Costly checks in older Hong Kong buildings could be cheaper with more inspectors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 10:09pm

Under the mandatory building inspection scheme, owners of buildings aged 30 years or more are required to appoint a registered inspector to carry out a prescribed inspection and supervise whatever repair works are deemed necessary.

There are a lot of these older buildings in the city where these mandatory inspections must be done. But there is a shortage of registered inspectors and so the cost of these inspections has risen. This puts a tremendous financial burden on building owners.

Some are not well-off and cannot afford to pay for the inspection, but the Buildings Department has turned a blind eye to their plight. It just keeps sending inspection notices. It is clearly time for a discussion and review of this mandatory building inspection scheme.

Of course, a dilapidated building with bits of concrete falling off from high floors poses a significant threat to public safety and action is needed. In such cases, the department should put pressure on building owners to do the necessary repairs without delay. But, the government must be willing to help when the financial burden is too great for the owners.

Also, it should set up a dedicated authority to combat improper market practices such as bid-rigging by inspectors, to safeguard the interests of building owners and ensure a level playing field.

It is also necessary to revamp the registration system of registered inspectors.

Under the current system, professionals such as architects and engineers can apply to become registered inspectors. But people with extensive experience in related trades and professions should also be eligible to apply, subject to a thorough assessment to ensure they are suitable.

This can address the problem of the shortage of registered inspectors and curb the rising costs of the inspections.

Goldman Chan, Sham Shui Po