It may be time for officials to revise outdated regulations on illegal structures
Over the past few months we have been inundated with a litany of transgressions of the Building Department's laws and codes committed by many top government officials, including our just-retired chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Now, it is apparent that even our new Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, broke the building code, despite his assurance he did not during his election campaign.
Mr Tsang and Mr Leung talked about having hired experts to ensure alterations to their properties complied with building regulations.
No experts are required. My advice is for people to make a quick call to the Buildings Department to clear up any doubts about an alteration to a structure. If the department does not approve it, then it is illegal.
Two reasons come to mind why such a large number of officials would break the law.
One could be that these high officials regard themselves as above the law. However, I believe it could also be that they regard the department's rules as being too intrusive and perhaps outdated.
Any modification, even the most minor, needs to be drawn by an architect and no work can take place unless approved by the department.
This process can take anywhere from a few months to years. And work can only be done by the department's approved contractors.
The problem is that minor modifications are just too small for architects and contractors to take on.
Big-money work may need a similar approval time span, and so, because of economy of scale, contractors and architects only take on those projects.
Perhaps the department's regulations are too intrusive, outdated and bureaucratic and need to be modified. They date back to the early years of post-war Hong Kong which, thanks to a huge influx of mainland migrants, had many illegal shanty towns, added floors and makeshift rooftop dwellings.
Our city has come a long way since that post-war period.
Is it too much to ask officials to change the outdated laws and building codes and work out a solution that would be safe to the public and allow property owners to reasonably modify and upgrade their homes?
Officials at the highest level would seem to share this view given their notorious non-compliance with the building laws.
Marian Schneps, Wan Chai