The General Services Board (GSB), following discussions with MEPA, is introducing legislative amendments whereby owners of dwellings that have an existing structure not in accordance with sanitary law will, in certain limited circumstances, be able to apply to be granted a concession to regularise their position. Over the past years, the General Services Board, appointed by the Ministry for Health to determine public health issues referred to it in terms of the Code of Police Laws, has received requests to sanction buildings which were not constructed in conformity with the sanitary regulations. The Board has endorsed a significant number of these requests.
Following these amendments, a concession, under certain terms and conditions, is being given to owners of dwellings with existing structures not in accordance with sanitary regulations for the following categories:
i) The size of internal yards
ii) The size of back yards
iii) The floor to ceiling height
iv) Room built in back yard
The General Services Board and the Authority are introducing these measures in reaction to the social realities of a number of families that have ended up with a property which could not be modified or even supplied with water and electricity provisions due to the size of their yard. Such yards, which are often slightly smaller than permitted under the sanitary regulations, often serve an entire block of apartments over which not all the affected parties actually have control. These concessions apply only to development that preceded the coming into force of these measures, that is 1st August 2012, and should not be regarded as a precedent for approval of deviations from the requirements that may be presented in plans for the building of new premises submitted to MEPA. Equally, should the development being covered by these concessions be removed, there will be no vested rights and then sanitary requirements would need to be adhered to and the concession granted in this regard will no longer hold.
In cases, where the size of an internal or back yard was not constructed according to sanitary regulations, a concession is being permitted, as long as the length of any side of the internal or back yard is up to 65% of that required by law and the overall area of the yard is more than 65% of what was originally approved. Should the length of any side of the internal yard or back yard be between 50 and 65% of that required by law and the overall area of the yard be within the same range, then the plans for the dwelling can be considered acceptable subject to an engineer’s report stating that the habitable rooms in the dwelling have adequate lighting and ventilation aided, if necessary, but not exclusively limited to artificial lighting and forced mechanical ventilation respectively. Dwellings which have an internal or back yard less than half the size of what it should have otherwise been will not be acceptable as they pose a public health risk.
For cases where the internal height of a dwelling was according not built according to sanitary regulations, a concession is being granted should the dwelling have a clear floor to ceiling internal height of more than 2.6 meters. Dwellings with a floor to ceiling height of less than 2.6 meters but more than 2.4 meters can be considered acceptable subject to an engineer’s report stating that the habitable rooms in the dwelling have adequate lighting and ventilation. Ground level rooms in the back yard, are being granted a concession as long as the size of the back yard prior to the construction of the room was in conformity with sanitary regulations, the room has natural ventilation and lighting and does not occupy more than 35% of the required backyard area.
To benefit from these concessions, owners of dwellings will, through an architect, have to submit to MEPA a request, certifying that the structure to which the request relates, had existed prior to the 01st August 2012. The Architect will also need to submit a site plan, photographic evidence and a plan showing the difference in size from what had been approved by the Sanitary officer. A fee will be charged for the processing of these requests. Applicants and their architects will eventually be informed by the MEPA Enforcement Directorate whether their request has been accepted or not. When in the affirmative, the applicants may then eventually submit a request for a Certificate that would enable the provision of water and electricity and this would be accepted if the sole infringements on site are those being covered by these provisions.