO just the way it is. A number of complaints at the Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs last month centred on building management companies and the advantages they secure by helping to entrench owners' committees. Let us consider the problems that one housing estate has had with its management committee. This particular management company succeeded in appointing itself as project manager for major renovations to the property without undergoing a proper tender exercise. It subsequently failed to supervise the authorised person who was subsequently punished for negligence by the Architects Registration Board. The management company hired related companies to provide services such as insurance and cleaning on terms that were less than arm's length. When it was finally replaced, it deleted seven years of audio and video tapes of committee and general meetings that it was supposed to be keeping for the owners' committee. Other estates have similar problems with management companies. The fundamental problem is that management companies become entrenched and help to entrench the owners' committee which pays them. There are many cases where owners' committees have been in power for years because they have been able to secure proxies from older and less sophisticated owners. There is no mechanism open to minority owners other than the Lands Tribunal, which will leave them out of pocket even if they win. Ip's suggestion that the Home Affairs Department should be more proactive is laughable as anyone who has tried using the department to solve a problem will tell you. It might just as well not be there. The money saved could be used to set up a building affairs tribunal which would at least be able to rule on basic rule-breaking. But it should be prepared to hear an avalanche of complaints. Bankers not popular It appears that banks have yet to get over the disapprobation they attracted in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Some 76 per cent of the British public believe bankers should forego their bonuses. The survey was carried out by P2P lender ArchOver. The main reasons for bankers' unpopularity are market manipulation and the mis-selling of financial products. That said, banker is by no means the most unpopular occupation in Britain. That position is held by cold-call salespeople, followed by traffic wardens.