A cry for resolution
Published in NST-PROP
A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers
Eloquent discourse will not resolve our strata title woes, only concerted
Rhetoric will not resolve the problems of homeowners without strata titles. What
we need is a clear understanding of the operation of the law and the magnitude of the problem. A news report published in early
March showed that we are far from reaching the stage where something meaningful can be done to resolve the problem.
Stemming from that report which quoted Deputy Minister of Land and Cooperative
Development Dr Tan Kee Kwong, we wish to clarify two points.
First, we would like to dispel the notion that the use of private surveyors by
developers has caused the delay in the issuance of strata titles. In fact, the Strata Titles Act, 1985 (the Act) specifically
allows surveys to be conducted by qualified private professionals licensed by the Land Surveyors Board.
Second, we find it hard to believe "that slightly more than half the high-rise
buildings have been issued with strata titles.
We have yet to see an effective way to resolve the problem. And with more and more
stratified properties being built by the day, the situation may get a lot worse before we see any improvements.
The Act has been around for 18 years and the problems faced by housebuyers can be
due to the following:
a) Old buildings (prior to the implementation of the Act) without strata titles;
b) Non-application or rejection of applications made by the developer/land owner.
For the former, the lack of enforcement on the part of the authorities to compel the relevant party to make the applications also
played a role;
c) Orphaned projects, where the developer/land owner has been wound up, making it
more difficult for strata titles to be applied for.
Although the problems are obvious, the magnitude has been shrouded in a veil of
denial. Unlike buyers faced with abandoned projects, relevant authorities show little concern for homeowners without strata
In our statistics maintained over the past two years, problems with strata titles
top the list of complaints received from buyers.
Non-issuance of strata titles make up 27 per cent of the total complaints received
by us for the second year running. Unless drastic measures are taken, it will no doubt continue to top the chart for the third and
subsequent years to come.
Here are HBA's recommendations:
Prosecution not warnings
The Ministry of Land and Cooperative Development (the Ministry) should prosecute
errant developers who fail to apply for strata titles. Giving warnings with empty threats of prosecution are insufficient.
Penalise developers and/or their directors
If errant developers continue to drag their feet by deliberately not applying for
strata titles, then the government should enact a law to take over their task, either on its own or through privatisation. Such
costs and incidental expenses incurred could then be billed to the developer.
Perhaps a further law should be passed to make directors and officers of the
developer liable to reimburse the Ministry of Housing and Local Government or related agencies of whatever costs and expense
incurred incidental to the application and issuance of the strata titles. We already have similar laws concerning sales tax where
directors are personally liable in the event of default by the company.
Adopting orphaned buildings
Where a developer has been wound-up or where the Ministry is satisfied that it is
insolvent or incapable of applying for strata titles, such applications can be made by a vehicle similar to that of Syarikat
While helping to alleviate strata titles woes, revenue could also be generated in
the form of stamp duty to be paid on the Memorandum of Transfer to the eventual owners.
Instead of waiting for complaints to be made, the Ministry should adopt a
proactive stance and conduct a survey to determine from the developers/building owners, local authorities and house buyers the
number of buildings without strata titles.
Local councils and the Ministry of Land and Cooperative Development should be in
close communication to enable the former to extend copies of Certificates of Fitness for Occupation (CF) for stratified properties
to the latter so that it can monitor and coordinate the mater. With close cooperation between both these authorities, we may then
begin to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel.
The one-stop centre that some states have mooted has not been highlighted, Its
success or failure is largely unknown. In the event that such one-stop centre has been progressing well, then others should follow
to see expeditious issuance of strata titles.
The Malacca solution
Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Wira Ali Rustam has been at the forefront of a
system where the developers are to submit applications for strata titles when applying for building plan approval.
The consequence: Strata titles must be issued at the same time as the issuance of
CF. HBA has time and again suggested that the Ministry of Land and Cooperative Development take heed of the Malacca solution.
The above recommendations are not exhaustive. Members of the public are invited to
put forward their recommendations for solving this problem. You may send your suggestions to our e-mail address.
We fear the day will come when the departments concerned with strata title
applications will be so overwhelmed with backlog cases that something similar to the writing-off of unsettled traffic summons may
need to be studied. Quick and effective action to boost manpower and proactive steps need to be taken immediately.
The Ministry of Land and Cooperative Development must ensure that buyers of strata
title properties get their ownership titles.
The interests of developers/land owners should not take priority over the
interests of homebuyers.