The long and winding road
By Salleh Buang
If a problem involving indiscipline was to occur in a school, the problem
would usually be tackled either by the class teacher, the discipline
master or the principal, in that ascending order. One does not foresee
having to refer the matter to the state director of education or the
Minister of Education.
By analogy, the same principle ought to apply to any problem concerning
the issuance of Certificates of Fitness for Occupation (CFs). The first
stop to make should such problems arise would be the developer’s office,
and after that the local authority, where the problem should be resolved.
The matter ought not to progress any further.
In the past, the CF problems have travelled up the ladder of
administrative hierarchy as far as it could possibly go. Many years ago,
it went up as far as the Cabinet. As a result, guidelines were issued. But
did these guidelines produce the desired result? I am told the result was
marginal. In some local authorities, dramatic changes took place. However,
for the most part, the greater number of local authorities happily went
about their business in the usual old way, confident in their knowledge
that Malaysian purchasers are by nature, a very patient lot.
In November 2001, the CF issue even caught the attention of the nation’s
chief executive, the Prime Minister himself. Local media quoted the PM as
saying that he was unhappy with the slow progress of the issuance of CF
for homes in Putrajaya.
In May 2002, Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting
was quoted as saying that his Ministry would soon “expose” the local
authorities who still fail to comply with the aforesaid guidelines.
According to these guidelines, CF must be issued within two weeks of
receiving Form E. The exposure, however, was to be made to the Cabinet
only and is not for public knowledge.
The Minister’s remarks must be read in the light of what had been said a
month earlier by the Director-General of National Housing Department,
Datuk Mohamed Saib.
On that occasion, the DG was quoted as saying that local authorities “have
never deliberately delayed the issuance of certificates of fitness to
house buyers”. He explained that if at all there was any delay, it was due
to “technical reasons” which had to be clarified in the interest of safety
of the purchasers. He insisted that local authorities were eager to issue
the CF as occupied houses are a source of revenue to them.
The DG’s statement was apparently in response to an earlier remark made by
Datuk Eddy Chen Lok Loi (then the Real Estate and Housing Developers’
Association president) who was quoted as saying that public sector
agencies were the principal source of CF delay in the country. Chen had
said that in some cases, local authorities took more than 15 years to
issue the CF. In many of these cases, delay occurred because these
agencies had asked developers to carry out additional work beyond those
described in the original approved plans.
More recently, local media quoted the Housing Minister as saying that CF
delay was due to the developer’s own fault in carrying out works not
described in the approved building plans. Besides that, there were also
cases where developers failed to “adhere to certain regulations or safety
requirements”, he added.
The CF problem is a classic case of where the law is comparatively simple
but implementation being a different thing altogether. Under by-law 25 of
the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984 (a subsidiary law made under section 133
of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974), it is stated that a CF
“shall be given” when “the qualified persons” have certified (in Form E of
the Second Schedule, which is an application for the issuance of a CF)
(i) they have supervised the erection of the building;
(ii) to the best of their knowledge and belief, the building has been
constructed in accordance with these By-laws and any conditions imposed by
the local authority (in other words, it is in accordance with the Building
and Structural Plans); and that
(iii) they accept full responsibility for those portions which they are
respectively concerned with.
The term “qualified persons” mentioned here has been defined in the
By-Laws to mean “any architect, registered building draughtsman or
By-Law 25 went on to provide that as a precondition to the issuance of the
CF, the local authority or an officer authorised by it must have inspected
the building and that “all essential services including access roads,
landscape, car parks, drains, sanitary, water and electrical
installations, fire lifts, fire hydrants and where required, sewerage and
refuse disposal requirements have been provided.”
A CF must be issued before a building can be occupied, because under
by-law 28, it is an offence for any person to occupy any building without
a CF. Such misconduct will expose the occupier to criminal prosecution
under the 1974 Act.
I am told that a condo development in Desa Petaling has not been issued
with its CF, although it has been a decade since its completion. I wonder