Speech at Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene

III. Proposed amendments to environmental hygiene-related legislation

Public health nuisances

Water seepage in buildings

Members noted the Administration’s proposal to add a new provision to PHMSO, specifying that any property owner/occupier who failed to comply with the Notice of Intended Entry issued by public officers without reasonable excuse committed an offence and was liable to a maximum fine at level 2 ($5,000). Members asked whether this proposal would be conducive to expediting the handling of water seepage cases in buildings by the Joint Office for Investigation of Water Seepage Complaints (“JO”) set up by the Buildings Department and FEHD.

The Administration responded that at present, during water seepage investigation, if a property owner/occupier refused entry of JO staff or JO’s appointed consultants into his/her premises for investigation, JO might apply to the Magistrates’ Courts for a warrant authorizing JO staff to enter the premise for investigation of water seepage in accordance with PHMSO. However, it would take about one to two months to apply for a warrant, which would inevitably delay JO’s investigation work. The Administration believed that the relevant legislative amendments might improve the situation and enable government staff to more effectively deal with public health nuisances such as water seepage in buildings, water dripping from air-conditioners and “garbage apartments”.

Proliferation of pests

Members also noted the Administration’s legislative amendment proposal to empower FEHD to recover from the owner/occupier of premises infested with vermin the expenses arising from pest disinfestation work carried out in his/her premises under specific circumstances without serving notices for destroying vermin on the person concerned. Some members considered that the Administration should expound the meaning of “specific circumstances” and how to determine the amount to be recovered to avoid disputes.

The Administration responded that in general, FEHD would serve a notice for destroying vermin on the owner/occupier of individual premises (including private premises) infested with vermin under section 47 of PHMSO, requiring the person concerned to take steps to exterminate and remove vermin within a specified period; otherwise, the person concerned would commit an offence. Should the situation warrant (e.g. the infestation of pests in the premises had constituted a nuisance to others), FEHD might conduct/arrange for the pest disinfestation work required without serving notices for destroying vermin on the owner/occupier of the premises; and under the proposed legislative amendment, FEHD might recover the relevant expenses from the owner/occupier of the premises. The Administration would determine the amount to be recovered having regard to the actual circumstances and factors such as the scale of pest control work. At the Chairman’s request, the Administration undertook to provide supplementary information to advise clearly the meaning of “specific circumstances”, how the amount of recovery was to be determined and whether FEHD had recovered the relevant expenses from the owner/occupier of the premises for the pest disinfestation work it conducted after notices had been served for destroying vermin on the owner/occupier of the premises, and the amounts involved.