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Shoddy workmanship
19/08/2006 By CAP

You thought you were lucky when your housing project was not abandoned. You thought that you were also lucky when the house was finished on time.

Now, having collected the keys and seen the many defects in your house, you do not feel so lucky after all.

Many buyers are disheartened when they find so many defects in their new homes that should never have been there in the first place.

Such problems should have been averted if the developers had not taken a lackadaisical attitude in building quality homes.

There are many complaints from buyers that they have been shortchanged by developers because the finishing is poor and the building sometimes leaks or has cracks, and the materials used are of low quality.

As a house buyer, what can you do?

How to get the defects rectified?

Under the Housing Developers Control and Licensing Act (HDA), defects that appear within the defect liability period have to be rectified by the developers at the latter’s cost and expense.

What is the defect liability period?

The defect liability period under the HDA is 18 months and it starts from the day you get vacant possession of your property. During this period, the developer must repair and make good at his own expense any defects and faults in the building.

When do I get vacant possession of the house?

It is when the developer, having fulfilled certain conditions, hands over the keys to your house. Having vacant possession is not the same as having the right to occupy the house. You can only move in when the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CFO) has been issued.

How do I inform the developer about the defects?

When you get the keys to your house, make sure you inspect it thoroughly. You must give written notice to the housing developer of all defects, shrinkage or faults that you see in the building.

The developer on his part must carry out the repairs within 30 days.

What if the developer does not carry out the repairs within the stipulated time?

If the developer does not repair the defects or faults within 30 days, you can go ahead and make the repairs and recover the cost from the developer. This is provided you have informed the developer of the cost of repairs and given him an opportunity to carry out the works himself.

What if I got someone to carry out the repairs but the developer refuses to pay for it?

You will then have to file a complaint with the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims which has been set up especially to help out house buyers.

How do I file a claim with the Tribunal?

For a claim to be heard by the Tribunal, it must fulfill certain conditions.

Firstly, the tribunal will consider a claim if it is based on a complaint arising from the Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA)

Such a claim can be technical or non-technical in nature. Sub-standard workmanship is considered a technical claim. So is non-adherence to the specifications as stated in the SPA.

A non-technical claim is one that does not fall into the technical category, for example late delivery of vacant possession of the property.

Secondly, the claim must be made within the required time frame.

It must be brought to the Tribunal not less than 12 months from the date of issuance of the CFO or from the expiry date of the defect liability period (i.e. 18 months)

Thirdly, it must be a housing unit meant for domestic purpose.

Lastly, the claim must not exceed RM25,000.

What about defects that show up after the 18 months liability period, will I have any recourse against the developer?

It does not mean that if defects appear after the 18-month period, the developer can no longer be held responsible. This is especially so if they are structural defects.

Clause 14 of the SPA states that the “the Building shall be constructed in a good and workmanlike manner in accordance with the description set out in the Fourth Schedule . . .”

Thus the developer should be liable for serious defects that arise even after the defect liability period.

But can I still file the claim with the Tribunal?

Yes, if it is filed within 12 months from the date of the issuance of the CFO or from the expiry date of the defect liability period. Sometimes the CFO is issued very much later, after vacant possession has been given.

If the structural defects appear beyond the time frame laid down by the Tribunal for filing a claim, you will need to take the developer to court.

How do I get in touch with the Tribunal?

The address is:

The Secretary
Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims
Ministry of Housing & Local Government
Level 2, Block B South
Pusat Bandar Damansara
50782 Kuala Lumpur
(03) 2092 4488
or (03) 2099 8389/8402 (Hotline)
Fax: (03) 2093 4776

This article was provided by the Consumers Association of Penang.


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