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Enforcing the Act

08/06/2002 Published in NST-PROP A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers Association

With the gazetting of the amendments, the question is one of enforcement

The recent announcement that the amendments to the Housing Developer's Act (1996) has been gazetted was like a breath of fresh air for frustrated house buyers after a prolonged and suffocating waiting period. 

But has the God-sent cure-all formula for the ailing housing industry finally arrived? Will the heartaches, the headaches and the myriad of woes long suffered by the large number of Malaysian house buyers become a thing of the past?

Law-abiding citizens

We Malaysians are generally very adept at making laws for many things; from jay-walking to price displays, reckless driving to tinted windscreens. In fact, we are not short of laws on almost any matters.

Whenever a crisis arises, the first thing that we do is to initiate crisis management and damage control, both of which we are also pretty good at. Then we institute new or additional laws, which we are even better at, to supposedly prevent the crisis from happening again. After that we sit back and do nothing but wait for the same crisis to repeat itself! And the cycle goes on.

A little cynical, perhaps. But to us, justifiably so, because that appears to be the usual path taken by the many public issues that we have experienced from time to time.

Our message here is that laws will remain laws, unless the authorities concerned insititute good policing and strict enforcement.

House buyers are tired of non-performing developers

The nagging question in the minds of the Malaysian house buying public is whether the newly amended Act, which has certainly given the governmental agencies/authorities more clout, will see improvements from the present situation. We have purposely referred to governmental agencies/authorities and not to any particular Ministry or department because we strongly feel that a total approach to the problem is essential if we are ever to see any improvement to the situation.

All players that are involved in the industry have a role to play. Architects and engineers should conscientiously carry out their duties honestly and professionally. Local councils and their technical departments should make their decisions professionally, above board and transparent.

Developers should be sincere and truthful and not exploit the market during good times. They should ensure that they give buyers what they had paid for. Contractors and builders should not cut costs and take short cuts to maximise profits.

But most of all we feel that however much we plead and appeal, there will always be the recalcitrant and errant players in the industry who are immune to kind words and appeals of any kinds.

For these black sheep of the industry, we implore the respective authorities to throw the book at them and to take punitive action to the maximum extent of the law. In other words, the deterrent factor must be compelling enough to make potential black sheep think many times before they attempt to commit to their wayward ways.

From the complaints that we have received, slow or non-issuance of strata titles top the list. This is not suprising because we are now seeing results of the early batch of application for strata titles since the implementation of the Strata Titles Act in 1985 and the recent amendments in 2001 to the parent Act.

A number of the grievances involve disputes over the payment of dues to the developers before property owners can get their titles. There are also those that involve the owners having to cough out large amounts of money to pay to the developers for the 'adjusted increase in built-up areas," as they appear in the titles.

This is where the Ministry of Lands and Cooperative Development, which hitherto has been a dormant player, is thrust into the limelight. We would like to appeal to the Ministry of Lands to be ultra cautious and professional in their certification of floor areas because ultimately, it is the property buyers who will have to bear the financial burden for any such "increase".

The question most house buyers ask is, how long does it take for the strata titles to be issued? Accordingly, there are laws to make developers apply for the strata titles within a certain period, but who is watching to see if the developer does?

All said, we feel that the Minister of Housing and Local Government must take the driver's seat to be the prime mover. We are confident that he will have the conviction and the resolve to see to the proper enforcement of the new Act.

Enforcement is the key to more protection

Concentration should be focused on beefing up enforcement. All the house buyers want is to buy a home that complies with the law and not fight with their developers.

Only with proper enforcement of the laws will the hopes and expectations of the large number of long suffering house buyers be realised.

It is fervently hoped that the euphoria that has been generated by the amendments to the Act is justified and that the situation does not relate itself to the proverbial Malay saying of "Hangat-hangat tahi ayam". Which translated means 'to be hot for a short while." 


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