Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Home Affairs
Meeting on 23 March 1998
Building Management and Fire Prevention
This paper addresses the issues raised in the letter of 17 February 1998 from the Clerk to Provisional Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs to the Secretary for Home Affairs. The issues are -
- establishment of a Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety;
- mandatory formation of owners' corporations (OCs) in private buildings;
- Government's response to the Hon CHAN Choi-hi's suggestions enclosed in the above letter; and
- drafting and enforcement of Deeds of Mutual Covenant (DMCs) and their relation to the Building Management Ordinance (BMO).
2.Following the recent tragic fire incidents, the Administration has actively been considering a package of new measures to promote fire safety. Towards this direction, a Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety and District Fire Safety Committees have been established.
Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety
3. The Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety held its inaugural meeting on 11 March 1998. The Committee is chaired by the Secretary for Home Affairs. Its membership comprises the Secretary for Security; Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands; Director of Home Affairs; Director of Fire Services; Director of Buildings; Director of Information Services and seven unofficial members from various sectors involved with building management and fire safety. Representatives of other Bureaux and Departments will be invited to attend as necessary.
4.The Committee will guide and co-ordinate the work of the District Fire Safety Committees (please see paragraph 6 below) to promote fire safety in buildings. At the meeting, members decided that a multi-facet approach involving both the owners and occupants of buildings on the one hand and Government on the other should be adopted to promote fire safety. The Committee decided to pursue the following new initiatives :
- concerted inter-departmental clearance operations to remove fire hazards including obstructions to means of escape will be organised;
- a Fire Safety Campaign costing $2 million will be launched by Information Services Department in 1998/99;
- Fire Services Department (FSD) will expand its Fire Safety Ambassadors Scheme; and
- a standard checklist of inspection items, in simple layman terms, will be drawn up by Buildings Department in conjunction with the relevant Departments such as FSD to facilitate inspections of buildings by owners.
5.The Committee will study, in the longer term, the legal and practical implications of proposals such as mandatory fire safety improvements and mandatory formation of owners' associations. The information obtained from FSD's survey of the 60,000 private buildings in Hong Kong would help the Committee's deliberations. The Committee also noted Home Affairs Department (HAD)'s initiatives of establishing the first Building Management Resource Centre in April 1998 (please see paragraph 13 below) and setting up four additional Building Management Co-ordination Teams in the Districts.
District Fire Safety Committees
6.District Fire Safety Committees have been set up in Eastern, Yau Tsim Mong and Tsuen Wan respectively on 27 February 1998. The Committees comprise unofficial members who are Provisional District Board Members, Area Committee Chairmen, local leaders, or interested individuals from various professions, and official representatives from the relevant Government Departments. The main objective of the Committees is to enhance community involvement in promoting fire safety and building safety in private buildings. Similar Committees will be set up in three more Districts in May 1998. HAD plans to establish one District Fire Safety Committee in each of the 18 Districts. These Committees will report their work to the Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety.
Mandatory formation of some mechanism including OCs to effect proper building management
7.Government is considering the feasibility of mandating the formation of some mechanism including OCs. There are legal and practical aspects which warrant careful consideration. Conclusion has not yet been reached.
8.The success of good building management depends very much on owners' initiatives and willingness to upkeep their properties. If there is no such spirit, the OC, even if compulsorily formed, will not function properly.
Government's response to the Hon CHAN Choi-hi's suggestions
Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) (Amendment) Bill 1998
9.The Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance (the Ordinance), which came into operation in May 1997, requires the upgrading of fire service installations and building safety construction in prescribed commercial premises, namely banks, off-course betting centres, goldsmith and jewellery shops, supermarkets, department stores and shopping arcades. The Fire Safety (Commercial Premises)(Amendment) Bill 1998 (the Bill), when enacted, will extend the scope of the Ordinance to cover pre-1987 commercial buildings. The Bill is being considered by the Provisional Legislative Council.
