Not an easy task to re­build a col­lapsed home

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

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.

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