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Certificate of Fitness: Easy to understand, difficult to Implement
10/2/1001 NST-PROP By Prof Salleh Buang

ESSENTIALLY the law relating to the issuance of certificates of fitness for occupation of a building (CF) is not difficult to understand.

It should therefore be not too difficult to implement on a uniform basis throughout the nation. That, at least, is the theory.

In practice, it is somewhat different and media reports on the subject over the past several years would probably make up two big tonnes if compiled.

The law is contained in the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984, in subsidiary legislation made under section 133 of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974.

Under by-law or rule 25, it is stated that a CF “shall be given” when “the qualified persons” have certified (in FormE of the Second Schedule, which is an application for the issuance of a CF) that:

they have supervised the erection of the building 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 they accent 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 engineer.”

By-Law 25 goes on further to state that as a precondition to the issuance of the CF, the local authority or an officer authorized by it must have inspected the building and that “all essential services including access roads, landscape, car parks, drains, sanitary, water and electrical installation, fire lifts, fire hydrant and others where required, sewerage and refuse disposal requirements have been provided.”

The law envisages that circumstances may arise in which the developer or a building owner may wish to apply for a temporary CF.

This contingency is met by By-law 26(1) which states that subject to the payment of such prescribed fees, the local authority “may” after imposing a deposit either in cash or bank guarantee grant a ”temporary certificate of fitness of occupation to a building for a period not exceeding six months in cases where only minor deviations from the approved building plans have been made and pending full compliance with the requirements of the local authority.”

By-law 26(2) then goes on to state that if the “owner or occupier of the building does not fully comply with the requirements as imposed,” the local authority “may” make use of the deposit for the purpose of complying with said requirements.

Besides temporary CF, there is also a provision for “partial CF.” Under By-law 27, it is stated that the local authority “may in its discretion” grant a CF for “any part of a building partially completed,” subject to such conditions as it may choose to impose. A partial CF, however, can be issued only if:

  • an application for it has been made within the period of construction;
  • all essential services have been provided; and
  • occupation of such part of the partially completed building will not prejudice public health or safety.

Once issued, a partial CF remains in force until the whole building has been completed and a CF is issued for it.

To underscore the necessity of having a CF before a building can be occupied, By-law 28 makes it 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.

Last November, the local media reported the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s concern that some local authorities in the country had failed to adhere to the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation Guidelines which had been agreed to by the Cabinet and the State Governments in 1995.

According to the Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, the guidelines only stipulate “seven technical factors” which local authorities must be concerned with when considering applications for CF. However, he said some local authorities were imposing non-technical requirements as well, such as requiring developers to contribute funds to build additional roads and drainage.

Ong said this practise had to stop and his ministry would be issuing reminders to that effect soon.

The problem is, according to what I am told, some local authorities regard themselves as sovereigns in their own little kingdom and pay little heed to what the Federal Cabinet or the Minister has to say.

A question I was recently asked is whether past practices by these “independent thinking” local authorities will continue in the year 2001 and beyond. I am still searching for the answer.

(Prof Salleh welcomes feedback via


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