Minimising house buyers’ risk
01/10/2003 Malaysian Business-Housing & Property By
National House Buyers Association of Malaysia
'Build then sell" delivery of houses protects buyers from failed developments
With the recent High Court’s decision that the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims
(Tribunal) has no jurisdiction to hear claims where the sale and purchase agreements
were signed prior to its appointment (1 December 2002), the following are the
- Scores of aggrieved house buyers who had sought redress through the Tribunal
and who have won their cases against their housing developers will now have
the awards nullified.
- Hundreds of aggrieved house buyers who have submitted their grouses and
who are awaiting the Tribunal to adjudicate their cases will now have their
cases thrown out.
- Thousands perhaps tens of thousands of aggrieved house buyers who are
having problems with their developers and who are contemplating seeking the
Tribunal to redress their grievances, can now forget the idea unless the Attorney
General’s appeal against the High Court decision is successful. The sad point
is that most of these complainants are already financially exhausted spending
the bulk of their life long savings in the purchasing of the houses. Hence
civil litigation in the civil courts is out of question due to financial reasons.
Such is the ramifications of the recent High Court’s decision that leaves
a majority of house buyers fuming. The Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims was one
of the protections implemented after years of discussion to improve protection
for house buyers. In this modern society, house buyers need to know their rights
and have access to a resolution process that is independent, fair, accountable,
affordable, effective and efficient.
A review of the present system of delivery of buying bought directly from developers
raised a major concern in relation to the protections afforded. The progressive
payment system places great risks and put house buyers in a grossly disadvantaged
situation. Cases where developments fail and the developers cannot be brought
to account because of disappearance or insolvency is not uncommon.
The National House Buyers Association has all along been suggesting the “build
then sell” system of house delivery. In fact this mode of transaction can be
called by any other nomenclature. There are also numerous practical variants
to this system. The bottom line is that developers should not be allowed to
collect full payments before they deliver completed houses. If we are not ready
to adopt this system in an expanding market, then we will never be ready to
adopt it at all.
One of the reasons cited is that the price of houses would escalate due to the
developers having to shoulder the finance costs. One needs to look deeper into
the situation to see a clearer perspective of the situation. The parties who
are actually financing the industry are the financial institutions. Presently
house buyers are shouldering the bulk of the finance costs, making progressive
payments even though there is no house in sight.
One is wrong to think that this present system of delivery makes houses more
affordable. Look at the prices of houses in the country today. It does not commensurate
with our per capita income. The present situation allows developers to do business
with minimal capital and more importantly lesser risks. In such a situation
they become reckless and irresponsible.
Financial Institutions on the other hand enjoy a situation whereby their exposures
are well spread out amongst the large numbers of house buyers (to whom they
give end-financing) instead of a few directors of the developer companies.
While the appeal by the Attorney General is awaiting disposal in the Court
of Appeal, the country should seriously look at the mode of delivery of houses.
Winning the appeal is only a piecemeal solution to the more serious overall
problem. Amending the Housing Act further is also not likely to remove the bulk
of the problems afflicting the industry. Even if the Ministry of Housing & Local
Government is able to enforce the Act and bring the offending culprits to court,
the volume of cases involved will surely overwhelm the already overloaded civil
Clearly a practical variant of the “build then sell” concept should be urgently
and seriously looked into. The overriding principle should be that developers
should not be allowed to collect payments and to reap profits before they deliver
their products. We believe that the future of the housing industry and indeed
the well-being of the Malaysian house buying public lie in the crucial and badly
needed reform to the present mode of delivery.