Around 70 of the 85 houses along the seafront at an upmarket housing estate were suspected of being fitted with illegal structures, authorities have said, after a landslide triggered by record rains uncovered unauthorised works at two properties in the area earlier this month.

Landslide at Redhill Peninsula
A landslide at Redhill Peninsula on September 12, 2023 following heavy rain. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The owners of four houses at luxury estate Redhill Peninsula already confirmed to have unauthorised building work were issued orders to remove the illegal structures, the Buildings Department and Lands Department said in a statement issued on Friday.

Friday’s announcement came a week after development minister Bernadette Linn said the two departments would jointly launch large-scale inspections at the luxury estate overlooking Tai Tam Bay where the landslide occurred.

Serious unauthorised works

Four houses have been found to have “serious [unauthorised building works],” 70, 72, 74, and 76.

Local media have reported that house 74 had a three-storey illegal structure. To accommodate its basement, part of a retaining wall near the slope had been torn down. Houses 70 and 72 were also found to have installed illegal structures including basements.

Landslide at Redhill Peninsula
A landslide at Redhill Peninsula on September 12, 2023 following heavy rain. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“Regarding the other houses on Redhill Peninsula, the earlier incident has shown clearly that any unauthorised basements, damage to retaining walls or construction of unauthorised storeys in houses situated on the slope along the seafront will affect the stability of the slope and pose high risks to the structural safety of buildings,” the statement read.

Excluding the four aforementioned houses, an additional 70 homes overlooking the water were “preliminarily suspected” to have illegal works, and around 40 are believed to have unlawfully occupied government land, the departments said.

“If necessary, the Government will apply to the court for warrants and exercise powers in accordance with the law to enable the two departments to enter the houses for inspection and collection of evidence,” a spokesperson added.

5 months to complete repairs

Owners of the four properties issued with removal orders were required to appoint registered professionals to submit proposals and building plans to bring the houses back in line with the original plans. Work should commence within 90 days and be completed within 150 days from Friday.

Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn
Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn on the forum hosted by Heung Yee Kuk on 17 August, 2023. File Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Failure to comply with the removal orders could result in a maximum fine of HK$200,000 and up to one year in prison if convicted, and a further fine of $20,000 for each day that the removal order is ignored. Non-compliance with notices from the Lands Department to demolish structures on government land could result in a HK$500,000 fine and six months in prison, and a further fine of HK$50,000 for each day that the offence continues.

Last week, development policy think-tank Liber Research Community identified 173 instances of potential illegal occupation at luxury housing estates, in the form of unauthorised work such as backyards and swimming pools.

Liber’s Chan Kim-ching said those unauthorised works posed the same safety risks as the unauthorised works at Redhill Peninsula, which he said had affected the slope’s structural integrity, one of the factors that had caused the landslide.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.