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MANAGEMENT OF HIGH-RISE APARTMENTS: Power back in hands of owners
13/08/2007 NST By K. Harinderan and Sri Kuehnlenz

KUALA LUMPUR: At least once a month, the lifts stop working at the high-rise apartment block where Liew See Lan lives. "There is little we can do as the developer is the only one with the power over the management company," she said.

Soon, though, the housewife and other owners of Bukit Pandan Two condominiums will be able to have a big say in how the property is run.

Sometime this month, the residents’ association she leads will meet to form a collective body that will take over running of the property.

All she needs is between eight and 12 owners, and up to two representatives from the developer, to form what is called the joint management body (JMB).

This JMB will maintain the common property, decide how much to charge for maintenance and collect the charges. It also can sue and be sued.

More importantly, it will be able to seize the units of owners who don’t pay their maintenance fees, to be auctioned off to settle what is owed.

This major change in the laws regulating high-rise residential buildings came in April, with the the Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act 2007.

These provisions will affect about 500,000 strata-titled units across the country and their two million occupants, as well as millions of ringgit in sinking funds and collected monies.

Until April this year, apartment owners spent years — and sometimes decades — waiting for developers to convert master titles into individual strata titles.

In that period, developers controlled the upkeep of the property, often appointing subsidiaries or business associates to the role of management company.

The law gave little recourse to frustrated owners, many of whom endured poor service from management companies.

Problems range from dirty common toilets to leaking roofs and poor lighting in stairwells.

Now the JMB will manage the property until the permanent management body is formed after full conversion of the master title.

"The relationship between owners and management used to be a no-man’s land. This new law will help to regulate that area," said Chang Kim Loong, secretary-general of the National House Buyers’ Association.

An estimated 70 per cent of Malaysia’s stratified residential properties are badly managed, forcing owners and occupants to put up with deplorable conditions, he said.

Then again, developers and management companies, too, had problems.

Difficulty in collecting maintenance charges was top of the list and they are barred from cutting off the water supply or denying entry as an enforcement measure. Now, owners will share these headaches, too.

With the new law, developers of new properties must form the JMB within a year of giving vacant possession.

And all developers of existing apartment properties must form the JMB before April 12 next year.

So far, three apartment properties have formed and registered their JMBs. Two are in Kuala Lumpur and one in Petaling Jaya.

One of them is the Sri Murni condominium off Jalan Duta here.

Its developer, IGB Corporation Bhd, held a meeting last month to elect 12 owners to the committee.


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