Posts Tagged ‘Buildings Management Ordinance’

Can a developer retain exclusive use of the external walls of a building and pass repair costs onto the other owners?

October 14, 2015

In Green & Grace Ltd v Wang Lung Industrial Building ([2015] HKEC 1935, LT) the incorporated owners resolved to repair the external walls of the building. A later general meeting specified the contribution of each owner to the works that had been carried out, including the cost of repairing the external wall.

The DMC of the building retained the exclusive use of the external walls for the developer but provided that the developer would not be required to repair them. The question was whether the resolution to repair the external walls was void in the light of section 34H(1) of the Building Management Ordinance:

‘Where a person who owns any part of a building, has the right to the exclusive possession of any part of a building or has the exclusive right to the use, occupation or enjoyment  of that part as the case may be, but the deed of mutual covenant does not impose an obligation on that person to maintain the part in good repair and condition, that person shall maintain that part in good repair and condition.’

The incorporated owners responded by pointing out, among other things, that the DMC gave the Manager some limited control rights over the external walls and that, therefore, the developer’s rights were not ‘exclusive’. This contention failed as did the argument that the limited repairing and maintenance obligations imposed on the developer by the DMC meant that section 34H did not apply. The external wall, being for the developer’s exclusive use, was clearly not a common part.

Kot DJ found the reasoning in Uniland Investment Enterprises Ltd v IO of Sea View Estate ([1999] 4 HKC 141) especially helpful. This looked at the combined effect of sections 34H and 34C(2) of the Building Management Ordinance. The latter provision stipulates that section 34H takes priority over the terms of the DMC in the event of inconsistency. The conclusion was that the DMC provision purporting to relieve the developer from any obligation to maintain the common walls was inconsistent with section 34H and was void. It was for the developer, and not the incorporated owners, to repair the external walls or bear the costs of doing so.

Interestingly, Kot DJ commented on the Court of Appeal decision in 鄭惠娟 對 永利中心業主立案法團及另一人 . He found this unhelpful since the Court of Appeal’s attention had not been drawn to Uniland.

Michael Lower

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Appointment of an administrator where the management committee had ceased to exist

January 4, 2014

In Smart Wealth Asia Pacific Ltd v Kelly Court (IO) ([2013] HKEC 2056, LT) Smart Wealth had acquired 92.5% of the shares in a building. All the members of the management committee had sold their shares and so ceased to be office-holders by operation of law. The owners meeting had resolved to dissolve the management committee and appoint an administrator but there was a serious doubt as to the validity of the resolution since the Building Management Ordinance required the management committee to call the owners meeting to consider such a resolution. This was an application by an owner for the dissolution of the management committee and the appointment of an administrator by the Tribunal under section 31 of the Building Management Ordinance.

The court made the orders sought. It was appropriate to dissolve the management committee to avoid doubts arising in the future as to whether or not one was in existence ([14]). It was also appropriate to appoint an administrator: there had to be a body capable of performing the duties and exercising the powers of the management committee under the terms of the Deed of Mutual Covenant and the Building Management Ordinance ([16]).

Michael Lower

Adverse possession of a common part by a non-owner

September 10, 2013

In Yeung Mau Cheung v Ka Ming Court ([2013] HKEC 1271, CFI) the plaintiffs and their predecessors had used two portions of the common parts of a building as a refreshment store and associated storage area since 1965. The DMC for the building was created in 1970. The question was whether the plaintiffs were entitled to declarations that they had a possessory title and that the defendant’s title had been extinguished by the Limitation Ordinance. The court was satisfied that the plaintiffs had been in adverse possession for the necessary length of time ([29] – [30]).

The next question was whether the adverse possession claim was defeated by the covenant not to convert common parts to private use implied into the DMC by section 34I of the Building Management Ordinance. This defence failed. The court relied on, and regarded itself as being bound by the Court of Appeal decision in Wong Kim Lin v Peony House (IO).

Michael Lower

Adverse possession of a common part by a stranger to the DMC: BMO s.34I does not defeat the adverse possession claim

July 4, 2013

In Wong King Lim v Peony House (IO) ([2013] HKEC 828, CA) W had been in adverse possession of a lane behind Peony House since 1987. The lane was a common part of Peony House. W was not an owner of Peony House and so not subject to the terms of the DMC. W brought an adverse possession claim in respect of the lane. The incorporated owners argued that any title thus acquired was subject to the covenant implied by section 34I of the Buildings Management Ordinance (a covenant not to convert common parts to private use). The argument was that this restrictive covenant had priority over W’s possessory title (relying on Re Nisbet and Pott’s Contract).

This argument failed. One reason given by the Court of Appeal looked at the purpose of the covenant:

‘The owners of the Building had covenanted only with one another to possess the Lane in common and not exclusively.’ ([34] Yuen JA)

Once the title of all the owners to the lane had been extinguished then there was (so to speak) no covenantee with an interest in land who could enforce the covenant. ([34]) (see also [43] Lam JA). It seems to make no difference that the owners still had title to the rest of the Building and, in that capacity, still had an interest in the enforcement of the implied covenant.

A second reason is given for the proposition that W was not subject to the implied covenant. This is that the right to enforce the covenant had also been defeated by the Limitation Ordinance:

‘[I]n contrast with the position of the covenantee in that case, the Defendant IO’s right under the DMC (and the deemed obligation under the DMC created by Section 34I) has been infringed from the very beginning of the dispossession by the Plaintiff over the portion of the land in question. Thus, the basis of the judgment of Collins MR in that case (viz time should not start to run until the right of the covenantee is affected) has no application to our case. The extinguishment of the title to the land under section 17 of the Limitation Ordinance Cap 347 encompasses the title to enforce the DMC in respect of that portion of the land.’ ([44] Lam JA)

Michael Lower