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LCQ8: Water seepage/leakage in buildings

Following is a question by the Dr Hon Pan Pey-chyou and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):

Question:

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Buildings Department (BD) set up a Joint Office (JO) in 2006 to handle complaints and enquiries about water seepage in buildings.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of complaint cases received by JO, FEHD and BD from members of the public about water seepage/leakage in residential units in each of the past three years, with a breakdown by the 18 District Council (DC) districts in Hong Kong;

(b) of the procedures for handling cases of water seepage/leakage in residential units at present; the longest and shortest time taken from receipt of each of the complaints to completion of such cases in the past 10 years, with a breakdown by the 18 DC districts in Hong Kong; and the average time needed to complete each procedure;

(c) of the average time taken by JO to handle each case of water seepage/leakage at present; and

(d) among the cases of water seepage/leakage being handled by JO or other government departments at present, of the respective numbers of cases which are being followed up for more than one year, three years and five years, with a breakdown by the 18 DC districts in Hong Kong; and the reasons for failure to complete these cases?

Reply:

President,

There are many different reasons for water seepage/leakage in buildings but, generally speaking, most cases are caused by defective water pipes, sanitary fitments or drainage pipes.  Water seepage/leakage may come from dilapidated pipes in the flats above, in adjacent units or even from inside the same flat.  It may also be due to water seeping through common areas, such as the roof or external walls.  As property owners are responsible for maintaining and managing their buildings, they also have responsibility for resolving any seepage/leakage problems.  Hence, if water seepage/leakage is found inside a private property, the owner should first investigate the cause and, as appropriate, co-ordinate with the occupants and owners concerned for repairs.

Where the water seepage/leakage problem poses a public health nuisance, a risk to the structural safety of the building or water wastage, the Government would step in and take action in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123) or Waterworks Ordinance (Cap 102).  The Joint Office (JO) was set up with staff of the Buildings Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) to tackle such offences through a "one-stop shop" approach.

My reply to the four-part question is as follows:

(a) The number of water seepage/leakage complaints received by the JO during the three years from 2008 to 2010, broken down by the 18 District Council (DC) districts in Hong Kong, is tabulated in Table 1.  The JO does not keep separate statistics for domestic and non-domestic premises.

According to past experience, about 45% of the over 20 000 complaints each year did not involve water seepage/leakage (e.g. involving only water dripping from air conditioners) or did not constitute an actionable case.

(b) The general procedures currently adopted by the JO in handling water seepage/leakage complaints in residential units are as follows. 

* Upon receipt of a water seepage/leakage complaint, JO staff will contact the complainant within 6 working days to arrange a site inspection.

* JO staff will inspect the unit concerned and survey the condition of water seepage/leakage to assess whether the water seepage/leakage constitutes a public health nuisance, a risk to structural safety of the building or wastage of water.

* Where it is established that the case may involve an offence, the JO staff will conduct basic investigation into the cause of the seepage, by inspecting the pipes and sanitary fitments inside the unit and, as necessary, liaising with the occupants of the upper or adjacent units for further tests including, for example, colour water test, water meter flow check, reversible pressure test and moisture content monitoring test, etc.

* In case the source of water seepage/leakage could not be identified through the initial investigation and tests, the JO will arrange for a consultant to conduct further professional tests.  Depending on the circumstances of the individual case, the consultant will employ more in-depth methods to find out the source of water seepage/leakage, including ponding test, water spray test for walls, water meter flow check, reversible pressure test, ponding test for roofs and moisture content monitoring test, etc.

* Once the source of water seepage/leakage is established, the JO will issue a warning letter to the party concerned and request it to arrange for repairs.  If the situation does not improve, the FEHD may issue a Nuisance Notice under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132) to the party concerned requesting it to abate the nuisance within a specified period.  Where the case involves risks to the structural safety of the building or water wastage, the JO would refer it to the Buildings Department or to the Water Supplies Department for follow-up as appropriate.

In relatively straight-forward cases, where the source of water seepage/leakage could be identified by the JO staff during initial site inspection, the case can normally be concluded within a short period of the inspection.  However, for more complicated cases which may, for instance, involve multiple sources or intermittent water seepage/leakage, JO staff will have to conduct different or repeated tests in order to ascertain the cause.  As these tests take time and require full co-operation from the owners/occupants concerned, from experience such cases would on average take about 170 days.  Where vacant units or uncooperative owners/occupants are involved, the JO would have to apply to the court for warrants of entry in order to proceed with investigations.  These cases will take more time.  Since circumstances vary from case to case, the time taken for each stage of investigation may also differ widely.  The JO does not have statistics on the time taken for each separate stage of investigation for individual cases.

(c) As stated above, the time required for processing a case largely depends on the complexity of the case and the co-operation of the parties concerned, in particular the owners and occupants involved.  In general, relatively simple cases can be completed within four weeks.  For more complicated cases and cases involving other occupants, the JO would generally be able to complete the investigations in about 130 days where the parties concerned are fully co-operative.

(d) The JO spares no effort in conducting different professional tests for investigating into the cause and origin of water seepage/leakage.  However, there are still cases where the cause or source of water seepage/leakage cannot be established despite extensive tests conducted.  The number of such cases in the three years from 2008 to 2010, for which investigations had to be terminated, is tabulated in Table 2 with detailed breakdown by the 18 DC districts.

The JO has not compiled statistics on the numbers of cases which remained active for more than one year, three years and five years respectively.  Generally speaking, cases which took more time were mainly those with recurring or intermittent seepage/leakage, which in turn called for more prolonged investigations and monitoring by the JO.


Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:02

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