First conviction under Minor Works Control System
An unregistered contractor and director were fined a total sum of $68,000 by the Eastern Magistrates' Court on April 17, for carrying out minor works and unauthorised building works (UBW), a spokesman of the Buildings Department (BD) announced today (April 26). This is the first prosecution case in connection with the carrying out of minor works since the full implementation of the Minor Works Control System on December 31, 2010.
In response to a report from the public on UBW associated with the subdivision of flats, inspections conducted by staff of the BD revealed that openings had formed on the structural concrete beams and drainage works were being carried out on a building in Tai Wai, Sha Tin. The formation of openings in structural beams was caused by structural alteration works which should only be carried out with the prior approval of plans and consent for commencement of the works from the Building Authority. Carrying out structural alteration works without prior approval of plans are contrary to section 14(1) of the Buildings Ordinance (BO) (Cap. 123) and commits an offence under section 40(1AA). The carrying out of such works may be dangerous and in contravention of section 40(2B)(b) of the BO. The drainage works, being minor works, were required to be carried out by a prescribed registered contractor, otherwise an offence is committed under section 40(2G) of the BO.
The BD revealed that no application for the formation of openings at the structural concrete beams or submission of documents related to the drainage works according to the simplified requirements for the carrying out of minor works under the Minor Works Control System were received. The contractor responsible for the minor works above is not on any of the contractor's registers of the Building Authority. The BD thus instigated prosecution against the contractor and its director for the relevant offences under section 40(1AA), 40(2B)(b) and 40(2G) of the BO. They were convicted and fined by the court a total sum of $68,000 in April 2012.
The Minor Works Control System aims to facilitate building owners in carrying out small-scale building works safely in private buildings lawfully through simplified statutory procedures. It is a serious offence for any person other than a prescribed registered contractor (i.e. a registered general building contractor or a registered minor works contractor) to carry out minor works. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine at level six (at present $100,000), imprisonment for six months and a further fine of $ 5,000 for each day that the offence has continued.
The person who arranges for the carrying out of the minor works commits an offence if he knowingly fails to appoint a prescribed registered contractor and/or prescribes a building professional for such works. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine at level six. Moreover, the property owners should employ a qualified person to carry out the rectification works. It is therefore in the interest of the property owners themselves to employ a prescribed building professional and prescribed registered contractor for the carrying out of minor works. The lists of registered contractors are available on the BD website www.bd.gov.hk. Property owners should request the contractor to be appointed to prove whether he is a qualified registered contractor, the spokesman added.
In addition, the BD is devoted to tackling building safety problems in sub-divided flats. The BD commenced a large scale operation in April 2011 to inspect sub-divided flats at 150 buildings annually. If irregularities of the building works associated with the sub-division of flats are found, the BD will issue statutory orders to require the owners concerned to conduct rectification works. The target has been increased to 200 buildings from April this year. In view of the higher potential fire risks posed by hawker pitches to neighbouring old buildings, the BD has specifically increased the number of domestic/composite buildings to be inspected in 2012 to 340, with a focus on inspecting sub-divided flats inside old style domestic/composite buildings in close proximity to hawker pitches.
The Administration is planning to include building works associated with the sub-division of flats under the Minor Works Control System, e.g. the erection of non-loadbearing partition walls and the thickening of floor screeding inside the unit, in order to ensure that the works are carried out in compliance with the safety standards under the BO. The Administration is striving to complete the legislative amendment procedures in the current legislative session. Upon implementation of the proposal, owners should appoint a prescribed registered contractor and/or prescribed building professional for such works.
"Unauthorised building works may adversely affect the structural and fire safety of a building leading to serious consequences. Building owners should seek professional advice before carrying out any building works in their premises", the spokesman stressed.
Ends/Thursday, April 26, 2012