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Ombudsman probes regulation of fire safety measures for New Territories Exempted Houses

8 May 2014

The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, declared today (May 8) a direct investigation into the Administration’s regulation of the fire safety measures for New Territories Exempted Houses (NTEHs).


NTEHs are houses in the New Territories which are exempted by law from certain provisions of the Buildings Ordinance.


The Building (Planning) Regulations stipulate that every building in the territory shall be provided with an emergency vehicular access (EVA) to ensure prompt rescue of residents in case of fire.


NTEHs are exempted from the EVA requirement. Consequently, the Government can only resort to administrative guidelines to regulate the fire safety measures for NTEHs. The Lands Department (LandsD), the authority for approving applications for building NTEHs, can in some circumstances require that an EVA be provided at the time of construction of the NTEH. Where provision of an EVA is impracticable, fire services equipment such as an automatic sprinkler system, or a fire detection system and hose reel, must be installed in the NTEH. When considering applications for building NTEHs in accordance with the guidelines, LandsD will consult the Fire Services Department (FSD).


The Office has received from time to time complaints from members of the public, alleging that the EVAs near their NTEHs were either obstructed or occupied. When they lodged a complaint with LandsD or the FSD, they were invariably told that the Government had no authority to take enforcement or control actions because the EVAs were on private land.


The Office has also noticed media reports on cases in which some NTEH owners removed the fire services equipment in their houses soon after obtaining LandsD’s certificate of compliance.


The efficacy of fire safety measures has a direct bearing on the lives and safety of NTEH residents. Concerned about the aforementioned problems, The Ombudsman has initiated this direct investigation to take an in-depth look into the current system of and procedures for regulating the fire safety measures for NTEHs, with a view to identifying inadequacies, if any, and making recommendations to the departments concerned for improvement.


The Ombudsman welcomes public views and information in connection with this investigation. Comments or information in writing should reach the Office of The Ombudsman by June 9:


Address     : 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre
168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax            : 2882 8149
Email         :



Office of The Ombudsman
May 8, 2014

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