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Illegal Remodeling: New Rules and Fines for Apartment Owners

* Homeowners often use flammable materials when remodeling their homes, with which they may damage the structure of the building, fire resistant zones, fire-extinguishing equipment even without being aware of it. Therefore, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has promulgated the Regulations for the Administration Buildings Interior, which stipulates that in buildings used by the public, including apartment buildings with more than six stories, changes to ceilings, interior walls, permanent partitions or partition walls require applying for a permit to carry out such changes in accordance with the law.

The MOI is strengthening the management of older apartments in buildings of five stories or less, which are often rented out by their owners, announcing that interior decoration in such apartments that involves adding more than two rooms or a bathroom also requires applying for an interior decoration review and permit. Furthermore, in order to prevent disputes around water leakage in apartments remodeled into studios, any renovation that involves adding more than two bathrooms or toilets requires applying for a permit and submitting a statement of consent from the homeowner of the floor directly below. Without that consent, the permit will not be given.

Taipei City Construction Management Office director Chang Ming-sen said that in order to strengthen the public safety and interior decoration management of buildings, fines of TWD 60,000-300,000 can be imposed if remodeling has been carried out without the necessary permit or if remodeling has not been designed or carried out by a legally qualified remodeling company. When improvements are not carried out within the given time limit, the fine may be imposed repeatedly until the remodeling has been improved as required.

Chang added that home remodeling companies, being professionals with specialized knowledge and awareness, will be held liable for illegal remodeling projects and they will be penalized as a matter of priority. He also urged remodeling companies to actively inform the homeowners of the related laws and regulations as a matter of professional responsibility. They should not mislead their clients into thinking that permits are not necessary or can be easily circumvented, or simply hope nothing bad will happen in the future.

In line with this, the Taipei City Construction Management Office recommends that the building management committees of apartment buildings amend their building management rules through their homeowners meeting to adopt or follow article 22-1 of the Apartment Building Management Rules Template, which requires homeowners to apply for permits before they have any remodeling work carried out and to post the permit in a conspicuous spot in the building before the work starts. The homeowner must also submit a statement of remodeling commitments to the building management committee of their apartment building, vouching that they will have the work carried out by a professional construction company that will comply with the laws and regulations regarding working and resting times, safety precautions, and waste removal. After completion of the remodeling, the homeowner should then request the competent authority in charge of construction to issue an indoor remodeling certificate. All these measures will help to strengthen “community autonomy” and reduce disputes between remodeling homeowners and their neighbors or building management committees.