Wider powers to enter and inspect flats

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 October, 2010, 12:00am

Buildings officers will have the power to enter and inspect a flat if they suspect illegal alterations or subdivisions have been made, under a new plan.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said it was difficult for officers to enforce the current Buildings Ordinance, which allowed them to break into premises with a police officer only if there was a clear sign of imminent danger. The work was often frustrated by owners who refused to grant entry.

'We propose to amend the law so that in future officers can apply to the court for a warrant to investigate and inspect maintenance work,' the minister said. Such inspections should especially target subdivided flats or those suspected to have illegal internal alterations, she said.

The Institute of Surveyors welcomed the plan but said lawmakers should strike a balance between building safety and owners' privacy.

The plan is part of a series of measures to improve building safety after a building collapsed in To Kwa Wan in January, killing four people.

The Buildings Department has also proposed regulating work on subdivided flats, common in old buildings in old districts such as Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po and Shau Kei Wan. Such flats are popular with new migrants and single people.

In future, property owners will have to use qualified contractors to carry out work such as installing solid walls and plumbing for toilets and thickening floor slabs to cover such plumbing.

There is no oversight of such work at present, which sometimes results in overloading and water seepage.

The department will also propose making it an offence for owners to refuse to pay their share of repair costs in common areas.

The department, which would first pay the owner's share, would recover the cost plus a 20 per cent surcharge from the owner.