Land Tribunal’s jurisdiction

In Chan Wah Chuen William v Director of Housing ([2012] HKEC 1294, LT) the appellant had bought a flat from the Hong Kong Housing Authority under the Home Ownership Scheme at a substantial discount to market value. The Housing Ordinance provided that buyers could only sell their flats if they paid a premium to the Authority. The formula for calculating the premium took account of the prevailing market value at the time when the premium was to be calculated, the initial purchase price and the market value at the time of the initial purchase from the Authority. The appellant wanted to sell but was dissatisfied with the premium that the Authority proposed to charge.

The appellant appealed to the Tribunal because he argued that the Authority had used the wrong figure for the market value at the time of his initial purchase and the effect was to inflate the premium to be paid. The Director of Housing sought to strike out the appeal on the ground that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear it. The Tribunal agreed and struck out the application.

Paragraph 5 of the Schedule to the Housing Ordinance gave the Tribunal jurisdiction to hear appeals concerning the prevailing market value (the value at the time the premium was to be assessed). The appellant, however, was appealing against the initial market value used in the premium calculation. The Tribunal was a creature of Ordinance and only had the jurisdiction given by Ordinance. It had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal in question.

The appellant urged the Tribunal to take a purposive approach to the construction of the provision dealing with its jurisdiction. The Tribunal was willing to do so but it had no impact on its interpretation of the plain and literal meaning of the words employed in the Ordinance.

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