Manager’s DMC duty to bring legal proceedings where necessary: enough to act reasonably?

In Long Source Industrial Ltd v Guardian Property Management Ltd ([2015] HKEC 1964, LT) Guardian Property Management (‘GPM’) had been appointed manager of a development at Tai Po Kau. There is no owners’ corporation. The applicant, Long Source Industrial (‘LSI’), was an owner of the development. The owners of several houses had extended their rear gardens to incorporate common parts and a surface channel had been altered. LSI began proceedings in March 2013. At that time, GPM’s view was that the matter was in hand: it was monitoring the progress of rectification works and was liaising with the Buildings Department on the progress of its enforcement action. Subsequently, some owners were prosecuted and the owners of most of the houses had complied with the Building Orders issued by the Buildings Department by the time of the hearing.

The DMC contained the following provisions concerning the responsibility and powers of GPM as manager of the development:

‘the Manager shall be responsible for and shall have full and unrestricted authority to do all such acts and things as may be necessary or requisite for the proper management of the Development’.

For this purpose, it had the power to bring legal proceedings to enforce due observance and performance of the DMC terms by the owners.

LSI sought an order compelling GPM to bring proceedings against the owners in breach. The LT declined to grant this injunction. While the words ‘necessary or requisite’ were not expressly qualified by the word ‘reasonably’, it was enough for GPM to act reasonably here. It had acted reasonably. Even from the perspective of March 2013, GPM was acting reasonably. At that time, many of the owners were taking steps to rectify the breach. It would not have been managing the funds of the development properly, as it owed a fiduciary duty to do ([36]), had it commenced proceedings at that time.

Michael Lower

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