LCQ19: Water seepage in residential premises

Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan Wai-yip and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 2):


I have received many complaints from members of the public about water seepage from the walls or ceilings of their residential premises.  Although they have lodged complaints repeatedly with and requested assistance from the Water Supplies Department and the Joint Offices (JOs) set up by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Buildings Department, the situation has not improved, which adversely affects their living environment.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the respective numbers of complaints about water seepage in residential premises received by the above departments and JOs in the past three years, and the number of such cases referred to other departments or JOs for follow-up action;

(b) the number of cases referred to in (a) in which the causes of water seepage were found, and whether the authorities have assisted the complainants in solving the problem; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) what new measures the authorities have put in place to help residents solve the problem of water seepage in residential premises?



The Ombudsman pointed out in the "Direct Investigation Report on Handling of Water Seepage Complaints" (the Ombudsman Report) released in early 2008 that "Seepage is basically a matter of building management and maintenance for property owners.  However, if it causes public health nuisance, building safety risks or wastage of water, Government has a statutory responsibility to intervene."  The Government agreed with this view.  The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and Buildings Department (BD) established a Joint Office (JO) in mid-2006 to handle water seepage problems which the Government has a responsibility to intervene.

Regarding the three parts of the questions, my reply is as follows:

(a) The JO provides "one-stop" service to the public and coordinates the work of the FEHD, BD and Water Supplies Department in handling water seepage complaints.  The JO effects internal coordination and communication and centralises the handling of water seepage complaints from the public.  As such, the Office does not have to further refer the complaints to other departments for follow-up action.

The JO does not separately maintain statistics for residential buildings.  Nevertheless, we believe the vast majority of water seepage complaints are from residential buildings.  The table below shows the statistics of all water seepage complaints received by the JO in the past three years –

2007 2008 2009
(Jan to Oct)
--------- --------- ---------
17 405 21 717 18 196

(b)  Other relevant statistics in respect of the years included in the table in part (a) are as follows –

  2007 2008 2009
(Jan to Oct)
  --------- --------- ---------
Cases for which the need for JO's action is confirmed (Note) 7 025 9 564 8 296
Cases in which the causes of water seepage were found 3 246 4 476 3 984

(Note):  The JO has prescribed standards and requirements for the investigation of sources of water seepage.  Some water seepage complaints received do not involve public health nuisance, building structural safety or wastage of water, and hence do not fall within the scope of follow-up action under the statutory authority of the JO.  There are also cases where the complaints are falsified, seepage has stopped or complainants have withdrawn their complaints such that the JO would not continue with the investigations.

If the JO's investigation result reveals that a water seepage problem involves public health nuisance, building structural safety or wastage of water, the JO and relevant government departments will take enforcement action under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) (PHMSO), Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) or Waterworks Ordinance (Cap. 102), so as to assist the complaint to follow up with a view to curbing the sources of water seepage.

(c) The Government's objective of establishing the JO is to, through the provision of "one-stop" service, handle more effectively water seepage problems which the Government has a responsibility to intervene.  The JO reviews its modus operandi from time to time, with a view to improving efficiency and assisting the public to resolve water seepage problems more effectively.  Based on the results of the interim review concerning the modus operandi of the Office and the recommendations in the Ombudsman Report, the JO has implemented various improvement measures, including issuing clearer internal guidelines for investigation, establishing milestones to monitor the progress of various stages of investigation, issuing clearer internal circulars for deciding whether to exercise power of entry under the PHMSO, enhancing information processing and communications within the various units of the JO, etc.  The JO has also issued clearer guidelines and performance milestones to the consultants it hired for investigation of water seepage and standardised the format of documents.  It will also formulate criteria and guidelines for the Office to take over from consultants the investigation of cases that are with serious delay.  The JO will continue to review its operation in order to further improve its services to the public.

Ends/Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:01