BY Roznah Abdul Jabbar
The Building Management Association of Malaysia (BMAM) has urged stratified property owners to be responsible and pay up their maintenance charges.
Its deputy president Tan Sri Datuk Teo Chiang Kok said the biggest challenge faced by Joint Management Bodies (JMB) and Management Corporations (MC) in this country is the collection of maintenance fees.
“Our management quality (for strata properties) is satisfactory but in terms of payment from owners, it has been quite a challenge,” Teo said during the seminar entitled “Strata Management” – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ earlier this week.
He said that some errant owners do not see the consequences of not paying. At the same time, he notes that more high-rise dwellers are coming to realise that well-maintained properties preserve value.
“This has been a ‘chicken and egg’ situation as some are rationalising their defiance against the bad maintenance of their residential areas.”
Teo said this is not justified, saying, “If you own a stratified unit, you have to pay. Take up positions in management bodies to ensure your interest is protected and things are done properly, or refer problems to the Commissioner of Buildings (COB). There shouldn’t be any resistance to paying.”
Under the Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA), which was enforced last year, failure in paying the fees within 14 days from the date of billing issuance incurs interest not exceeding 10 per cent a year on daily rest until payment is made and defaulters’ names and outstanding amounts can be publicly displayed.
Actions can be taken against defaulters by deactivating their access devices without prior notice and suspending their use of common facilities/services, including car parks.
The SMA also states that defaulters who fail to comply with notices of demand commit a criminal offence, and upon conviction, can be fined up to RM5,000 or jailed for not more than three years, or both.
If the debt is not settled within the stipulated 14-day period under the notice of demand, the managing body can file a claim in the Strata Management Tribunal to recover the sum. Failure to comply with an award made by the tribunal is a criminal offence, and upon conviction, the defaulter can be fined up to RM250,000 or jailed for not more than three years, or both. He/she can also be further fined up to RM5,000 per day after conviction until full settlement.
“While the Act has all the necessary regulations for strata management, we still need good enforcement to avoid any incidents of errant owners,” Teo told Real Spaces.
He said that the Tribunal can help, but effective enforcement has always been questionable.
“In neighbouring countries, the complaints will be resolved in two weeks, but here it could take years and this is convenient for defaulters,” he said.
He added that COB should be empowered to take strict action, such as the confiscation of belongings.
“There is a lot of work to be done as these errant owners can easily find a way to escape the punishments. COB should be given magistrate power to allow them to do more. We also need more effective and efficient punishments,” Teo added.
Currently, the collection of maintenance fees fares around 80 to 90 per cent for high-end properties and 50 per cent for medium- and low-cost properties.
“For high-end properties, 95 to 98 per cent is achievable and it will be good if collections for medium- and low-cost properties can reach 70 per cent,” said BMAM’s secretary-general S. Venkateswaran.
He said there is a long way to go for a 100 per cent collection as Malaysians are still not civic-conscious enough.
“The whole process of enforcement is tedious, long and expensive, which is encouraging residents not to pay. BMAM is doing its part, but the residents have to do theirs,” he said.
Earlier this year, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government (KPKT), Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, announced that it will work on the formation of the Board of Building Managers (BBM) to give building managers the needed legitimacy and authority. Meanwhile, building managers can register themselves with the COB while waiting for the establishment of the board.
“We don’t want building managers to go around without any legitimacy, so temporarily, while KPKT is sorting out the formation, they can register with COB,” he said.
He added that KPKT hopes for cooperation from the Ministry of Finance in setting up the BBM.
BMAM’s president Tan Sri Datuk Eddy Chen said that despite BMAM’s effort to uplift the proficiency and status of building and property managers, the challenge remains in sustaining an orderly and well-regulated sector, hence the urgency for KPKT to set up the board in order to have proper statutory standards and streamlined operations to provide consistent quality service that strata property owners deserve.
“A dedicated board will give renewed impetus to an industry that is set to grow exponentially,” he said.