Basically water seepage in residential flats belongs to building management and maintenance problem and property owners have the major responsibility to solve the problem. You should quickly approach your neighbour for investigation and repair work to resolve the problem if the seepage is suspected to originate from the flat on the upper floor or next door. Owners should directly engage a building technician or licensed plumber to identify the cause of seepage for prompt repairs. Please also refer to the investigation methods in the “Do-it-yourself Water Seepage Test” pamphlet as published by the Joint Office set up by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Buildings Department (BD). Besides, assistance may be sought from the management firm or the Owners' Corporation of your building. Where necessary, you should with the engagement of a building professional or legal consultant request the responsible person to stop the seepage in accordance with the provisions under the Deed of Mutual Covenant, or even lodge a claim for damages.
Assistance provided by government departments
If you cannot resolve the problem of water seepage with your neighbour, please contact the Joint Office set up by the FEHD and the BD for assistance. The Joint Office will carry out a preliminary investigation. If the seepage has posed a sanitary nuisance, the Joint Office will act in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance. If necessary, the Joint Office will refer cases to the BD or the Water Supplies Department (WSD) for follow up action (For example, the BD will tackle the problem of building dilapidations and defective drains under the Buildings Ordinance, while WSD will check if there is any wastage of water under the Waterworks Ordinance). If the seepage is mild or intermittent or if the source of seepage cannot be identified after investigation, Government intervention will cease.
Time required by the Joint Office to investigate the cause of water seepage
According to the investigation work procedure, the Joint Office will contact the complainant within six working days upon receipt of a complaint. The staff will first inspect the site and then enter the flat under complaint to carry out non-destructive tests systematically so as to identify the seepage source. With the co-operation of the concerned owners/occupiers, normally the Joint Office will complete the investigation and inform the complainant of the outcome within 90 working days. If the investigation cannot be completed within 90 working days, the Joint Office will notify the complainant of the investigation progress in writing. If the owner/occupant concerned refuses to co-operate, the investigation process may be extended as the Joint Office will have to apply to the Court for a warrant to enter the flat in question.
Statutory powers to stop water seepage
The Joint Office has been authorised to enforce the relevant provisions of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance. Where the source of seepage is identified, the Office can issue:
- a Nuisance Notice to the person concerned requiring the abatement of nuisance within a specified period of time, failing which the person will be subject to prosecution. Upon conviction, the person concerned is liable to a maximum fine of HK$10,000 and a daily fine of HK$200 if nuisance persists; and
- the Joint Office may also apply to the Court for a Nuisance Order requiring the person concerned to abate the nuisance. Failure to comply with the order will result in prosecution. Upon conviction, the penalty will be a maximum fine of HK$25,000 and a daily fine of HK$450 if nuisance persists.
How to contact the Joint Office