1. Background of serving Dangerous Hillside Order
Before the establishment of GEO in 1977, many man‐made slopes and retaining walls might not have been designed or constructed to proper engineering standards. Even if man‐made slopes and retaining walls meet current geotechnical design and construction standards, their condition may deteriorate without proper maintenance. These manmade slopes and retaining walls that do not meet engineering standards or are lacking in maintenance may render so dangerous or liable to become so dangerous that they will collapse, or be likely to collapse, either totally or partially, and thereby will cause, or will be likely to cause, a risk of injury to any person or damage to any property.
Under the "Landslip Prevention and Mitigation Programme" of the Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO) of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD), private man-made slopes are selected for safety-screening studies. When there is prima facie evidence that a private slope is dangerous or liable to become dangerous, the Buildings Department (BD) will, upon GEO's recommendation, serve a statutory Dangerous Hillside Order (DHO) on the slope owner(s) in accordance with Section 27A of the Buildings Ordinance (BO). The DHO requires the slope owner(s) to carry out investigation and necessary remedial/preventive works (hereafter referred as "slope works") to the slope. A DHO may also be issued following a landslide, or as a result of other stability concerns (e.g. significant signs of distress).
2. How to handle a DHO
When a DHO is served on the responsible slope owners requiring them to investigate and carry out necessary remedial works, the owners should, within the stipulated period, appoint an Authorized Person and a Registered Geotechnical Engineer to provide professional services to deal with the requirement in the Order. The owners could refer to the A Simple Guide to Comply with "Dangerous Hillside Orders", which provides a step by step approach in fulfilling the requirements of the DH Order promptly and effectively.
3. What you need to know as a Slope Owner
- Discharge of the DHO promptly
If the owners do not deal with the DHO promptly, the landslide risk of the potentially dangerous slopes will become higher and may cause casualty to persons or damage to properties. Therefore, owners should promptly fulfil the requirements, so as to discharge the Order as soon as possible. At the time when the BD issues a DHO, such Order will be registered against the related land title in the Land Registry until it is complied with. As the owner bears the legal responsibility, this may affect the owners' plan to undergo any transaction of the concerned property.
- Consequence of failing to comply with DHO
If owners do not carry out the investigation of their slopes by the date specified in the DHO, the BD may carry out the investigation and any subsequent works as default works and will seek to recover the costs plus a surcharge not exceeding 20% of the costs from the owners, under sections 32A and 33 of the Buildings Ordinance. The Building Authority may also prosecute any person who fails to comply with the Order without a reasonable excuse under section 40 (1B) of the Buildings Ordinance. Such person shall be liable on conviction to a fine of $50,000, to imprisonment for one year and to a further fine of $5,000 for each subsequent day during which the failure to comply with the Order has continued.
- Doubt on maintenance responsibility
Private owners can gain access to the lease documents and records at the Land Registry, or refer to the "Slope Maintenance Responsibility Information System (SMRIS)" maintained by the Lands Department for reference information on maintenance responsibility of registered slopes. Owners are advised to seek professional advice from lawyers or estate surveyors if they have any doubt on maintenance responsibility of slopes as stipulated in the DHO.
For enquiries regarding the handling of DHO or requiring further information and assistance, owners may seek advice from the Community Advisory Unit of the GEO (Tel 2760 5800).