Proposed tough new safety measures will require owners to pay for safety checks and repairs Owners of 13,000 private blocks will have to pay for mandatory inspections of their buildings under a series of measures proposed by the government to improve the condition of the city's ageing housing stock. Unveiling the proposals yesterday, Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said mandatory checks would be carried out every seven years on buildings older than 30 years and more than three storeys high. The government has started a public consultation on the proposals and hopes to move a bill through the Legislative Council in 2007. Mr Suen said that about 2,000 buildings each year would be targeted. Eventually, buildings that are 10 years or older may be required to have inspections. Hong Kong has 1,700 inspectors authorised to carry out checks on buildings. Those owners who fail to comply with mandatory inspections could be fined $50,000 or imprisoned for one year, in line with the current penalty under the Buildings Ordinance. If the government is forced to appoint its own inspectors, due to failure of the owners to do so, those owners will also be charged a surcharge on top of the inspection and repair costs. A separate scheme to implement checks on windows, following a recent spate of windows falling and injuring members of the public, is also being proposed. It involves inspections every three years on windows in buildings that are five years or older. People who fail to inspect their windows may face a fixed-penalty fine, similar to anti-littering fines. The government estimated that the cost of inspecting buildings would range from $20,000 to $35,000, with each flat required to pay from $400 to $2,000, or about $800 on average per household. Legislators at a housing panel meeting at the Legislative Council yesterday queried how the inspections could be implemented when often the owners live outside Hong Kong and many buildings do not have housing corporations nor management companies. Mr Suen responded that the Hong Kong Housing Society and the Urban Renewal Authority were offering financial and technical support to owners and the proposed measures were 'a good opportunity to encourage them to set up owners' corporations'. Deputy Secretary of Housing, Planning and Lands Olivia Nip said more than 50 per cent of the affected buildings already had owners' corporations. Peter Cookson Smith, director of planning at design consultancy Urbis, said mandatory inspections would help those 'who had slipped through the net'. 'People are living in appalling conditions in some areas but often these are the most interesting and exciting parts of Hong Kong. We want to preserve these areas and this scheme is a good way of ensuring we do.' A spokesman for the Urban Renewal Authority said: 'We believe this would be a move in the right direction for Hong Kong in searching for an effective long-term solution to address the long-standing and increasingly serious problem of building neglect and disrepair particularly in the old districts.' Loans would be made available from the Urban Renewal Authority and the Buildings Department to help poorer owners pay for the inspections and subsequent repairs.