The demolition of part of the main wall during the renovation of a unit in the capital of Sunrise Cannes in Tseung Kwan O has aroused the concern of other residents and netizens about whether it will affect the structural safety of the building. The Buildings Department (BD) issued a press release tonight (29th) in response to the incident, pointing out that the unit had violated the rules, including the removal of a 720mm thick structural wall about 2150mm wide and 200mm high to install a new door. The Department is conducting a full investigation into whether the incident has contravened the Buildings Ordinance and, depending on the investigation, will take punitive action against the person concerned, including criminal prosecution. Barrister Lok Wai-hung dissected the issue of criminal liability in the incident, pointing out that it is necessary to first understand who is the "initiator" in order to determine who is more responsible.

The designer of the unit involved appeared in an interview in the film after the completion of the renovation to talk about the design concept. (Screenshot of online clip)

In the current project of removing part of the main wall of the unit, the owner involved or the person in charge of the project has a greater potential criminal liability? When Luk Wai-hung was interviewed by Hong Kong 01, he analyzed similar cases, not to decide responsibility as the person involved, but to see who was the "initiator" of the idea. He explained that the average owner may not know which is a structural wall in the flat, and it is up to the construction company or project judge who is more familiar with the structure of the unit and has plans to provide advice, so it is "incumbent" for the engineers or the judge to make designs or provide decoration suggestions according to the plan.

Buildings Department officers were present to find out. (Photo by Huang Xuerun)

Mr Luk believes that the Buildings Department will investigate who proposed the demolition of the structural wall in question, who implemented the proposal to demolish the wall, and then decide whether prosecution is required, or who is to prosecute, without excluding that both the owner and the person in charge of the project will be held accountable. Based on the idea that "the owner does not know what he wants to demolish is the structural wall of the unit", he proposed two hypothetical scenarios for further explanation:

Situation 1: If the owner proposes to demolish the wall, and the person in charge of the project fails to stop it, and acts directly according to the requirements, the person in charge of the project who knows that the wall is a structural wall is more likely to be liable; The owner has no criminal intent because he does not know, so the probability of being prosecuted is lower.

Situation 2: After the owner proposes to demolish the wall, the person in charge of the project indicates that the structural wall cannot be demolished, but the owner still insists on demolishing the wall, or even expresses his own responsibility, then in addition to the responsibility of the person in charge of the project, the owner who has already known is also responsible, and both parties may be prosecuted.

Barrister Luk Wai-hung dismantled the issue of responsibility in the demolition of the main wall in the capital unit of Cannes this day. (Profile picture)

Other owners can theoretically claim if the unit is cracked or strengthen the claim base

On the issue of compensation, Mr Luk said that in theory, the owners of other units could claim compensation from the owners or project managers of the units concerned because they suffered losses in the current wall demolition incident, but in practice the losses were difficult to quantify and therefore it was also difficult. As the Buildings Department has indicated that the overall building structure is not dangerous after the inspection, and the units are already undergoing reinforcement works to improve the damage, even if the prices of other flats fell after the wall demolition incident was exposed, it is still difficult to prove that the decline in property prices is related to the wall demolition incident, so it is more difficult to claim compensation on this ground.

Some workers moved the fixed bracket to the unit involved. (Provided by Zhang Zhidong, former Chairman of Sunrise Kangcheng Capital Industry Committee)

However, Mr Luk advised the owners of other flats in the building to pay close attention to developments, such as "keeping an eye out for cracks in the lower wall" or unusual stone peeling, which would strengthen the basis for claims.

If the owner of another unit does intend to make a claim, Luk Wai-hung pointed out that he will generally claim compensation from the owner of the unit concerned, because the owner at least "has a floor and a brick hand", and the claimant can require him to sell the building for compensation, even if the other party does not sell the building, he can also "nail the deed"; Although the claimant can apply for bankruptcy without compensation, bankruptcy is not a child's play or a trivial matter, because it will affect the credibility of a lifetime, even if the bankruptcy period is over, it may still be because the credit history has deteriorated, ranging from buying a property for a mortgage, taking out a loan from a bank, or applying for a credit card, which may not be accepted by the bank. It is not unreasonable to claim against the engineering company, but once the company is wound up, there is no more target for claim, so fewer people will claim compensation from the engineering company.

In responding to the incident tonight (29th), the Buildings Department confirmed that the unit involved had committed irregularities, including the removal of a 720mm thick structural wall about 2 mm wide and 150,200 mm high between the living room and the bedroom to install a new door. Under the Buildings Ordinance, the Buildings Department has issued a statutory order to the owners of the units concerned to require the appointed authorized person to submit repair proposals (including assessment of the impact of the changes on the overall building structure), building works plans and to repair the affected parts with the approval and consent of the Buildings Department.

The unit was originally designed as a three-bedroom, and the designer opened the three-bedroom corridor and changed it into a large master suite and cloakroom, and the master door was also relocated, so the designer pierced a wall between the living room and the bedroom and changed it to a door. (Online video screenshot)

The Buildings Department indicated that after inspecting the upper and lower units of the units concerned, officers concluded that the overall building structure was not dangerous and learned that the owners had taken the initiative to arrange for the contractor to install temporary support under the beams of the new door. The Department will continue to follow up seriously to ensure proper compliance with the statutory orders, and has launched a comprehensive investigation into any breach of the Buildings Ordinance, and will take punitive action (including criminal prosecution) against the person concerned based on the outcome of the investigation.

According to the Buildings Ordinance, any construction works (including additions and alterations) involving private buildings, unless the requirements of section 41(3) of the Buildings Ordinance are exempt from approval or minor works can be carried out through the simplified requirements of the Minor Works Regulatory Regime, the person concerned should appoint an authorized person in accordance with section 14 of the Buildings Ordinance to submit plans to the Buildings Department and the plans can be carried out only after the plans have been approved and consent has been obtained to commence the works; The work involving the demolition of part of the structural wall is not exempt from approval and is not a minor work. Such works involving structural walls that are not approved by the Buildings Department will be regarded as illegal construction works.

A spokesman for the Buildings Department emphasised that it is the responsibility of owners to ensure that their buildings are free of illegal structures and that illegal construction works are not carried out. If you wish to carry out building additions or alterations, you should first seek advice from a building professional, including the feasibility of the works, and apply to the Buildings Department for approval of the building plans and consent as necessary before commencing the works, so as to ensure safety and not contravene the Buildings Ordinance. Construction professionals and contractors are also required to review the plans and other relevant documents in detail, as well as review the relevant requirements of the Buildings Ordinance and whether approval is required from the Buildings Department before proceeding with the relevant works to ensure the safety of occupants and building structures.

Carrying out construction work without permission is a serious offence under the Buildings Ordinance with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment and a fine of $40,100. Commits an offence if the works are carried out in such a way as to cause or substantial danger of injury to any person or damage to any property, and on conviction is punishable by imprisonment for three years and a fine of $<> million.

Any person who fails to comply with a statutory order issued by the Department without reasonable excuse is liable on conviction to a fine of $20,2 and imprisonment for one year, and to a fine of $<>,<> for each day the offence continues.

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