Raw deal for purchasers
By Salleh Buang
Housing means different things to different people. For the average
Malaysian who is still without a roof over his head to call his own, a
house is not just a shelter but also a home and sanctuary. Acquiring a
house is the culmination of a life-long commitment to procure a family
property to be cherished and safeguarded so that it can be passed down
But when viewed in its larger context, housing is not just the acquisition
of shelter or the making of a life-long investment. Nor is it just a
commercial transaction between purchaser and developer, grounded upon
terms and conditions stipulated or mandated by law. Housing is a national
issue, super-charged with the elements of economics (poverty and
affordability), social justice, politics and the principle of fair play.
In the past there has been a tendency by some quarters (especially the
public sector agencies) to regard the problems faced by purchasers as
being their own, of which there is nothing that the authorities can do.
This is the “hands off” approach which, in my opinion, is grievously
In its place, the authorities should adopt a more caring approach towards
the purchasers. Instead of leaving the purchasers to fend for themselves,
public sector agencies should be more willing to give them protection and
assistance, a sense of comfort that if things do not work out for them,
“Big brother is here to help you out”.
Just take a look at how most house buyers react when the houses they
purchased are not completed in time, when the project is abandoned or when
the houses (though completed) are terribly defective. Very rarely will
their first course of action be to initiate court action. Instead, they
will usually seek administrative or political intervention.
Don’t get them wrong. Do not treat this as if the purchasers are not
prepared to go to court. If there is no other choice, they will do that,
but it will only be a last resort. Normally, they will first seek out the
developer directly. If that fails, they will then turn to the Housing
Ministry. And when that too fails, they will seek political intervention
at the local, state, and federal level.
Take the case of the 50 families who bought their houses from a developer
in Perak some time ago. According to a recent news report these families
in Taman Lapangan Indah near Ipoh are worried about their future safety
because the single- and double-storey terrace houses they purchased from
the developer now appear to be unsafe for occupation.
According to the distressed purchasers, the housing project was completed
in 2002, but defects appeared soon after that. Now some houses have
tilted, while depressions have appeared on the road. A number of houses
have sunk more than 30cm.
The residents have sought the help of the authorities, including Perak
Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali and Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh.
They have also lodged a complaint with the Housing Ministry wondering why
Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh saw fit to issue the houses with their certificates
of fitness for occupation despite the fact that there were so many
This recent case in Taman Lapangan Indah reminds me of an earlier case
which happened some time ago, involving the purchasers of Taman Chepor
Jaya, Chemor. In that case, too, the purchasers sought political
intervention to resolve their problems with the housing developer.
There are, of course, cases where purchasers (having lost all their
patience with developers and likewise their confidence in the Housing
Ministry’s timely and effective intervention) have chosen to take more
drastic action. In a recent case, which involved the abandoned Taman
Terubong Indah (Majestic Hights) in Penang, 1,557 purchasers filed
judicial proceedings to wind up the developer.
If it is any consolation to the purchasers of Taman Lapangan Indah, the
Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims (established under the recent amendment to
the Housing Developers Act) is already empanelled. Under Section 16Y(1),
the Tribunal is required to “make its award without delay and, where
practicable, within 60 days from the first day the hearing before the
But the issue that needs to be clarified now is whether the Tribunal is or
can be empowered to hear disputes arising from sale and purchase
agreements executed prior to the amendments to the law.
If the Tribunal is unable to give swift justice to the house purchasers,
their sense of being given a raw deal (and not just by developers) will
continue to weigh heavily on their minds.