Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 7):
Recently, quite a number of property owners sought my assistance, saying that they had received promotional mails from private works companies which claimed that the Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS) was applicable to buildings over 10 years old and that such companies could offer free services for inspection of aluminium windows. Upon inspection, the personnel from such companies advised them that, in order to comply with the law, the aluminium windows concerned needed to be repaired and they recommended maintenance and repair plans costing over $10,000. After making enquiries with the Buildings Department (BD), staff of my office have found that the personnel who conducted the window inspections were not Qualified Persons (QPs). Under MWIS, BD will issue pre-notification letters to the Owners' Corporations (OCs) of target buildings and then one to two months later issue statutory notices to the owners requiring them to carry out window inspection. The aforesaid owners suspect that someone have tried to reap money by misleading members of the public. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the targets of BD's publicity on MWIS; whether it has assessed if there is adequate publicity targeting at the elderly and those who do not have the habit of Internet browsing;
(b) given that the second phase of MWIS's publicity programme has been launched in May 2012, whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the programme, and whether it will further step up publicity;
(c) apart from providing the registers of QPs and registered contractors under MWIS on BD's web site and in its office at Mongkok, whether the Government will increase the number of locations where such registers are placed for inspection by the elderly and those who do not have the habit of Internet browsing;
(d) whether the Government will consider formulating guidelines on charges for window inspection and repair items for the reference of owners and OCs; and
(e) whether the Government will follow up and investigate the aforesaid cases, including monitoring the situation where window inspections are not conducted by QPs; whether it will penalise persons who contravene the regulations concerned, and of the penalty provisions?
The Buildings Department (BD) fully implemented the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS) and the Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS) on June 30, 2012 to handle the problem of building neglect at source. The MBIS and the MWIS cover all private buildings aged 30 years or above and 10 years or above respectively, except domestic buildings not exceeding three storeys in height. Under the MBIS, building owners are required, within a specified timeframe, to carry out a prescribed inspection and a prescribed repair found necessary of the common parts, external walls, projections and signboards of the building once every 10 years. Under the MWIS, building owners are required, within a specified timeframe, to carry out a prescribed inspection and a prescribed repair found necessary of the windows in the building once every 5 years.
Under the Buildings Ordinance (BO), only when building owners are served with a statutory notice for mandatory building and/or window inspection by the BD would they have the statutory obligation to arrange for a prescribed inspection and prescribed repair found necessary of their buildings and/or windows after the inspection. However, it is the responsibility of all building owners to ensure proper maintenance and safety of their buildings, including carrying out regular inspections and timely repairs. Therefore, apart from complying with a statutory notice for mandatory building and/or window inspection served by the BD, owners should arrange for inspections and repairs for their buildings and/or windows as necessary. If an owner is served with a statutory notice for mandatory building and/or window inspection by the BD, he and the registered inspector (RI), the qualified person (QP) and the registered contractor appointed by him must carry out the inspection schemes according to the requirements of the BO and the Building (Inspection and Repair) Regulation. The BD will select target buildings for the MBIS and the MWIS at quarterly intervals and issue statutory notices to the owners/owners' corporation (OC) of the target buildings. Where necessary, owners may call the BD hotline to check if their buildings have been selected for the MBIS and the MWIS.
In respect of buildings selected for the MWIS only, the BD will issue a pre-notification letter to the OC or post the letter at a conspicuous part of the target building to alert the owners/OC to get prepared and organised. One to two months after the issuance or posting of the pre-notification letter, the BD will issue statutory notices to the owners/OC of the target building. The owners/OC should appoint a QP within three months, and complete the prescribed inspection and repair (if necessary) within six months, from the date of the statutory notice. An extra three months will be allowed for owners of target buildings without an OC to organise and arrange the required inspection and repair works under the MWIS.
My reply to the five-part question is as follows:
(a) & (b) To enhance public awareness of the MBIS and the MWIS, the BD has launched a publicity programme in two phases. In the first phase, an Announcement in Public Interest (API) was launched in mid-February 2012, which mainly served to publicise the registration of RIs. The API was broadcast on all television and radio stations, as well as public transport vehicles including buses and railways. In the second phase, which began in early May 2012, the BD launched a dedicated webpage on its website containing detailed information on the two inspection schemes for public reference. Other publicity materials including another set of API targeting at the requirements of the two inspection schemes, leaflets, general guidelines, posters and outdoor advertisements were launched in late June 2012 to publicise the full implementation of the schemes. The publicity leaflets have also been uploaded onto the BD's website and made available at the BD offices and the Public Enquiry Service Centres in various districts for public information. Moreover, since the first phase, the BD has all along been actively involved in seminars organised by various professional organisations, District Offices, District Councils, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS), the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), property management companies and individual housing estates, with a view to further promoting the MBIS and the MWIS in the community. The BD has also invited the elderly to seminars through social welfare organisations in the community to strengthen the support to the elderly.
The BD is now rolling out the second phase of the above promotion and publicity programme at full scale and will review its effectiveness from time to time. Adjustments will be made to the strategies to achieve better outcomes as appropriate.
(c) According to the BO, a QP appointed to carry out the prescribed inspection or supervision of the prescribed repair for windows under the MWIS shall be a person whose name is currently on one of the following registers kept by the Building Authority: Authorised Persons; Registered Structural Engineers; RIs; Registered General Building Contractors (RGBCs); Registered Minor Works Contractors (RMWCs) or RMWCs (Provisional) registered for the class, type and item of minor works in respect of windows. The various registers mentioned above and a list of QPs are available on the BD's website for inspection. Members of the public, including the elderly, may also visit the BD offices, the Property Management Advisory Centres of the HKHS and the Urban Renewal Resource Centre of the URA for enquiries.
(d) The cost of professional services for window inspection and repair varies with such factors as the number of windows in the building, their sizes and conditions of maintenance and repair, and the prevailing market conditions of the trade. The availability of about 10 000 RGBCs and RMWCs or RMWCs (Provisional) registered for the class, type and item of minor works in respect of windows that provide window inspection and repair services at present should be sufficient to provide a level playing field in the market. Owners/OCs may obtain quotations from different registered contractors for reference and comparison.
(e) Under the MWIS, QPs are required to carry out the prescribed inspection personally and to provide proper supervision for any prescribed repair found necessary of the window during the inspection so as to ensure that the repaired window is safe. Upon completion of the inspection or repair, the QP is required to submit a certificate in the specified form to the BD for record and audit check for the purpose of effective control.
According to the Building (Inspection and Repair) Regulation, if the QP is a general building contractor or minor works contractor registered as a company, the representative of the QP must carry out the window inspection personally and the representative must also be the authorised signatory of the contractor. Any QP who contravenes the provision commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $250,000.
Under the BO, any person other than a QP who, without reasonable excuse, certifies a prescribed inspection or certifies or supervises a prescribed repair, in respect of a window in a building commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine at level 6 (a maximum fine of $100,000) and to imprisonment for six months; and to a fine of $5,000 for each day during which it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that the offence has continued.
Regarding the case raised in the question, the BD is taking follow-up action. In the event that there are suspected irregularities by any person or contractor, prosecution and/or disciplinary action pursuant to the BO will be considered.
Ends/Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:54