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Strata problems persist
NST-PROP 19/6/2004 By Nicholas Mun

It appears that buying a strata title property is one sure way of giving yourself a head-full of problems and worries.

According to statistics compiled by the National House Buyers Association (HBA), problems related to apartment and condo dwellings form close to half of all the complaints it received from buyers in 2003.

Of the 33,722 owners in 187 projects who lodged complaints with HBA last year, 28 per cent concerned the non-issuance of strata titles while 19 per cent arose from disputes involving the management and maintenance of such buildings.

The large proportion of complaints is of concern, given the increasing prevalence of such properties, especially in the Klang Valley and other established urban centres.

Ravindra Dass Property Services Sdn Bhd managing director Ravindra Dass said the scarcity of development land will force more developers to undertake strata title projects.

“There is very little land suitable for landed properties, so more of stratified residential units will emerge,” he said.

Dass believes that because of this trend, “the industry needs to look at enhancing the standards of property management”.

HBA secretary-general Chang Kim Loong explained that the problems often stem from the non-issuance of strata titles.

“Often, developers fail to apply for strata titles and because of this, they are vested with the duties of managing and maintaining their projects.”

In such circumstances, Chang said buyers often encounter problems concerning the lack of transparency or accountability with regard to the service charges and sinking fund contributions.

“Developers, when challenged, argue that they are not legally obliged to disclose details of these monies,” he said.

Chang pointed out that some developers also arbitrarily increase service charges and at times even charge residents a management fee for a job they are legally obliged to carry out due to the non-issuance of strata titles.

“There was a case where a developer managed five condos. Although it only had one maintenance worker on its payroll, it billed the residents in each of the condos for his services.”

Compounding this situation is the lack of Government enforcement to compel developers to apply for strata titles, which Chang said causes such problems to persist.

So what can one do? Chang’s advice is for buyers to form a residents’ association.

“Residents need to be united so they can speak out collectively against whatever they feel is wrong. They can also write to the Housing Ministry to intervene.”

And as for those contemplating to purchase a stratified unit, Chang’s advice is to “check with HBA or the Housing Ministry” to see whether the developer concerned is on the blacklist.


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