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LCQ19: Monitoring of minor works carried out in private residential buildings

Following is a question by the Hon Starry Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Michael Wong, in the Legislative Council today (November 1):

Question:

In June this year, part of the balcony of a flat in an old building in Hung Hom collapsed. The investigation report on the said incident released last month by the Buildings Department (BD) pointed out that the collapse was triggered by the overloading of a cantilevered beam of the balcony concerned, which was attributable to the prolonged lack of maintenance of the cantilevered beam, alterations to the parapet and raised floor finishes. It has been reported that quite a number of flats in old buildings in the district have been converted into a number of sub-divided units (SDUs), and property titles of a majority of the flats in such buildings have been acquired by developers pending redevelopment, thus making it difficult for the owners of such buildings to raise funds to carry out building maintenance works. On the other hand, if owners of private residential buildings intend to carry out certain minor building works on their flats, they are required to submit a notice to the BD in advance pursuant to the provisions under the Minor Works Control System (the Control System). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of notices for minor works submitted under the Control System received by the BD in each of the past three years;

(2) of the number of cases that came to the knowledge of the BD in each of the past three years in which minor works had been carried out without submission of notices required under the Control System, with a breakdown by the way they came to the BD's knowledge (i.e. (i) reports by members of the public, (ii) referrals from other government departments and (iii) investigations initiated by the BD); the number of cases in which the parties concerned were convicted as a result, as well as the penalties generally imposed on them; and

(3) as converting a flat into a number of SDUs would easily cause water seepage problems and add loads to buildings, how the authorities ensure that such minor works will not affect the structural safety of buildings?

Reply:

President,

When carrying out any alteration works at their premises, owners shall ensure the relevant works comply with the relevant provisions of the Buildings Ordinance (Chapter 123) (BO) and its subsidiary legislation. To facilitate the members of public to carry out small scale building works through simplified statutory procedures, the Government launched the Minor Works Control System (MWCS) on December 31, 2010. Under the simplified procedures of the Building (Minor Works) Regulation (Chapter 123N) (B(MW)R), owners can appoint prescribed building professionals and registered contractor to carry out the works and submit the relevant documents to the Buildings Department (BD) per the respective categories of the minor works.

In consultation with the BD, the Development Bureau provides a reply as follows:

(1) In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the BD received about 107 000, 116 000 and 135 000 minor works submissions respectively. These submissions include the notices of commencement of works submitted before the carrying out of Class I and Class II minor works (Note) and certificates of completion submitted upon completion of all classes of minor works. The BD does not categorise or compile statistics on the number of these minor works submissions.

Note: Minor works are classified into three classes of I, II and III according to their nature, scale, complexity and safety risk they posed. Class I minor works are relatively more complicated, they require higher expertise and more stringent supervision and appointment of prescribed building professionals and registered contractors. As Class II minor works are less complicated than Class I minor works, owners shall only appoint prescribed registered contractors to handle. Class III minor works are small-scale and common in households.

(2) Except those works exempted under the BO or minor works under the MWCS, all building works require prior approval and consent from the BD before commencement. If such works were commenced without having obtained the prior approval and consent from the BD, they would be regarded as unauthorised building works (UBWs).

For enforcement of UBWs, be cases are reports from the public, referrals from other Government departments or investigation initiated by the BD, the BD will take appropriate enforcement actions in accordance with the prevailing UBWs enforcement policy, which includes serving statutory orders under the BO to the owners of the premises requiring removal of the UBWs. Any person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with an order served on him within the specified period shall be guilty of an offence. According to the BO, such persons may be liable on conviction to a fine of $200,000 and to imprisonment for one year, and to a fine of $20,000 for each day during which the failure to comply with the Order has continued.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the BD received about 41 000, 41 000 and 37 000 report cases of UBWs. Besides, the BD will also conduct large-scale operations by serving statutory removal orders against actionable UBWs upon inspection on the relevant owners. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the BD selected about 200, 190 and 80 target buildings for carrying out of the large-scale operations.

The BD does not separately conduct detailed categorisation or compile statistics on the UBWs without submission of notifications of commencement of minor works.

(3) Under the B(MW)R, minor works involving subdivision of flats, e.g. erection of partition wall, laying of solid floor screeding or erection or alteration of aboveground drain, are required to be carried out by prescribed building professionals or registered contractors to ensure the quality of works. The BD has provided technical guidelines for the works associated with subdivision of flats, which include detailed elaboration of the relevant minor works items, and the prescribed building professionals and registered contractors are reminded of the factors to be considered when carrying out minor works and compliance with the BO and its relevant regulations.

Meanwhile, the BD would conduct audit checks to ensure the minor works comply with the provisions of the legislation and have attained the required quality and standard. If irregularities are found, like the subdivision has caused overloading to floor slabs, the BD would require the prescribed building professionals and registered contractors to rectify the problem and take enforcement actions under prevailing law as necessary. In the past three years, the BD has conducted an audit check of about 6 800 documents per annum from the minor works submissions to the BD by building professionals or registered contractors, amongst which the relevant persons involved in 10 cases of irregularities have been convicted.
 
Ends/Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Issued at HKT 14:30
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