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The long and winding road
15/03/2002 NST-PROP By Salleh Buang

If a problem involving indiscipline was to occur in a school, the problem would usually be tackled either by the class teacher, the discipline master or the principal, in that ascending order. One does not foresee having to refer the matter to the state director of education or the Minister of Education.

By analogy, the same principle ought to apply to any problem concerning the issuance of Certificates of Fitness for Occupation (CFs). The first stop to make should such problems arise would be the developer’s office, and after that the local authority, where the problem should be resolved. The matter ought not to progress any further.

In the past, the CF problems have travelled up the ladder of administrative hierarchy as far as it could possibly go. Many years ago, it went up as far as the Cabinet. As a result, guidelines were issued. But did these guidelines produce the desired result? I am told the result was marginal. In some local authorities, dramatic changes took place. However, for the most part, the greater number of local authorities happily went about their business in the usual old way, confident in their knowledge that Malaysian purchasers are by nature, a very patient lot.

In November 2001, the CF issue even caught the attention of the nation’s chief executive, the Prime Minister himself. Local media quoted the PM as saying that he was unhappy with the slow progress of the issuance of CF for homes in Putrajaya.

In May 2002, Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting was quoted as saying that his Ministry would soon “expose” the local authorities who still fail to comply with the aforesaid guidelines. According to these guidelines, CF must be issued within two weeks of receiving Form E. The exposure, however, was to be made to the Cabinet only and is not for public knowledge.

The Minister’s remarks must be read in the light of what had been said a month earlier by the Director-General of National Housing Department, Datuk Mohamed Saib.

On that occasion, the DG was quoted as saying that local authorities “have never deliberately delayed the issuance of certificates of fitness to house buyers”. He explained that if at all there was any delay, it was due to “technical reasons” which had to be clarified in the interest of safety of the purchasers. He insisted that local authorities were eager to issue the CF as occupied houses are a source of revenue to them.

The DG’s statement was apparently in response to an earlier remark made by Datuk Eddy Chen Lok Loi (then the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association president) who was quoted as saying that public sector agencies were the principal source of CF delay in the country. Chen had said that in some cases, local authorities took more than 15 years to issue the CF. In many of these cases, delay occurred because these agencies had asked developers to carry out additional work beyond those described in the original approved plans.

More recently, local media quoted the Housing Minister as saying that CF delay was due to the developer’s own fault in carrying out works not described in the approved building plans. Besides that, there were also cases where developers failed to “adhere to certain regulations or safety requirements”, he added.

The CF problem is a classic case of where the law is comparatively simple but implementation being a different thing altogether. Under by-law 25 of the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984 (a subsidiary law made under section 133 of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974), it is stated that a CF “shall be given” when “the qualified persons” have certified (in Form E of the Second Schedule, which is an application for the issuance of a CF) that -
(i) they have supervised the erection of the building;
(ii) to the best of their knowledge and belief, the building has been constructed in accordance with these By-laws and any conditions imposed by the local authority (in other words, it is in accordance with the Building and Structural Plans); and that
(iii) they accept full responsibility for those portions which they are respectively concerned with.

The term “qualified persons” mentioned here has been defined in the By-Laws to mean “any architect, registered building draughtsman or engineer”.

By-Law 25 went on to provide that as a precondition to the issuance of the CF, the local authority or an officer authorised by it must have inspected the building and that “all essential services including access roads, landscape, car parks, drains, sanitary, water and electrical installations, fire lifts, fire hydrants and where required, sewerage and refuse disposal requirements have been provided.”

A CF must be issued before a building can be occupied, because under by-law 28, it is an offence for any person to occupy any building without a CF. Such misconduct will expose the occupier to criminal prosecution under the 1974 Act.

I am told that a condo development in Desa Petaling has not been issued with its CF, although it has been a decade since its completion. I wonder why?


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