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Protecting Homeowners' Rights - Who's Responsible?
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In a high-profile court case involving homeowners and property managers, a Beijing High Court judge has said that orders made against the homeowners should not be enforced, according to a China Youth Daily report on January 17. The case brings to light many shortfalls of a system entrenched in bureaucratic red tape and general indifference.


Tian Yuxi, a president judge, said frequent conflicts between homeowners and property management companies are complicated, and the relevant government agencies are seeking resolution.


Tian made reference to a high-profile case where a local court in Beijing's Chaoyang District on October 30, 2005 made an order against 57 homeowners to pay their property management fees that were in arrears. Enforcing the order, bailiffs took into custody 16 homeowners who refused to abide by the order. 


The case, the first of its kind in Beijing involving the use of physical force and manhandling, attracted widespread media attention and public discontent and disapproval.


Such conflicts between disgruntled homeowners and property managers are on the rise.


In most cases, homeowners doggedly refuse to pay property management fees for services that they deem to be less than satisfactory. Even if property management companies have been able to obtain court orders obliging homeowners to pay, they have been difficult to enforce.


A judge from the Chaoyang District Court, who asked not to be named, said homeowners should collect evidence to defend their rights if they feel that services provided are below par, and added that refusing to pay is not the best way to deal with the situation.


Li Shaohua, an industry insider, said that the problems actually start with the real estate developers. Looking for a quick profit, they invariably cut corners when engaging a property management company. Unfortunately for the homeowner, he has to accept the developer's choice of property manager, albeit shoddy.  


And once the property is sold, the developers disappear from the picture and the problems, if any, are someone else's concern, Li said.


Liu Gang, director of the management division of Beijing's Construction Committee, said that such conflicts bring to light five very real problems:

·         Design or construction defects;

·         Unqualified property management companies;

·         Difficulties in establishing homeowners associations including bureaucratic procedures;

·         If an association is formed, working on developing a good relationship with the local grassroots government agency or Neighborhood Committee; and

·         Cultivating civic consciousness generally.


By the end of December 2005, Beijing had registered 2,911 new residential compounds, but only 241 of them have established a homeowners association, according to statistics from Beijing's Construction Committee.


( by Wang Zhiyong, January 28, 2006)


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