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Illegal is not the same as unauthorised

SCMP Letters 05 July 2012

Illegal is not the same as unauthorised

I believe that there is a huge difference between illegal structures and unauthorised building works.

An illegal structure is built without the consent of the Buildings Department and the authorised person and/or registered building contractor may be sanctioned and proceedings taken against them under the Buildings Ordinance.

Meanwhile, many households enclose balconies or erect structures to provide shade without taking advice from building professionals.

When reported to the department, the compliance officer may simply issue a letter demanding that the building be returned to its original state. The unauthorised building works must be removed within a given time limit.

If the owner of the structure affected by these works fails to comply with the order, then, and only then, are legal proceedings enacted.

The question of whether a canopy or shade structure breaches the Buildings Department’s gross floor area definition is often a matter of judgment.

It sometimes turns on how easily the structure can be removed.

In the now infamous case of Leung Chun-ying’s Peak house, I would say that the department has made a ruling that the various temporary-in-nature building additions should have been the subject of an alterations and additions submission and are therefore classified as unauthorised building works.

As far as I can ascertain, Mr Leung has not raised an objection and has ordered all works to be removed within the prescribed time set by the department. There is nothing illegal about this.

John Latter, Happy Valley

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