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Buyers want their money back

A SHANGHAI resident surnamed Shu and his wife thought all their troubles with house hunting were over. After looking at lots of apartments and weighing their comparative advantages and disadvantages, they finally settled on the Lotus Riverside community in Minhang District.

The price was right, and it was near a Metro line. Now all they had to do was work hard and pay off their mortgage, they thought. But their life plan took an abrupt turn last Saturday while Shu was out of town.

"My mother-in-law called me from Shanghai, saying that one of the buildings in the community where we bought an apartment had toppled over," Chen told Shanghai Daily in front of the developer's office yesterday.

"My first reaction was that it was ridiculous," Chen said. "I've heard of a bridge collapse, a highway collapse - but it is rare to see a building topple over like this."

The couple's 100-square-meter apartment was in a building near the one that fell. But although city government officials said the other 10 apartment buildings in the community are safe, the couple said they no longer want to live there and are seeking financial compensation so they can move elsewhere.

They are not alone. More than 380 owners have sought payoffs reflecting the market value of their property and compensation for mortgage interest.

But a legal source said yesterday that Chen and others in the same situation will probably fail in their quest to back out of their home deals.

"Owners' requests can be met only it can be proved their building will collapse in the future or have severe quality problems," said Liu Chunquan, a lawyer at Guangshen and Partners.

Even apartments owners in the collapsed building will be able to obtain only the amount stated in their contact plus any compensation listed for breach of contract, Liu said.

The Shanghai branch of the Bank of Communications, which made most of the home loans for the apartment project, said it will charge default fees if home owners delay their loan payments.


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