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Passed, but not perfect

Two years in the making, but finally passed. The bill on the management of common areas of condominiums was unanimously approved, but is still facing headwinds as legislators query guard and doormen training, and responsibility for paying management expenses by owners in cases where buyers don’t yet have full ownership.

After being under evaluation for two years, the final version of the new law proposal for the oversight of commercial companies in charge of managing condominiums was approved unanimously yesterday by the Legislative Assembly.
The new law will now make it mandatory for companies in charge of condominium management to obtain a licence provided by the Housing Bureau, valid for three-years, with a possibility of renewal for the same amount of time.
In order to receive the licence, companies will have to have least one technical director and MOP250,000 (US$31,025) in minimum registered capital.
The final draft of the law provided by the second standing committee raised a number of questions, with Legislator Mak Soi Kun enquiring why the new law failed to provide licensing for condominium doormen and guards.
“The company needs a technical director to guarantee the service quality, but doormen or guards are not regulated. The quality of the management depends on them, they’re the frontline of service […] Why not provide courses before the law is enacted or create a credential system that could assure the service quality?” Legislator Mak asked.
In response, the Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo Arrais do Rosário said that due to the large number of doormen and guards, the responsibility of providing training should fall on the management company and not on the government.

The responsibility hot potato
On the other hand, the discussion of the new law proposal for the legislation of condominium common area administration raised more questions from legislators, with yesterday’s plenary session only managing to approve three of the proposal’s 73 articles.
In question, were articles pertaining to the responsibility for paying condominium management expenses in cases where buyers haven’t yet been conceded the right of ownership for a housing unit they have purchased.
According to the law proposal, the payment of condominium expenses for use, maintenance and improvement of common areas should fall on the housing unit owner until the rights of use are transmitted to a new owner, an issue that raised the objections of Legislator Lionel Alves.
“What if the developer sells an autonomous unit and the owner leaves for three years having only the intention of leasing the apartment after he receives the key? Sometimes the absence is due to personal issues, sometimes gaming related, and the developer can’t notarise the sale. Meanwhile there’re also mortgages to pay on the housing unit. Is it fair for the developer to be in charge of these debts? It’s years of condominium expenses,” Legislator Alves stated.
In his response, the Legal Affairs Bureau (DSAJ) Deputy Director, Cheong Ham, said the proposal was to guarantee that maintenance fees are paid, with the responsibility having to fall on the “actual beneficiary” of the house.
“If the buyer hasn’t received the keys, the responsibility should be with the owner, the expenses should be paid on time […] We have to see who is the final beneficiary and he will be in charge of the expenses […] The owner of the housing unit can also take the issue to the courts in order to see the debt repaid,” the DSAJ Deputy Director added.
However Legislator Lionel Alves opined that demanding compensation for the debt in court from someone who is “in parts unknown” would take a considerable amount of time, with the official owner of the housing unit having to incur months of maintenance expenses and “possibly acquiring bad credit ratings due to unpaid or delayed mortgage fees”.
“If the seller received the full price, he can’t cancel the contract, he is at a dead end. I agree the condominium interests should be preserved, but I think this solution is still not mature. We have the risk of approving another law that will bring many headaches to many people in Macau. If the buyer was in the owner’s shoes, he’s the only one responsible for the kicks,” he added.
The discussion led to Secretary for Administration and Justice, Sonia Chan Hoi Fan accepting that some changes would be made in regards to the debated articles, with the discussion of the law proposal to resume today.