Not an easy task to rebuild a collapsed home
The collapse of a building inWenzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, in which 22 people died, has highlighted a number of legal issues.
According to China’s Property Law, the owner of a building that collapses cannot automatically rebuild on the same site, because in the eyes of the lawthere is no property to have ownership of should a building collapse.
According to the Property Law, the person that owned the building that collapsed still enjoys the right to use the land, but if they want to build another house, he or she should go through necessary procedures for housing construction and abide by relevant regulations.
It is a complicated process to build a house, and without permission it’s illegal to rebuild a house on the same site.
Also if the status of the land is changed from residential land to land for public use, an application to rebuild on the same site is not permitted.
And while insurance companies will insure a building against damage, they will not assume responsibility for rebuilding a property.
Nor will the government take responsibility for rebuilding a property.
In short, the house owner will probably lose their property if a building collapses, unless it is caused by a natural disaster, in which case the local authorities are responsible for providing a salvage service.
Or unless the property owner can prove that the collapsed building was an historic building, in which case the local authority should take responsibility for repairing. The owner will have to take partial responsi- bility for the repair work if the building is regarded as personal property.
As China’s current Construction Lawdoes not have any specific regulations covering low-rise housing in rural areas, there are no standards that must be met when constructing a house in a rural area or rural-urban fringe zones. Owners of these houses bear all the responsibility if their building collapses.
During the process of rapid urbanization, there are many old houses in cities especially small and medium-sized cities. Some people suppose we should use public maintenance funds to repair these buildings. But the public maintenance fund was established after reform of the real estate market, which means it is not valid for old houses built before the reform.
To guarantee their legal rights and interests, the owners of some old houses could apply to the authorities for historical building preservation and protection if appropriate. But in this case, the owners’ rights to use and dispose of the building will be restricted accordingly.
In a nutshell, under current circumstances, house owners should make all efforts to guarantee their properties won’t collapse in order to protect their rights and interests. The author is a professor of law at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.