Responsibility has a name
18/02/08 Property New Straits Times Salleh Buang
Over a year ago, on Feb 12, 2007 to be precise, the latest legislative
exercise to tighten our housing law – received Royal Assent.
Amendments to the Housing Development Act 1966 were gazetted on Feb 15, 2007
and effectively became law on April 12, 2007. These changes are considered
by many as “completing the final touches” of an earlier legislative exercise
undertaken in 2002.
Last year’s housing law amendments did not come alone: There were related
changes to other laws as well – the Street, Drainage and Buildings Act (the
principal law under which the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984 fall) and the
Strata Titles Act.
And there was also a new law enacted, the Buildings and Common Property
(Maintenance and Management) Act. However, this week I’d like to focus on
the amended Development Act.
The most striking feature of the amendment to the housing law is its long
title. The new version reads, “An Act to provide for the control and
licensing of the business of housing development in West Malaysia, the
protection of the interest of purchasers and for matters connected
The addition of seven words – “the protection of the interest of purchasers”
– is indeed overdue.
At long last, Parliament has taken cognisance of what former Lord President
Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim said more than 25 years ago, in the matter of SEA
Housing Corp Sdn Bhd vs Lee Poh Choo (1982, 2 MLJ 31) – that the primary
objective of the Housing Act is to protect purchasers.
With the amendments now in place, many quarters have asked whether
self-regulation and the protection of purchasers can indeed go hand in hand.
Or, to phrase the question differently, “Won’t self-regulation put
purchasers’ interests in grave jeopardy?”
The shift to self-regulation can be seen in the replacement of the
Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CFO) with the Certificate of
Completion and Compliance (CCC). However, the introduction of the CCC does
not mean the local authority has lost its role; nor does it mean that the
local authority can abdicate from its statutory duties.
Our leaders appear to be convinced that CCC will bring bureaucratic red tape
to an end; that the end result will be house purchasers being able to move
into their new homes more quickly, without in any way forsaking safety or
The local authority was responsible for issuing the CFO, but the CCC can
only be issued by a “Principal Submitting Person” (PSP) – an architect, an
engineer or a registered building draughtsman (for buildings not exceeding
two storeys and an area of less than 3,230sq ft).
On its part, the local authority will still have to shoulder the task of
receiving and approving building plans and issuing planning permission in
the usual way – except perhaps now more efficiently under the onestop centre
(OSC) initiative implemented in April last year.
Its power to carry out site inspections and act on complaints is not in the
least affected or eroded. In the event of any breach or non-compliance with
the law, the local authority can issue a notice in writing to prohibit the
PSP from issuing CCCs.
It is unlikely the PSP will ignore such a notice from the local authority.
The recent amendment to the Street, Drainage and Building Act has enhanced
the penalty for not complying with the orders of the local authority with a
custodial sentence of three years. Surely no PSP will risk jail for just a
fistful of ringgit – apart from the likelihood of being barred from
Friends who are confident that self-regulation and the protection of
purchasers can go hand in hand tell me to take a closer look at the
“responsibility matrix” embedded in the new CCC procedures.
Each construction process, they point out, must be verified by professionals
and contractors: There are 21 certification forms that need to be endorsed
along the way, from the commencement of construction until the point of
These procedures and processes are now set out in the new Schedules under
the Uniform Building By- Laws that were also revised last year.
Undeniably, the task of a PSP is not an easy one. In the early stages of a
project, the PSP has to get the necessary approval from the relevant
authorities; thereafter, he or she must inform the local authority of the
commencement of construction work, and then supervise the work until
completion to make sure the contractors comply fully with the law and adhere
faithfully to the approved building plans.
The PSP also has to report cases of breach and noncompliance. Thus, before a
CCC can be issued, the PSP must be completely satisfied that the work has
been completed in accordance with the approved building plans.
In addition, the PSP must make sure that all Form Gs (as required under the
new building by-laws) have been duly filled up and certified, and
confirmation of supply/ connection of the various essential services from
the relevant agencies has been received.
The underlying rationale for the introduction of the CCC is that house
purchasers can get vacant possession of their dream homes earlier, since it
comes together with vacant possession.
The old problem of purchasers being given their house keys by the developer
but not together with the right to occupy (via the CFO) is now a thing of
With Form Gs putting into place the new “matrix of responsibility” for all
parties concerned in the construction process, the government believes there
will be greater accountability all around. In a nutshell, the government is
confident the CCC will bring with it better work quality – certainly in sync
with the overall objective of the law – to safeguard purchasers’ interests.