Paper for Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Housing
Enforcement action against unauthorised
installation of air conditioners in
public rental housing estates
This paper informs Members of the enforcement action taken against the unauthorised installation of air conditioners in public rental housing (PRH) estates.
2.Notwithstanding the requirement stipulated in the tenancy conditions for PRH tenants to seek prior consent from the estate office before installing any fixtures in their flats, unauthorised installations of air-conditioners (A/C), of both split-type (STAC) and window-type (WTAC), have remained a long-standing management problem in PRH. With the increasing popularity in the use of air-conditioners among tenants in PRH estates, there has been a surge in the number of unauthorised installations of A/Cs. According to Housing Department's estimate, about 30% of the installations are unauthorized. Such unauthorised installations not only affect the outlook of the buildings, but also pose a potential hazard to passers-by.
3.A Departmental Working Group was formed last year to formulate guidelines and strategies to tackle all these unauthorised A/Cs.
Size of Problem
4.According to projections based on a sample survey conducted by the Housing Department, there are about 15,000 unauthorised STACs and 101,000 WTACs in all 161 PRH estates. The unauthorised installations of WTACs are commonly seen in Trident, Harmony series and Marks III-VI, Former Government Low Cost Housing and Former Housing Authority blocks. In the majority of cases, tenants have enclosed the balconies with unauthorised aluminum windows and the WTACs have been installed in such a position that the latter protrude outside the balconies.
5.In the interest of public safety, the Housing Department is determined to take stringent enforcement action against the unauthorized installation of A/Cs in PRH estates.
6.Given the complexity and magnitude of the problem, the Housing Department has decided to tackle the problem by phases over a period of three years. During these three years, some cases may resolve themselves when tenants replace their existing old unauthorised A/Cs with properly installed new ones. Some cases may also be rectified through the process of redevelopment of public housing estates. This will help reduce the magnitude of the problem to such an extent that the workload on enforcement action can be absorbed by existing staff without affecting the standard of other daily estate management. Moreover, there may not be an adequate number of licensed contractors in the market to cope with such a large volume of rectification work if all cases are to be dealt with at the same time.
7.A warning system is adopted whereby tenants responsible for the unauthorized installations are asked to rectify the situation within a specified grace period. If the tenants refuse to rectify the situation despite warnings, a Notice-to-quit (NTQ) will be issued to terminate the tenancy. The longest period allowed for rectification is five months after which a NTQ will be issued to terminate the tenancy at the end of the sixth month. Details of the warning system are at Annex.
8.The Housing Department has launched a territory-wide publicity campaign over this enforcement exercise prior to its implementation in April 1997. Given the smaller number of STAC cases and the greater danger posed by the condenser units which protrude outside the building, all STAC cases will be tackled in the first year. For the 101,000 WTAC cases, enforcement action will be phased over three years. Priority in enforcement action is broadly determined according to the block types, starting from the latest Harmony blocks and ending with the oldest Slab blocks. The three stages of implementation are outlined as follows -
|(a) First Stage|
(April 97 - March 98)
|(a) All STAC cases irrespective of block types (14,693 cases)
|(b)All WTAC cases in Harmony and Trident blocks, which involve less rectification works as many of these blocks are built with AC hoods (36,153 cases).
|(b) Second Stage|
(April 98 - April 99)
|All block types built between 1974 - 1994 (35,347 cases)
|(c) Final Stage|
(May 99 - February 2000)
|All block types built between 1957 -1988 (28,986 cases)
9.Based on the above principles, a detailed implementation programme has been worked out for individual estates. Lower priorities will be accorded to those blocks which will be redeveloped within three years, unless the installations pose an immediate danger.
10.Notwithstanding the above, immediate action will be taken against any unauthorised installation which poses an imminent danger to passers-by.
Publicity and Public Education
11.It is desirable to inculcate a safety and law-abiding culture among PRH tenants with a view to encouraging them to rectify the situation. The exercise will be given territory-wide publicity to ensure that the message reaches all tenants. The seriousness of the breach will be brought home to tenants through press release, television, radio broadcast, roving exhibitions, posters and pamphlets. The message will also be reinforced through the EMAC meetings and activities. Emphasis will be put on the aspect of safety and tenants' responsibility.
12.Since the implementation of the enforcement programme in April 1997, we have met a number of concern groups and tenant organisations. It was found that the campaign was generally supported by the public. As at end of July, 42,457 advisory letters and 13,699 initial warning letters were issued. As a result, 7,166 cases of unauthorised air-conditioners installations were rectified. The Housing Department will closely monitor the remaining unauthorised cases, and take further enforcement action when necessary to ensure public safety.
Warning System against
|Upon discovery of|
|1st Month||An information letter together with standard drawing of proper A/C installation will be issued by the Housing Manager to defaulting tenant. The tenant will be advised to employ his own licensed technician to dismantle/relocate the A/C at the earliest possible time, failing which may lead to termination of the tenancy.|
|2nd Month||1st warning letter will be issued by the Housing Manager to the defiant tenant, advising him to rectify the case within two months.|
|4th Month||The Senior Housing Manager of the district to issue final warning letter forewarning the issue of Notice to Quit.|
|5th Month||The Chief Housing Manager to issue Notice to Quit, terminating the tenancy at the end of the sixth month.|