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Q&As . Unauthorised Building Works

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  • 1. What are Unauthorised Building Works (UBW)?
  • In general, UBW are: (i) Building works outside a building or additions and alterations inside a building involving the structure of the building, carried out without the prior approval and consent from the Buildings Department (BD); or (ii) minor works carried out without complying with the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Control System under the Buildings Ordinance; or (iii) Addition and alteration works carried out inside a building not involving the structure of the building but do not comply with the building standards laid down for building works in the Building Regulations.
  • 2. What are the common types of UBW?
  • UBW at the exterior of a building (e.g. canopy, supporting frame for air-conditioner, large signboard, UBW on rooftop/podium flat roof/light well/yard), UBW at the interior of a building (e.g. sub-division of a flat which does not comply with the Building Regulations, structural alterations, a metal gate obstructing the means of escape, an opening formed in the staircase enclosure).
  • 3: Who should be appointed for the coordination of alteration and addition works which are not minor works?
  • You are required to appoint an Authorized Person and Registered Structural Engineer (if required) to coordinate the works and prepare building plans for the prior approval and consent from the BD before commencement of the works. You are also required to appoint a Registered General Building Contractor to carry out such alteration and addition works.
  • 4: Is approval from the Buildings Department required for erection of a canopy or supporting frame for air-conditioner on the external walls?
  • They may be carried out under the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Control System without obtaining the prior approval and consent from the BD. Otherwise, even small-scale air-conditioner’s supporting frame would be regarded as UBW.
  • 5: Can we appoint a registered minor works contractor to erect storage cabinets on the roof top?
  • No, such works are not minor works and cannot be carried out by a registered minor works contractor. Prior approval and consent from the BD are required for the erection of prefabricated structures or construction of glass houses on the main roof, podium or open yard of a building. The erection of these structures may result in the permitted gross floor area being exceeded and contravention of related Building Regulations.
  • 6: Do I need to obtain the prior approval of the BD before I remove the walls to create an open kitchen?
  • It depends on the circumstances and you should seek advice from an authorized person. Removal of the enclosing walls of a kitchen may involve structural elements resulting in contravention of the Buildings Ordinance. Such works may also contravene the fire safety requirements if the open kitchen so converted is located near the main exit of the flat which will pose a safety hazard to the occupants of the premises and other occupants of the building.
  • 7: Can green balconies and utility platforms be enclosed?
  • No, green balconies and utility platforms should not be enclosed as it was one of the conditions imposed by the BD when their floor areas were exempted from the gross floor areas calculation. Enclosing such features above parapet height by windows, glass panels, grilles, solid walls or similar features would result in a contravention of the condition of exemption and may therefore contravene the Buildings Ordinance.
  • 8: What are the penalties for carrying out UBW?
  • Carrying out building works without approval is a serious offence under the Buildings Ordinance. The offender is liable on conviction to a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment and a fine of HK$400,000. For continuing offences, there is a further daily fine of HK$20,000.
  • 9: How do I know if there are any UBW in my premises?
  • You may inspect the approved plans, occupation permits and records of the completed minor works at the Building Information Centre of the Buildings Department (Address: Room 1319, 13/F, Pioneer Centre, 750 Nathan Road, Kowloon) or via the “BRAVO” system over the Internet upon application and payment of the prescribed fee. You may also consult building professionals in case of doubt.
  • 10: Will the Buildings Department only take enforcement action against the previous owner who erected the UBW prior to my purchase of the premises?
  • If the UBW still exists, the new owner has to bear all legal liabilities arising from the UBW, including the duty and cost of removing the UBW. You are reminded that owners have the responsibility to ensure that their premises are free from UBW.
  • 11: How do I know if there are any outstanding orders issued by the Buildings Department in respect of a building?
  • You may check against the records kept by Land Registry (Please refer to The Land Registry – Frequently Asked Questions – Search)
  • 12: What should I do if there are UBW in my premises?
  • Owners have the responsibility to ensure that their premises are free from UBW and should take the initiative to arrange for demolition of the UBW in their premises. For UBW erected in the common parts of a building, the co-owners/owners corporation should coordinate for its removal.
  • 13: Can owners retain existing UBW such as drying rack, canopy, supporting frame for air-conditioner etc.?
  • Building owners may join the Household Minor Works Validation Scheme so as to retain three types of minor UBW (i.e. drying racks, canopies and supporting structure/metal frames for air conditioners) prescribed in the Building (Minor Works) Regulations.
  • 14: Can I apply for an extension of time to carry out the works specified in a removal order issued by the BD?
  • You may apply in writing to the BD stating your grounds for an extension of time. However, the BD will not normally accede to such request except in very special cases and you are therefore advised to comply with the orders without delay.
  • 15: What is the consequence of non-compliance with a statutory order?
  • Non-compliance with a statutory order is a criminal offence. The offender is liable on conviction to a maximum penalty of one year's imprisonment and a maximum fine of HK$200,000. The Buildings Department (BD) may arrange for removal of the UBW by the government contractor, and then recover the cost of works plus supervision charge and a surcharge of not exceeding 20% of the cost of works from the owner. The BD may also initiate prosecution action against the owner for not complying with the statutory order.
  • 16: Does the BD provide any financial assistance to owners for removal of UBW?
  • Owners may apply for loans from the BD under the Building Safety Loan Scheme for carrying out UBW removal works voluntarily or for compliance with statutory orders. Enquiry hotline: 2626 1579.
  • 17: Where can I find the registers for registered building professionals and contractors?