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Forming residents' associations

11/05/2002 Published in NST-PROP A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers Association

Communal ownership and living in apartments mean shared responsibility, says the House Buyers' Association

Housing projects big or small, will comprise a community of owners sharing the common areas, roads, parks, recreational facilities and housing woes (if any). Similarly, those who own apartments or condominiums are co-owners of all common property in a development.

With such shared ownership comes shared responsibility and co-owners must come together in an association to protect their interests.

In Malaysia, such an association of owners is called Residents Association (RA) if the building is completed and Pro Tem Committee/Associations (PTC/A) if the building is under construction and the owners have formed an association "for the time being" in order to solve impending problems.

More often than not, ordinary owners are only interested in their own purchase and most do not even consider their part in the community. This must change, as the spirit of caring for others in the community can only improve one's life and not make it worse.

Do not wait until you have problems of project delays or other major problems before you think of starting an association. Share happy times too - the pleasure of your new home is enhanced when you know your neighbours.

The House Buyers Association (HBA) has always urged owners to form their own associations to look after their own interest as soon as they have made their purchase. Together, house owners have the advantage of numbers. We have always advocated self-help as complete reliance on others, such as developers or the authorities, to look after owner's interests is not wise.

Developers, as an after sales service, can do their part to help the owners form such an association. Wise developers know that their own interest in the project is short term - to sell and make a profit - whereas for the purchasers, their interest is long term.

In any new project, the owners' interest would be in the following stages:

  1. Construction stage
  2. Completion stage, which is the period when the completed building is handover to the owners, and when owners are able to move in.
  3. Living stage, which is the start of a new community.

At any of these three stages, an association of owners formed will be advantageous in serving the future community. These are some of the reasons for forming one:

  1. To act as a watchdog for their future community. 
  2. To have a cohesive voice in the interest of their community. 
  3. To be organized when there is a need for contacts and communication. 
  4. To share the workload should there be a need for sharing tasks. 
  5. To share resources in materials or in ideas to maintain or improve their community 
  6. To volunteer for a good cause towards an enjoyable life in their community

Purchasers of subdivided building like apartments, condominiums have more reasons to form a committee as at some point in time, they are obligated to form a management corporation. By the time, a meeting is called by the developer to form one, the owners would have known each other well and would make election of fellow owners to the management council an easier task.

Unfortunately, many developers do not understand the importance of working with owners so that they will be prepared towards community living. Indeed, some developers do not want to encourage these associations of buyers by refusing to recognize them for fear that they will be too conscientious in reviewing the developer's activities. 

HBA has helped many such owners to form associations. The crucial first step is getting a few owners from the project to volunteer. Without them, there will be no association. These are the steps that can be carried out to form an association of owners.

  1. Formally request the developer to form one in order for the developer to give out the list of other buyers 
  2. If the developer has a website on the Internet, request that a page be set up for owners to interact 
  3. Place an advertisement in the local papers - look out for pages that offer free advertisements if resources are limited. 
  4. Post messages on HBA's forum page at  http://hba.org.my/forum
  5. Distribute details of owners keen to form an association to other owners, if the building has been completed by way of flyers or notices.
  6. Check with HBA if an association for that particular project has been formed.

In housing projects that are facing delays or other major problems, frustrated buyers are advised to be diplomatic as direct confrontations will only bear unsavoury results. In this manner, HBA has helped form or revive more than 50 associations of house owners.

The next step after the decision to form an association is the election of members to form a committee. Most committees have between 12 and 15 members. Committees with less people tend to be unrepresentative and more will make it difficult to operate. Every member of a committee has an important role to play and contribution to make. The 3 key roles in any committee are the chairperson, the treasurer and the secretary.

The chairperson is responsible for the smooth running of meetings, allowing all members to have their say, guiding the association in their objectives and acting as spokesperson on behalf of the association when necessary. This is a vital position.

The treasurer's role is to look after the association's monies, and to keep a record of all transactions.

The secretary is the association's point of contact with its members and involves writing letters on its behalf, organizing and keeping records of meetings.

Once an association of mutual interest owners have been formed and a committee has been elected, write to the developer and the relevant authorities to inform them of the existence of such a committee and the key people to communicate with.

Good dialogue and careful advance planning among owners, developers and relevant authorities goes a long way toward creating a successful community.

The National House Buyers Association is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organisation manned by volunteers.

 

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