10.Starting from 9 February 1998, the FSD has been conducting a territory-wide survey of 60,000 private buildings. The survey will be completed by May 1998. Based on the findings of the survey, the Administration will consider the need for legislative or other measures to improve fire safety in non-commercial private buildings.
11.Subject to approval by the Finance Committee, the Director of Buildings will administer a $500m Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme which will offer loans to owners of domestic and domestic/commercial buildings who need financial assistance as an incentive for them to participate in the Building Safety Inspection Scheme. The loans will cover the cost of inspections and works pertaining to the improvement of the structural stability, integrity of external finishes and fire safety aspects of their buildings as well as any incidental or consequential works and related professional services.
12.The Secretary for Security's plan to set up a $200m Fire Safety Improvement Loan Scheme has received support from the Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety. The Scheme will provide loans to owners of specified commercial buildings as well as prescribed premises to upgrade or improve the fire safety standards of their buildings or premises, as required in statutory orders issued by the authorities under the Ordinance and the Bill after its enactment.
Home Affairs Department (HAD)
13.HAD has, through its liaison network in the Districts, been actively encouraging and advising owners to form OCs under the BMO to manage their buildings. Subsequent to formation of OCs, Liaison Officers of the District Offices regularly visit the OCs, including attending their owners' meeting when invited, to offer advice and assistance. In addition, HAD will open the first Building Management Resource Centre (BMRC) in April 1998 to provide a comprehensive advice service for the public on building management matters. Each BMRC will be manned by five full time HAD staff. In addition, volunteers from the legal, accounting, surveying and property management professions will provide free preliminary advice on a regular basis.
14.HAD has an ongoing programme to promote and publicise good building management. It organises seminars, talks, training courses, exhibitions, fire drills, etc in the Districts. Owners are instilled the knowledge of building management and fire safety.
Central and District Committees
15.The Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety and the District Fire Safety Committees as mentioned in paragraphs 3 to 6 have commenced their work.
Building Management Ordinance to facilitate formation of OCs
16.The extant BMO has provided various ways for owners to form OCs. For example, under Section 3, a management committee may be appointed at an owners' general meeting by a resolution of the owners holding not less than 50% of the shares, for the purpose of forming an OC. Under Section 3A, owners holding not less than 30% of the shares may apply to the Secretary for Home Affairs for an order to convene an owners' general meeting and appoint a management committee. Under Section 4, owners holding not less than 20% of the shares may apply to the Lands Tribunal for a similar order.
Mandatory formation of OCs
17. Please refer to paragraphs 7 and 8 above.
Drafting and enforcement of Deeds of Mutual Covenant (DMCs) and their relation to the Building Management Ordinance (BMO)
18.A DMC is a private contract among the owners of a private building. It defines the rights, interests and obligations of the owners among themselves. Government is not party to such private contract and cannot enforce its terms and conditions on behalf of the owners.
19.The objectives of the BMO are to facilitate the incorporation of owners of flats in buildings or groups of buildings and to provide for the management of buildings or groups of buildings and for matters incidental thereto or connected therewith. Conveyancing matters and consumer protection are outside the purview of the BMO.
20.As illustrated in the "Chi Fu Fa Yuen carpark" case, the carpark owners may apply to the Lands Tribunal for determination of matters relating to the enforcement of terms and conditions of their DMC. Under Section 45 of and the Tenth Schedule to the BMO, the Lands Tribunal is empowered to hear any proceedings relating to the interpretation and enforcement of a DMC.
21.We will continue to actively promote the concept of effective building management, promote fire safety in buildings, and review the adequacy of our services. In the light of the results of the survey being carried out by Fire Services Department, Home Affairs Bureau and Home Affairs Department will assess in detail the additional resources required to enhance the delivery of building management services and to further upgrade the quality of advice given to those involved in managing their private properties. Meanwhile, any constructive comments on how the Administration could further help with the management and fire safety of private buildings will be welcome.
Home Affairs Bureau