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Championing buyers' right

19/01/2002 Published in NST-PROP A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers Association

The House Buyers Association outlines the common problems facing the housing industry development industry today

Buying a home is an important event in a person's life; it is the single biggest capital investment that a person will undertake in his or her lifetime. You would expect, therefore, that such an experience would bring a sense of achievement and joy to those who pursue it.

The reality, though, is different. We've all heard first hand accounts or read in the newspapers about house buyers ending up with the short end of the stick when the housing projects they bought were abandoned, delivered late, or of poor quality. Many house buyers suffer in silence and are further bewildered when they are let down by the relevant authorities who were supposed to have enforced the law to protect their interest.

However, some three years ago in 1999, a group of aggrieved house buyers decided not to suffer quietly anymore, and attended a seminar conducted by a consumer group to voice their feelings and seek a solution to their housing woes. This group of individuals was inspired to set up an association with the main purpose of creating awareness on the legal rights of house buyers and to voice their interest in the legislation pertaining to the housing industry.

The non-profit, non-political association, know as the House Buyers Association (HBA) was formed in 1999 and officially registered July 26, 2000. Its members include lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, consultants, retired army officers, managers and others from all walks of life. The common denominator among its members is a desire to balance out the inferior position of house buyers in the developer-dominated market and to strive wholly for a free, fair and equitable treatment for house buyers in their deal with housing developers. HBA's members work on a voluntary basis and aim to provide information, advice and support so that house buyers are in a position to act as equal "partners in the market".

Common problems

The skilful connivance of errant developers has caused much anxiety and displeasure and to some extent, untold miseries suffered by the house buyers who have had to deal with problems such as the following:

  • Non-adherence by developers to the terms in the Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA);

  • Non-compliance to approved plans and new amendments made to the original plan without consulting or obtaining the consent of the house buyers;

  • Shoddy workmanship and sub-standard finishing;

  • Buildings not completed on schedule, some even after five years;

  • Conveniently and deliberately failing to apply for Certificate of Fitness (CF);

  • Blatantly delaying application for strata titles, which are the final documentary proof of ownership for condominium purchasers;

  • Run-away developers leaving behind incomplete and abandoned projects, some of which have resulted in no house for the buyers because of foreclosure proceedings by the bridging financier;

  • Relevant ministries and agencies giving house buyers the runaround and not coming up with solutions and the lackadaisical attitude of civil servants;

  • Developers charging hefty maintenance charges and "consent fees" of two per cent;

  • Developers making use of the sinking fund and accumulated maintenance charges paid by owners to defer expenses/overheads incurred by their subsidiary companies

HBA's aim

HBA is committed to helping house buyers who have had a raw deal and short end of the stick from errant developers. The formation of the HBA was prompted by the need for an appropriate and watertight legislation to govern the housing industry, from the Housing Developer (Control and Licensing) Act and its related regulations to the Strata Title Act and National Land Code. The association also seeks to stress on the importance of enforcement, the lack of which has allowed developers to take advantage of buyers.

The primary objectives of the Association are as follows:

  1. To promote awareness of the legal rights and liberties of house buyers.
  2. To undertake independent authoritative interest, coordinate a check and balance to protect the rights of buyers and to advise on how to protect their legitimate interests in the housing industry.

  3. To make representations and liaisons and to maintain close with and gain representations on the management of government agencies and local and statutory authorities related to the housing industry.

  4. To disseminate information to members through publications and the media and through the organisation of seminars, conferences, lectures, exhibitions and other activities necessary for the attainment of this goal.

  5. To be a watcher in the building and housing industries.

  6. To assist in updating legislation governing the housing industry.

  7. To obtain feedback and collect data and formulate proposals for the betterment of the housing industry.

  8. To promote goodwill, spirit of togetherness and to foster good relationship among members and the various communities.

  9. To protect and to promote the common interests/welfare of the members.

HBA holds regular meetings with groups of  house buyers and assists them in forming pro-tem groups, imparts information on handling housing problems, gets feedback and formulates proposals. The association wholeheartedly encourages house buyers to adopt a pro-active attitude and contribute towards society for the betterment of the housing industry.

Ultimately, HBA wants to see a level playing field between developers and house buyers to ensure the latter are not short changed and get exactly what they have paid for with their hard-earned money. As such, we will continue to give constructive criticism and address weaknesses facing the housing industry. We aim to live up to our motto: Striving for buyers' rights and interests.


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National House Buyers Association (HBA)

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