Alteration and addition works must comply with the law

In response to media enquiries concerning addition works on top of a rooftop of a private house located in Tai Po, the Buildings Department (BD) reiterated today (May 19) that all alteration and addition works of existing buildings must comply with the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123) (the Ordinance).

The BD is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Ordinance, which provides for the planning, design and construction of buildings and associated works on private land for compliance with building safety and health standards.

A spokesman for the BD reminded members of the public that except for exempted building works as stipulated in the Ordinance, building owners wishing to carry out alteration and addition works to their buildings should appoint an authorised person and, where necessary, a registered structural engineer to prepare and submit plans of the works for the requisite approval and consent of the Building Authority (BA) under the Ordinance before the carrying out of the works. The approved alteration and addition works are required to be carried out by a registered contractor.

Regarding the case enquired about by the media, the BD confirmed that the subject private house is not one of the New Territories village houses exempted under the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap 121). The house is subject to the control of the Ordinance but no approval has been granted by the BA for the reported rooftop structure works. BD staff today inspected the house to ascertain whether the subject rooftop structure was constructed in contravention of the Ordinance. The spokesman said that appropriate enforcement actions would be taken in accordance with the Ordinance in light of the site inspection results.

"According to a media report today, the private house owner quoted a Court of Appeal judgment to support his view that the works carried out to the rooftop of his house were carried out 'in the building' and thus were exempted building works.

 "It is noted that the Court of Appeal judgment had subsequently been overturned by the Court of Final Appeal, which held that the works in that case, which were carried out on the roof of the subject building, were 'on' the building but not 'in' the building," the BD spokesman said.

 "According to the provisions of section 41(3) of the Ordinance, building works other than drainage works, ground investigation in the scheduled areas, site formation works or minor works carried out in any building are exempted from the requirement for approval from the BA if the works do not involve the structure of the building. As regards the erection of any structure on the rooftop of an existing building in particular, the BA does not regard them as building works carried out in the building and, therefore, such rooftop structures erected without the prior approval of the BA are unauthorised building works (UBW) subject to enforcement under the Ordinance," the spokesman for the BD explained.

"Moreover, even if the building works satisfy the criteria under section 41(3) of the Ordinance and can be carried out without prior approval of the BA, the works concerned would have to comply with the building standards stipulated in the regulations made under the Ordinance. Otherwise, they will also be UBW subject to enforcement under the Ordinance."

"Illegal rooftop structures are always the target of enforcement action. Commensurate with the safety risks they pose, a special enforcement operation had been mounted since 2001 to remove illegal rooftop structures on some 5 370 single-staircase buildings exceeding three storeys.  Newly constructed UBW or unauthorised works in progress are also accorded priority in enforcement actions. In addition, since April 2011, under a package of measures to promote building safety in Hong Kong, the BD has extended enforcement to all actionable UBW including those on rooftops, flat roofs, yards and lanes of buildings irrespective of their level of risk to public safety and whether they are new or existing ones," the BD spokesman added.

In explaining the enhanced building safety measures to the Legislative Council Panel on Development earlier this year, the Administration undertook to actively respond to complaints and issue statutory removal orders against all actionable UBW. To create the needed deterrent effect, BD will more readily instigate prosecution actions and, where necessary, arrange removal of the UBWs when the owners fail to comply with statutory orders issued.

Ends/Thursday, May 19, 2011
Issued at HKT 19:13