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Urgent need to revamp the Housing Developers Act

11/12/1999 NST-PROP By Salleh Buang 

The Housing Developers Act 1966 which is more than 30 years old is in need of a total revamp, judging from the number of calls by the public and local leaders. Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon is among the leaders who want the Act to be revamped as early as possible.

One of  Koh's arguments for the move is that the State Governments should be empowered to take action against defaulting developers - especially those who do not complete their projects in time.

The Chief Minister pointed out that under the Act as it stands, State Governments and local authorities have no power to take action against developers who delay in commencing or completing their projects.

While land matters are indeed within the exclusive domain of the State, housing is still under the exclusive purview of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

Beyond supervision of the actual construction work, there is nothing much the State can do.

Koh felt compelled to demand the early revamp of the Act after meeting with representatives of Majestic Heights Sdn Bhd and the purchasers of Taman Terubung Indah in Penang in July this year.

The purchasers told Koh that although they had been given keys to their housing units, they had still not been given their Certificates of Fitness (CF( by the local authority because the developer has been slow in completing the project's infrastructure.

In early October this year, the Housing Ministry announced that the Uniform Building By Laws 1984, would be amended so that CFs will be "deemed issued" two weeks after developers have submitted their applications to local authorities.

Under another proposed amendment, it will be mandatory for developers to obtain the CFs before handing over vacant possession of the housing units to the house buyers.

To give effect to the proposed amendments of the 1984 By-laws, the standard Sale and Purchase agreements currently in use (see Schedules G and H of the 1989 Housing Developers Regulations) will also have to be modified.

Housing Minister Datuk  Dr Ting Chew Peh had indicated that the Act would be extended to co-operative societies and statutory bodies.

For the past 30 years, the Act had been applied exclusively to private sector developers, thus treating co-op societies and statutory bodies as favoured entities beyond the pale of the law.

It was reported that the Housing Minister had said 60 provisions in the Act would be amended to expedite the process of approvals and to ensure the public would not be cheated by unscrupulous developers.

However, no further announcement has been made since then as to what these provisions are and whether they are going to erode or enhance the primary objective of the Act - which is to protect the purchasers' interest.

The perception of the average house purchaser is that the principal Act and the 1989 Regulations have, since an amendment exercise implemented in 1994, tended to be in favour of the developers rather than the purchasers.

A law is only as good as its enforcement.

The Housing Developers' Association Malaysia says that the Act is quite adequate and there is  no urgent need for a revamp. What is required is effective and consistent enforcement.

While I do not hold any brief for any particular party or group, I believe that the Act needs to be looked into seriously.

Any amendment envisaged must ensure that not only are the interests of the house purchasers protected and safeguarded, but that the housing industry should remain a viable industry in the new millennium


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