While the wave of loan suspensions caused by housing turmoil in China’s property market has yet to subside, the “common area” issue in the house purchase contract has attracted public opinion.
According to the Beijing Business Daily, the house bought last year by Li Li (pseudonym), a citizen of Qingdao city, Shandong province, was announced to have an area of 110 square meters (1 sq. m. is about 10.8 sq. feet.) but was only 61 square meters when received. She recounted that as soon as she opened the door, she was greeted with super thick walls, cramped spaces, and three pitifully small bedrooms. After looking for a building inspector to measure, she discovered that the apartment is only about 61 square meters, none of the three bedrooms exceed 9 square meters, and the master bedroom cannot even fit a double bed. She cannot even have a master bedroom in the house.
When buying a house, Li Li, a construction industry practitioner, pays special attention to the area shared by households, known as the common area, and repeatedly asks sales staff’s opinion about the common area.
According to Li Li’s memory, the sales staff at that time told her that because the apartment complex was a super tall building with 55 floors, factors such as the refuge floor and the elevator height had been taken into account so that the common area would account for 31%. However, it was possible that this area would be less than estimated when the building was completed.
The content of the house purchase contract that she presented to the reporter shows: a three-bedroom suite worth more than 1.2 million yuan with an area of 110.25 sqm, the rooms’ building area is 75.24 sqm, and the common area is 35.01 sqm, accounting for 31.8%.
“Li said, “There is clearly a difference between the 75 square meters shown in the purchase contract and the 61 square meters I measured,” Li said. “Half of the outer wall area of nearly 1meter is considered the area of the house’s suites. However, the investor didn’t explain and deliberately confused it with ‘common area’, and other concepts, all kinds of technical terms were piled up and confusing. I never thought the actual area inside the house would be so small”. For example, a room measuring 4 m x 4 m on the plan is only 3 m x 3 m once it is built with walls over I meter thick.
It was not until she claimed her interests that Li Li realized that the common area was 46%. “This means that almost half of the house we bought for millions yuan is not really our own. If I had known this in the first place, I wouldn’t have bought it,” she said.
The incident sparked heated discussions among netizens. Sound of Hope quoted some comments: “How many people have to suffer, the investors are becoming more and more excessive, treating people as ‘idiots'”; “These are unscrupulous investors, but who tolerate the unscrupulous investor?”
On December 1, 1995, the “Regulations on commercial housing purchase and division of public construction areas” stipulated that purchase contracts for commercial housing must specify the area construction, and the apartment building and public areas should be clearly indicated.
There have been a lot of scandals in China in recent years. For example, during this year’s “dual meeting” of the Communist Party of China, Hong Yang, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, proposed “abolishing the public area” in house purchase contracts. He said: “The area of public areas is a confusing concept. Only the investors can talk about it, and the homebuyers have no right to defend themselves.”
However, according to Sound of Hope, some lawyers and experts believe this option is inappropriate, saying that abolishing the common area and measuring the usable area will confuse the price measurement standard. As a result, house prices, property fees, and heating fees per square meter will increase, but it will cause another misunderstanding, making people think that house prices have increased.
Some lawyers also believe that the house selling price should be calculated according to the usable area, not the cost of the total area, to reduce disputes caused by the common area to a certain extent.