Safety checks initiative is news to most owners
Compulsory safety checks on buildings more than 30 years old will be launched this summer - but many of those who will be affected by the checks have never heard of the scheme, a survey found.
Under a mandatory inspection scheme, approved by the Legislative Council last year, owners of older buildings will have to carry out safety inspections every 10 years. Windows on most buildings will have to be checked every five years.
According to a survey by Kowloon West New Dynamic, a group of independent councillors from Sham Shui Po, Yau Tsim Mong and Kowloon City, 71 per cent of homeowners in their areas have never heard of the scheme, while 52 per cent feel it will cause problems for them.
The 853 flat owners interviewed said they were concerned about implementation of the scheme, the difficulty of calling meetings of building representatives and a lack of cash for conducting repairs.
Many run-down buildings do not have an owners' committee and getting in touch with owners of some flats may prove difficult, Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Wong Shu-ming said, as many have left Hong Kong or died.
'If [owners of] such buildings fail to establish an owners' committee, and they are selected to do a mandatory inspection, will flat owners have to bear criminal liability?' Wong asked. She says owners who are willing to pay for improvements must not be penalised along with owners in the same buildings who are not.
The Buildings Department will issue notices of buildings selected for inspection, requiring the owners to inspect common areas, external walls and windows within a specified time. If repairs are needed, owners must appoint contractors and inspectors to supervise them.
Those who fail to comply face fines of up to HK$50,000 and prison sentences of up to one year.
Francis Chong Wing-charn, a member of the group who is also on the panel that will select buildings for inspection, said that the panel had not held any meetings so far.
The government plans to have 2,000 buildings inspections and 3,800 window inspections carried out each year. A Buildings Department spokesman said yesterday that the scheme would be well publicised.
Public concern over the safety of ageing blocks rose after a five-storey tenement collapsed in To Kwa Wan, in 2010, killing four people.
The number of buildings the government found to be in 'dilapidated condition' a year after the 2010 To Kwa Wan tragedy