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Stymied by housing law

27/05/2006 New Straits Times

Many new concepts and innovations in housing development that can provide Malaysians with a better quality living environment cannot be introduced because the country's housing development law has failed to keep up with the times.

For some developers as well as buyers impatient for a solution to their lingering problems - the wait is going to be even longer, as a result of a recent decision to defer the tabling of the proposed Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Bill.

Announcing the postponement of the Bill in Parliament, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said it is so additional clauses, such as those providing for the establishment of "gated communities" can be included.

This delay, said industry watchers, reflects the tardiness of the ministry given that gated communities have been in the country for many years now and since many calls have been made by the industry over the years for the ministry to move on the issue.

"As there has yet to be legislation covering gated communities in the country, it would mean existing ones are operating illegally," said secretary- general of the International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) Asia-Pacific Regional Secretariat, Kumar Tharmalingam.

"Certain local councils have given approvals for these developments in their jurisdiction, even though (gated-and-guarded schemes) have yet to be synergized with the legal framework," he said.

The issuance of strata titles for gated-and-guarded communities as well as other matters pertaining to housing development have been taken, up to the ministry by the Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association (Rehda).

Its president, Datuk Jeffrey Ng, in expressing his disappointment earlier this year on the lack of action on the part of the Housing Ministry in this area, said "voluminous recommendations have been forwarded" to the ministry on a number of occasions.

Given the rapid changes in concepts and ideas in housing development, he said the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 also needs updating to include the definition of terms such as "housing accommodation" and "serviced apartments".

Tharmalingam said the existing housing law is "too entrenched and lacks foresight to safeguard the interests of consumers, especially with new demands emerging from savvy home- buyers".

On Oct 12 last year, Rehda forwarded a letter to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid on the urgent need "to expedite proposed amendments to the Strata Titles Act, 1985 to enable issuance of strata titles for a wider range of housing types in gated-and-guarded communities".

Arguing its case, Rehda said the proliferation of multi-storey terrace houses, semi-Dees and bungalows in condominium-style residential schemes has brought into sharp focus the "deficiencies of the existing legislation in the issuance of strata titles to these stratified housing types".

Additionally, serviced apartments, which are commercial property, built on land zoned for commercial use but sold as residential units, do not come under the ambit of the Housing Development Act.

In the event of any dispute, the only legal recourse a buyer of a serviced apartment will have are the terms of the contractual agreement with the developer.

According to chief executive officer of real estate firm Zerin Properties Sdn Bhd Previndran Sing he, amendments to the housing law "are necessary to provide better protection for buyers, as well as provide clarification on the status of serviced residences and bungalow lots".

While the existing legislation is not conducive for new types of development to emerge, overwhelming acceptance of changing trends by house buyers suggests an implicit faith that regulators will eventually come around to setting matters right.


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