BY Roznah Abdul Jabbar
High-rise living has become a trend for Malaysians, especially urbanites, due largely to diminishing space in city centres as well as the major draw of facilities and security.
Over the years, there have been complaints by those responsible to ensure that the facilities are properly managed and maintained. They are the joint management bodies (JMBs), management corporations and residents themselves.
A field check by Real Spaces shows a number of residents do not appreciate the facilities in their stratified properties, including those living in niche and high-end properties. This finding is contrary to the popular belief such an attitude is only commonplace in low-cost properties.
A resident of a high-end condominium in Jalan Ipoh, KL, said that while the facilities there are properly managed, certain residents have been seen vandalising them.
“Some have a terrible attitude. Equipment in the gym is damaged, the swimming pool shower is broken and the toilets at the facility deck are dirty. One would think that when you live in a high-end condo, you wouldn’t have to put up with all this, but that’s not the case here,” the resident said.
A medium-cost apartment in Puchong, with well managed facilities, is said to have a similar problem – a family having a picnic by the pool was seen washing their plates in the pool.
“This is what has been happening; when advised, they retort by saying that they have been paying maintenance fees without fail,” a resident who witnessed the incident said.
The situation in low-cost flats, where both the JMBs and residents are not doing their part, is far worse.
One low-cost flat resident in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, said he has not been paying maintenance fees for the past five years, blaming “bad maintenance” for his lack of compliance.
According to deputy president of the Building Management Association of Malaysia (BMAM), Tan Sri Datuk Teo Chiang Kok, the act of not paying cannot be justified.
“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 the problems to the Commissioner of Buildings (COB). There shouldn’t be any resistance to paying,” he said.
Research by the Faculty of the Built Environment, University of Malaya, showed that fee collection of more than 80 per cent has never been achieved in high-rise buildings, especially in medium- and low-cost properties.
The research said fee collection is not easy. Even after more than two decades of legal implementations, the problem persists as though legislation has not made any impact.
Under the Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA) enforced last year, failure to pay 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. Upon conviction, they 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 with the Strata Management Tribunal (SMT) to recover the sum.
Failure to comply with an award made by the tribunal is a criminal offence. Upon conviction, the defaulter can be fined up to RM250,000 or jailed for not more than three years, or both. The person can also be further fined up to RM5,000 per day after conviction until full settlement.
Real Spaces earlier reported that property management in Malaysia is still in its infancy and enforcement of the SMA and SMT is helping the positive development of strata management.
Lawyer Datuk Pretam Singh said we are on the right path and have taken the first steps. However, there is room for improvement on issues regarding ownership of car parks and action to be taken on defaulters.
He said the enforcement of SMA and the Strata Management (Maintenance & Management) Regulations 2015 and the SMT are positive moves.
Pretam said the SMT is expected to solve several problems faced by those involved in management and by the residents.
Over 400 tribunal cases were filed last year and so far this year, 1,192 cases have been filed, he said, noting the numbers show the severity of issues surrounding strata property.