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Anthony Yau

Peacekeeping duties: Hong Kong’s building managers are also mediators in case of conflicts between residents

A manager plays a variety of roles to keep residential blocks safe, and is also there to solve problems that often arise

Jimmy Chow

Anthony Yau, a council member of the Hong Kong Institute of Housing (HKIH), talks about the role of a property management company and how it can resolve conflicts among owners.

How does the building manager resolve conflicts among owners. For example, water leakage?

The building manager would initially seek to understand what caused conflict between two residents. He or she would then investigate the source of leakage to make sure that it is not from common areas or common pipes. If the common area is not the root of the problem, the building manager would contact the upper-floor flat’s owner to trace the leak. If the owner is uncooperative, it is likely that help from authorities, such as the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department or Buildings Department, would have to be sought. Once the leak has been identified, the authority would issue the owner with a repair order. The building manager would try to settle the issue with all parties concerned, but if the owner is reluctant to address the issue, the affected owner might have to take legal action on his own. The building manager advises trying to reach agreement by peaceful means. Legal action should be taken as a last resort.

How is the property management fee determined?

The management fee is primarily determined by the management and maintenance expenditure of a building’s common areas and facilities. Major expenditure items include [wages of] management and maintenance staff, security, cleaning, landscaping, lift maintenance, pumping and drainage systems, mechanical and electrical systems, and fire services. Other than actual costs, the building’s age and use, service standards required, coverage of common areas [such as slopes, private roads, communal gardens, clubhouses], statutory changes [such as minimum wage] and location are factors that determine the management fee. These factors vary from one property to another, so it would be difficult to make direct comparisons, even if the homes are similar in size.

What facility management and service components are included?

They include maintenance of communal facilities within the complex, such as lifts, pumping and drainage systems, electrical systems, generators, playground facilities, clubhouses, fire services, air conditioning/ventilation systems, slope/retaining wall and car park systems. There is a wide range of services necessary for common areas, such as security and cleaning, landscaping and gardening and pest control. For a single-owned property, the owner may require more value-added services in order to achieve a higher rental value.

How does the building manager ensure that the tendering process is “clean” and complies with preventive measures recommended by the Independent Commission Against Corruption?

All tendering processes in Hong Kong are regulated under the Code of Practice on Procurement of Supplies, Goods and Services, issued by the secretary for home affairs, under the Building Management Ordinance. The code clearly outlines the tendering process, requirements and monitoring measures. The building manager’s role is to assist and ensure high transparency in any tendering process while, at the same time, complying with the code. When a renovation project is required or legally required, the building manager would work with the incorporation of owners and advise it on the subsequent procedures, including consultation, collection of feedback from owners, and owners’ meetings. After approval, the manager would ensure the discussion and tendering progress are transparent to all owners.

The Property Management Services Bill was passed earlier this year. What implications does it have for the property management industry?

The Property Management Services Bill was passed on May 26, which introduced a two-tier mandatory licensing system for property management practitioners who take up a managerial or supervisory role in the provision of property management services. Other than practitioners, it is also mandatory for property management companies to obtain a licence from the Property Management Services Authority (PMSA) to run property management services. The PMSA will issue a code of conduct and will institute disciplinary action, including cessation of the licence for genuine cases.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Taking on role of peacemaker