The developer of the Larvotto residential complex in Ap Lei Chau said yesterday it would replace any windows found to be defective, after two window panes fell out of flats in the luxury development within a week.
Cheerjoy Development, a joint venture which developed the estate, said that Larvotto's apartments were still within the warranty period and the developer would handle the repair and replacement of faulty windows.
However, a spokeswoman said that if the developer were to inspect all windows in the estate this would take time, as it would need the consent of all owners first.
This means that any flat owner who is worried about the safety of his or her windows and who wants them replaced immediately - prior to inspection - could face a bill of up to HK$2 million.
Clifford Berry, director of JAS Limited, which provides independent glass-inspection services, estimated that in a recently built high-rise complex like Larvotto, each window pane would cost between HK$50,000 to HK$70,000 to replace.
The complex comprises 715 flats in nine towers. Flats have floor-to-ceiling windows, and each flat has up to 30 panes.
"The process of determining the legal liability for Larvotto's window defects could take a long time," said Berry, who advised residents to take their safety into their own hands.
"The easiest, most affordable and most logical safety measure would be to put a security film on the glass so that if the glass shatters it will not fall out of the frame," he said. He estimated this would cost about HK$10,000 per pane.
Experts warned that not only the developer but also the flat owners would be held liable if any falling window panes injured passers-by or damaged property.
A resident of Tower 1 said: "I think it is unfortunate that tenants have to take those steps. It should be the responsibility of their developer or owner. But of course I will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of my family, and then I will seek reimbursement for the costs incurred."
A police spokeswoman said police could "arrest residents for endangering the public". She said 383 people had been injured by objects falling from residential buildings since 2010.
In one of two incidents at the Larvotto, a resident was sitting in her flat when she saw a panel from the 31st floor of Tower 1 fall past her window last Wednesday.
In the other, on Sunday, residents from Tower 3 were evacuated from the swimming pool area when a pane fell near the pool. Cheerjoy said the pane fell while it was being replaced.
A spokeswoman for the developer said on Tuesday that it was "highly concerned about the incident", but that "the tempered glass used for the windows and the method of installation fully complied with government standards … at the time of construction".
According to the Buildings Department, any person who carries out building works has a statutory responsibility to ensure glass windows are properly designed and installed.
"Legal action would depend on the situation," said a department spokesperson.
Cheerjoy's Larvotto development is a joint venture of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Kerry Properties and Paliburg Holdings. Kerry Properties is part of the Kerry Group, the controlling shareholder of the SCMP Group, which publishes the South China Morning Post. Sun Hung Kai Properties is the project manager of the Larvotto. Larvotto's website says Chun Fai Construction, the project's main contractor, is a subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties.