Problems related to strata living are escalating


The number of filed cases at the Strata Management Tribunal (SMT) has increased over the years since the tribunal was formed in July 2015. This means that problems faced by strata living is on the rise, said Chur Associates founder and managing partner Chris Tan.
Since the SMT was established, it has recorded about 10,000 cases, or an average of 2,500 cases per year.
In 2017, there were 4,390 cases while in the first half of 2018 alone, the number of cases reached 2,355 cases.
A majority of the cases were related to maintenance fee collection.
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In comparison, the Homebuyer Tribunal has received 45,000 cases since it was established in Jan 2003. In 2017, it recorded 2,082 cases.
“In the first half of 2018, the SMT received a total of 2,355 cases from the public compared to the Homebuyer Tribunal’s 709 cases filed during the same period,” Tan told the audience at the Symposium on Excellent Property Management 2019 themed “Is your investment future-proof?”.
In his session titled “Of COBs and the Tribunal — Do you know your rights?”, he noted that some property owners might be confused between the SMT and Homebuyer Tribunal although both are under the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
The Homebuyer Tribunal, or Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims (TTPR) was established under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966. It is a special tribunal established to hear disputes between property purchasers and developers. TTPR has the jurisdiction to determine a claim of not more than RM50,000.
However, for issues related to strata properties, property owners could make a claim before the SMT under Section 107 of the Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA) for claims up to RM250,000.
Issues that can be brought to the SMT include disputes over decisions made by Management Corporations (MC) or Joint Management Bodies (JMB), disputes over maintenance cost or misuse of sinking funds, by-law amendments, and debt recovery.
SMT only serves selected stakeholders, namely the managing agent, the proprietor, the developer, the management body, purchasers and interested persons decided by the SMT.

What is the COB then?
For strata property owners who find themselves mired in problems related to strata living, filing complaints to the SMT should be their last resort as they could seek the help of the Commissioner of Buildings (COB) first, said Tan.
For example, when a management committee fails to be formed during an Annual General Meeting, the COB could step in to appoint a managing agent to handle issues related to the property’s management.
The COBs are appointed by district and city councils like the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKJ) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), and they are tasked to regulate the MC and JMB.
The power and duties of the COB include enforcing the provisions in the SMA, as a record keeper of all the audited accounts, AGM minutes and the additional by-laws by the MC and JMB, as well as a trustee to the common property defects account.
When dealing with stubborn owners who refuse to pay maintenance fees and service charges, the COB could also step in by serving notices to the defaulters.
“Besides these, the COB also has the power to investigate and the power to attach movable property of those who refuse to pay their maintenance fees,” said Tan. He cited for example, MPKJ’s COB who had in October 2017 seized the movable properties of maintenance fee dodgers at Vista Seri Putra in Bandar Seri Putra, Bangi.
The MC of Vista Seri Putra had approached the COB in MPKJ for help to take action against 10 unit owners who had refused to pay their fees. The unsettled service charges amounted from about RM5,000 to RM9,735, accumulated over a few years.
Subsequently, the COB together with the police issued warrants to confiscate the movable properties of the fee dodgers.
“Following this incident, the collection rate of the apartment has increased to 78% from 40% previously,” said Tan.
However, he added that the role of the COB is limited to the role of enforcer for the SMA, thus, their power is subject to the SMT.
For cases that could not be handled by the COB, such as to remove the entire JMB or MC, property owners will need to bring the case to the SMT.
The symposium was organised by with partner Nippon Paint Malaysia. Supporting sponsors were Gamuda Land and Panasonic Malaysia. The event was also supported by The Edge Malaysia.

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