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Legislative Council Question 15 : "Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme" by the Hon Albert Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council

Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):

Question:

The Government is conducting a public consultation on the proposal to compel private flat owners to carry out periodic inspection of their buildings. In relation to building safety, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the numbers of dangerous or defective private buildings inspected by the Buildings Department (BD) in each of the past five years, the total numbers of flats involved and the relevant expenditure incurred; and

(b) whether it will consider abandoning the proposed Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme and instead allocate a portion of the rates revenue for BD to use to investigate all private buildings in the territory by stages, and to issue repair orders to the owners concerned in accordance with the findings of the investigation reports; if it will, of the details of its consideration; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

Madam President,

My reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:

(a) To ensure building safety, the Buildings Department (BD) will conduct inspections in respect of buildings in dangerous and defective conditions identified by its consultants in the course of regular surveys on building external walls as well as those cases reported by the public. The BD will serve repair orders on building owners concerned if the condition is confirmed to be dangerous or defective. If the inspection results suggest that detailed investigation is needed to ascertain the building conditions, the BD will serve on the owners concerned building or drainage investigation orders, requiring the owners to carry out the necessary investigation. Over the past five years, the BD has handled about 50 000 cases relating to dangerous or defective buildings. Since the handling of these cases and the corresponding building inspection work forms part of BD's routine law enforcement work, the BD does not keep a detailed breakdown of the expenditure.

The BD has also launched a "Co-ordinated Maintenance of Buildings Scheme" (CMBS) since 2000, encouraging owners to take the initiative to inspect and repair their buildings regularly to improve building safety. The BD together with six other Government departments have selected certain defective buildings for inspection, and provided the necessary assistance to owners concerned so as to encourage them to engage qualified contractors to carry out improvement works. From 2000 to 2005, the BD has selected a total of 700 target buildings covering some 49 000 flats. The BD has incurred an average annual expenditure of $13 million on the CMBS over the five years. The CMBS has helped improve the conditions of some dilapidated buildings. Nonetheless, since owners are motivated to carry out building repair works under the CMBS mainly by way of encouragement, substantial manpower and time resources are required and yet the results may not be pronounced. As such, we consider that there is a need to introduce a mandatory building inspection scheme to address the aggravating building neglect problem in the long run.

(b) The results of our first stage public consultation on Building Management and Maintenance in 2004 have pointed to a community consensus on owners' responsibility to properly upkeep their buildings, including bearing the necessary costs. The community also generally favour mandatory building inspection. On the basis of the consensus, we are consulting the public on the implementation details of a mandatory building inspection scheme. The consultation period will end in mid-March this year.

As regards the proposal to allocate a portion of the revenue from rates for the BD to inspect all private buildings in the territory by stages, since the community generally agree that private building owners should be responsible for proper upkeep of their own buildings including the necessary costs, and that the building conditions vary, the Government consider the suggestion to use public money to inspect buildings across-the-board on behalf of private building owners inappropriate. Moreover, according to Government's policy, the revenue from rates forms part of the Government's General Revenue and will not be allocated to any specific use. Hence, we do not support the above proposal.

Regarding those owners in need, such as the elderly owners without income, the BD, District Offices, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) and the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) have been providing them with financial and technical assistance in carrying out building management and maintenance. The Government will actively consider to provide further assistance to owners in need together with the HKHS and the URA when the mandatory building inspection scheme is implemented.

Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Issued at HKT 15:14

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