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LCQ20: Sub-division of flat units

     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 1):


     In the discussion paper on alteration works in respect of sub-division of flat units (commonly known as "sub-divided units") submitted to the Subcommittee on Building Safety and Related Issues under the Panel on Development of this Council, the Development Bureau advised that it was conducting a comprehensive review of the building safety policy, including the policy of enforcement against sub-divided units.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether, before the completion of the aforesaid review, individual property owners who wish to carry out works to sub-divide their residential units can apply to the Buildings Department on an individual basis; if they can, of the number of such applications received in the past three years, and among them, the respective numbers of approved and rejected applications; and

(b) of the existing criteria adopted by the Buildings Department in determining whether or not to approve an application for works to sub-divide a flat unit?



     In general, "sub-division of flat units" (commonly known as "sub-divided units") refers to the sub-division of a flat unit into two or more individual units for sale or letting purposes.  Each individual unit is usually self-contained with a toilet, and some even have self-contained pantries/kitchens.  The works for sub-dividing a unit into individual self-contained units commonly involve knocking down of the original non-structural partition walls, construction of new non-structural partition walls, installation of new toilets, alteration or addition of internal water pipes and drainage systems for the additional toilets, as well as raising of floors to accommodate new/diverted pipes and drains, etc.

     The reply to the two-part question is as follows:

(a) Under section 41(3) and 41(3A) of the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123) (BO), certain building works and drainage works that do not involve the structure of a building can be carried out in existing buildings without prior application to the Building Authority (BA) and obtaining his approval.  For example, the construction of non-structural partition walls is such kind of exempted works.  However, such additional partition walls should still comply with the building standards stipulated under the building regulations, including not causing overloading to the building and not affecting the means of fire escape.

     According to the requirements of the BO, if the works involved in the alteration or addition are not exempted works as mentioned above, the owner should appoint an authorised person (AP) to submit an application to the Buildings Department (BD) and only commence the relevant works after obtaining the BA's approval and consent.  Upon full implementation of the Minor Works Control System (MWCS) on December 31, 2010, owners can follow the simplified requirements to engage APs and/or registered contractors to carry out works that belong to the category of minor works without obtaining the BA's prior approval.

     The BD does not have statistical breakdown of cases of works concerning sub-division of flat units.  Nevertheless, from November 1, 2007 to October 31, 2010, the Department received some 5,200 applications involving building plans on alteration and addition works.  These applications include various kinds of alteration and addition works (including works for sub-division of units) in existing buildings.  Amongst these applications, around 4,500 cases and 540 cases have been approved and disapproved respectively.  The some 160 remaining applications are being processed.

(b) All building works, including works involved in sub-division of units and irrespective of whether they are exempted works, have to comply with the building standards stipulated under the BO and its subsidiary regulations, which include standards on structure of buildings, fire safety, means of escape, ventilation, lighting and drainage system.  If the proposed works, pursuant to the requirements of legislation, require prior approval and consent of the BA, approval will be granted only if the building plans submitted by the AP appointed by the owner prove that the design and construction of the works concerned comply with the aforementioned building standards.  In carrying out minor works, the relevant building professionals and/or registered contractors should also ensure that the works comply with the requirements of the BO and its subsidiary regulations.

     The MWCS, which is to be commenced shortly, has already designated an item of works commonly encountered in sub-division of flat units (i.e. drainage works within internal flat units) as minor works.  In accordance with the measures for enhancing building safety announced in the Chief Executive's 2010-11 Policy Address (i.e. the outcome of the comprehensive review of building safety as mentioned in the question), we plan to expand the coverage of the MWCS to include other works that are common features of sub-divided flats, such as installation of solid non-structural partition walls and thickening of floor slabs, under the control of the system.  By then, owners will have to engage building professionals and/or registered contractors to carry out the works.  This will enhance the safety level as well as quality of the works.

Ends/Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:51


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