Penalties for illegal building may treble
By LOUIS WON
THE Buildings Department has proposed a more than threefold increase in penalties for carrying out unauthorised building work.
A department spokesman said it had reviewed penalties contained in the Buildings Ordinance and submitted its proposals for increases to the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch.
It wants the maximum fine for failing to comply with orders issued by the Buildings Department to increase from $50,000 to $150,000.
It also proposed increasing the maximum fines for carrying out building work without the consent of the department by at least three times.
The fines currently stand at $100,000 plus a further $5,000 each day the offence continues.
A threefold increase in fines for causing a danger to lives and property is also recommended. The maximum fines stand at $250,000 plus $50,000 a day.
However, the department has not proposed increasing jail terms for these offences.
The proposals follow a department report on the August collapse of a heavily corroded canopy in Aberdeen that killed an 80-year-old woman and injured 12 other people.
At yesterday's Legislative Council planning, lands and works panel meeting, the Director of Buildings, Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping, said more than 140 unauthorised works were found in the premises.
She said the illegal structures included flower stands, canopies and iron cages.
Mrs Yu said all owners or occupiers were told to remove the structures or face enforcement orders.
She said the department had found 73 buildings in the territory constructed by the same architect or contractor.
Preliminary checks have been carried out on the sites, with the Buildings Department reporting that they posed no danger to the public. More in-depth checks are to be carried out on those with canopies.
A call by legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip for the department to identify the 73 sites was rejected by Mrs Yu.
A reassurance was made, however, that she would consider informing the residents and owners of the buildings that they were constructed or designed by the same companies responsible for the building in Aberdeen.
'I sympathise with her statement that identifying the sites might affect the reputation of the owners,' Mr Chan said after the meeting.
'But we are talking about safety. Saying she will consider informing the residents is a step, though, and I am glad to hear that they are doing more in-depth studies on the buildings with canopies.' The Hong Kong Concrete Repair Association has called for better checks on all parts of the buildings, not just the canopies. This includes rear staircases and balconies.
'All cantilever structures should be checked using proper measuring equipment,' said association chairman Trevor Gregory.
A Buildings Department investigation of the collapsed canopy in Aberdeen revealed none of the steel was fixed properly. This had put undue stress on the structure which led to the concrete cracking and the steel corroding.