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Solution to home ownership woes

The Malay Mail 01/05/2001

The House Buyers Association (HBA) stands as a beacon for purchasers who find their homes far from satisfactory. Their primary objective is to create a level playing field between the developers and the housebuyers, writes Devasahayam Selvan.

For many, investing in the 'right' house might be quite a job. Lest you are left high and dry once you move into your home, you must give enough room for all the right steps to be taken thereafter. No one wants to spend the rest of their lives worrying in their new homes because the developer, some times hand-in-glove with the contractor and the architect two-timed you. Literally, suddenly, one day your house may develop cracks on the wall, leaving you in ribbons. Or the colour on the wall might slowly undergo a change indicating the bad shape of things to come.

There are specifications and guidelines to be followed, at every step of the way in construction' the specifications, the right mix ration of construction materials and so on. Sometimes, enforcement to ensure that everything is complied is less than effective. The net result is you have a house that is home to all your worries. Perhaps, for a lifetime. For a first time house buyer, it can be a proverbial state of confusion because the possible defects that are lurking, in the corners do not show up at first sight. And when it does, it maybe too late. You have already been taken for a ride in your own home. You are also left with a sense of being defeated.

Beware of such developers, warns the secretary-general of the House Buyers Association (HBA), Chang Kim Loong, from the rooftops. " Most of the complaints received by the 600-strong association centers around shoddy workmanship," Chang informed us yesterday.

The association wants to make buying a new home a more pleasurable affair and not let the prospective house buyers pay for the developer's mistake. The association recently went online - - in order to educate the house buyers about their rights, protect them from falling into the pitfalls of house buying and to create a ground to fight for the overall rights of the house buying community.

Another area of action, which the association wants to focus on, is the delaying tactics of the developers. In addition to the usual procrastination of the hand-over of the keys, there are also a large number of apartment owners who wait from five to 10 years for their strata titles.

Hence, Chang said the association would advise house-buyers what to look out for prior to buying a property and what precautionary measures are to be taken when faced with a particular problem. The association said that those buying new homes are subjected to high-pressure sales tactics-those where you can't place any confidence in-be it the verbal assurances and the sales brochures that are worthless in terms of creating any contractual obligation.

HBA would also carry out periodic e-surveys to get feedback from house-buyers on current issues, the proposed amendments to Housing Developers Act and other related issues. Already, proposals such as changes in the sales and purchase agreement format and the setting up of a housing tribunal are included in the proposed amendments.

HBA also called for setting up of a one-stop centre for the obtaining of strata titles and to make the management of maintenance fees more transparent.

HBA, a non-governmental organisation, that strives to create a level playing field between the developers and the housebuyers was launched last July. Though presently active in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, it hopes to spread its wings to other states such as Penang, Johor, Perak and Negri Sembilan.

Until the HBA took shape in 1999, there was no effective consumer representation or lobby to curb the overwhelming number of complaints from house buyers who after signing the sales and purchase agreement are left in the lurch with no follow up service.

HBA was initially intended to represent the private sector new home market, but it does cover commercial and government housing " in view of the numerous complaints that we have received from these groups."

HBA does not charge for its services but would recommend the house buyers - with or without problems - to join it. The membership fee is RM25 per year, plus RM5 entrance fee. "If you feel generous, you are welcome to send in donations to help us help you for your rights," says one of its tenets.


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