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Managing together (Part II)

08/11/2003 Published in NST-PROP A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers Association


IF you have invested in a stratified project, you most obviously would want to make sure the structure in which your purchase is situated in, is properly cared for at all times. After all, a poorly maintained building can create a lot of problems, such as the fact that units in an unkempt looking project may be difficult to sell.

Regular maintenance therefore needs careful programming and planning. To paraphrase that oft-quoted cliche: Preventative maintenance is better than major cure. It is for this reason that many owners see the importance of the Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Bill.

Once this much-awaited draft legislation becomes a reality, the problems that have nagged many strata unit owners for decades will be alleviated as it would provide the regulatory framework needed to manage and maintain a project between the time it has been completed and handed over to owners, till the establishment of a management corporation under the Strata TitlesAct.

Currently, without any law to govern this period which can last for eons, developers and owners are often at each other's throats on a range of issues covering quality of maintenance, provision of promised facilities, payment of service charges and transparency.

Preparing for the new law

The proposed Bill will probably have a framework identical to that involving Management Corporations found in the Strata Titles Act. Furthermore, it will involve both residential and commercial buildings that are meant for sub-division.

As such owners, developers and property managers should be ready for this law once it is passed by Parliament. When the time comes, developers are expected to have their financial, management and maintenance and owners' records in order.

They are also required to work with owners to form Joint Management Bodies (JMB) for all existing stratified properties within a certain time frame, believed to be within three months from the time the Bill is passed.

Furthermore, developers are also required to invite buyers to their first annual general meeting to set up their respective JMBs, failing which penalties including fines, imprisonment or both could be imposed.


Roles and obligations

The well-being of a strata scheme depends on the regular contribution of service charges by unit owners. However, many are unwilling to pay this because defects arising from poor workmanship and the use of sub-standard materials have resulted in a multitude of complaints and grievances against the developers. "Resolve the defects first, and then we'll pay!" many owners have said.

It is therefore impossible to merely look at the responsibilities of unit owners without also considering the obligations of the developers and the relationship between the two. It is envisaged that the Bill will help resolve many of the existing feuds.

Education necessary

As we move from the act of "building" to "preserving and maintaining", it is only right that regulatory bodies headed by the Ministry of Housing establish training programmes to educate potential owners about their rights and responsibilities, as well as the principles of a strata scheme, what is a JMB and a Management Corporation.

The education process should include opportunities for owners to have meaningful participation and involvement in the maintenance and management of their strata schemes well in advance of the actual formation of their Management Corporation under the Strata Titles Act.

There should also be a detailed manual to tutor owners, developers and property managers on the intention and workings of the Bill. Without it, owners not in the business of property management and development would have a tough time understanding the intricacies of the law.

Because of this, the HBA is of the view that a period should be set aside for the public to comprehend the power of the Bill prior to its actual implementation. During this time, education should encompass the following positive measures:

* Making the Bill available in the four major languages (Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil) which ordinary people can understand;

* Promoting the aims and objectives of the Bill through media such as newspapers, pamphlets, TV commercials and newsletters;

* Setting up of a special department to provide information, services, advice and aid to building owners, residents, owners' committees, managing agents, developers and management bodies; and

* Setting-up of a Hotline service where people can call in to seek assistance.


Managing together (Part I)


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