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Roles and responsibilities
NST-PROP 26/10/2001 By Akbal Singh Sandhu

Very often, when we buy a house, we deal directly with the developer or financial institution, and have only a vague idea of the roles of other professionals involved in the whole development process.

What we may not realise is that property development involves a number of professionals and government bodies that plan, scrutinise and implement a project.

Here’s an outline of the roles and responsibilities of some of the professionals involved:

The developer
The present Housing Developers (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 allows anyone intending to construct in any manner more than four units of housing accommodation to apply to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for a license. A paid-up capital of RM250,000 is required if it is a company and RM100,000 cash deposit if he is an individual. Experience is not a requirement and there are many green horns who jump on the development bandwagon because of this.

The contractor
Historically, contractors start off in the business by doing a little renovation or building work, often sub-contracting specialised work such as carpentry, bricklaying and concreting to others. Anyone who can hammer a nail and saw wood becomes a carpenter, and you will often find plasterers doing tiling work as well because there is no clearly defined job specification. Others on the sub-contract list include electricians, plumbers and those tasked with doing earthworks, roads and drains.

Profit margins being high, it is not uncommon to find developers setting up subsidiary companies to handle their construction. Of late, it has become necessary for contractors bidding for government projects to be registered with the Construction Industry and Development Board.

The architect
A person registered with the Board of Architects under the Architect’s Act 1967 is entitled to submit building plans for approval from the relevant authorities in any part of the country. The plans must be in accordance with the Uniform Building By Laws 1984 (UBBL). The sole responsibility for the plans drawn rests with the architect and not the developer nor the contractor. There is no limitation on the size of the project that the architect may design; however, there is a limitation imposed on the sub-technical person called the building draftsman who may only design and draw plans for buildings not exceeding four storeys in height.

The practice of the building draftsman is also limited to the geographical area of the local council where he is registered.
Town planners

Only professional town planners who are members of the Malaysian Institute of Town Planners may submit applications for planning approval. Applications for planning approval for development on land of more than one acre in some local councils and more than five acres in general can only be made by a registered Town Planner.

The Board of Town Planners has only been set up lately and is still in the process of preparing the full list of registrants It is a requirement that all applications for planning approval be accompanied by a planner’s report called “Laporan Cadangan Pembangunan” (LCP) along with the overall development plan. Justification on the need for the development and the impact it would have should be addressed in the planner’s report. In cases of hilly land and parcels of more than 50 acres, an Environmental Impact Assessment Study (EIA) becomes necessary.

The EIA is an important procedure set out by the authorities for ensuring that all likely effects of new development on the environment are fully understood and taken into account before a decision on the development is made. Approval for this report is within the purview of Ministry of Science and Technology’s Department of Environment.

The lay person generally only hears of the civil and structural engineer or the electrical and mechanical engineer. However, there are several others involved such as transportation planners (who may not necessarily be engineers), sewerage engineer, telecommunication engineers, soil engineers and environmental engineers, just to name a few. All these professionals are there to provide back up technical expertise that may be called upon by both the town planner and architect as and when necessary.
Financial institutions

These are commonly banks, finance and insurance companies. They are your friends as long as you keep paying them regularly the monies that you owe and they are happy to reach out with an umbrella on sunny days and quick to take it away when it rains. They are the backbone of all

These include land surveyors, quantity surveyors, valuers and building surveyors. There are three regulatory boards governing their practice - the Board of Land Surveyors, Board of Quantity Surveyors, and the Board of Valuers, Appraisers & Estate Agents. There is a lot of misconception about the services provided by these professionals.

Land surveyors carry out physical surveys of your land and prepare plans for submission of land titles and strata titles. Valuers and appraisers are trained to do estate management and prepare valuation studies for anyone who requires it - valuation reports for financial institutions are prepared by them. They are also qualified to conduct the business of real estate marketing and sales. Estate agents are not trained as valuers and are therefore not qualified to prepare appraisals.

The work of quantity surveyors was traditionally done by architects (preparing specifications, calculating quantities and tender documents). Quantity surveyors also prepare cash flow and feasibility studies and are there in general to assist the architect in the preparation of tender documents and calling of tenders.

The work of building surveyors (also known as building inspectors) is more technical in the sense that they are trained to be able to read building plans drawn up by architects and are expected to be familiar with the requirements incorporated in UBBL. Sadly, most of the building surveyors in Malaysia are employed in the public sector. Their role and responsibility will naturally become part and parcel of the responsibility and duties expected of the authorities.


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