Lower levels in high-rise living
The Star—Online
By Yuen Meikeng
25 September 2016

It is one thing to be a developed state by 2020. But it is another thing entirely to have a developed state of mind – and Malaysians have a long way to go to achieve that.

Take, for instance, condominium—and apartment—living.

Some of these properties may come with top notch facilities but when it comes to managing their upkeep, there is much to be desired.

Or so says the latest findings on the quality of managing stratified properties from a survey by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Yearly Star Rating
Every year, the ministry conducts its Strata Scheme Management Quality Evaluation, or “Star Rating”, which ranks the standards of joint management bodies (JMBs) or management corporations (MCs) of apartments and condominiums.

These bodies are ranked based on how they do in seven areas (see graphic below for details); five stars is the highest rank.

Ratings
Year
1 star
2 stars
5 stars
2014
3,078
46%
1,286
19%
541
8%
65% below par
2015
3,335
46%
1,729
23%
74
1%
69% below par

But, as it turns out, more than half – or 69% – of condominiums and apartments nationwide ranked “below par”, scoring only one and two stars in 2015. In 2014, a slightly smaller percentage, 65%, were ranked below par.

Only 1% – or 74 – out of 7,325 strata development schemes surveyed earned five stars in the 2015 ratings, made available to Sunday Star.

If such a trend continues, future residents will inherit poor standards of living amidst modern facilities.

Currently, almost six million Malaysians out of 20 million city folk are living in stratified buildings like apartments and condominiums.

“But this number is expected to rise in future as the country progresses and becomes more urbanised,” says Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division under-secretary.

He says one of the major problems that condo dwellers continue to face is the refusal of other residents to pay maintenance fees. Other problems are building defects and matters involving enforcement.

“For now, about 70% of residents are at a level where they are merely aware of what needs to be done in managing their property. They are not yet at a level to appreciate the benefits of cooperating with each other and creating a better living culture,” he says.

Mohamad Ridzwan says there is a need to change the mindset of people to foster more civic-minded communities in high-rise buildings.

“Future generations will likely live in stratified buildings, so people should try to set a proper precedent for them,” he says.

He points out that there are also more people moving out of landed properties and into high-rise buildings.

“This group of people will have to learn to adapt to the culture of living in stratified buildings as it is different from living in houses.

“They will need to be more inclusive of and cooperative with their neighbours,” he says, adding that they would also have to learn to be more considerate when it comes to using shared facilities.

the ISO 9001:2008 standard for exemplary management


Stressing that it all boils down to the mindset of residents, Mohamad Ridzwan highlights the case of Rumah Pangsa Orkid, a low-cost flats property in Ulu Tiram, Johor, which made it into the Malaysia Book Of Records in 2014 for obtaining the ISO 9001:2008 standard for exemplary management.

“Until today, they remain the only low-cost flat development to have achieved this,” he says, adding that there are yet to be any high-end condominiums accorded the same standard.

Mohamad Ridzwan says the ministry will continue to actively educate dwellers on proper management of their properties.

“We will embark on more education programmes to promote better practices through advertisements in the mass media,” he says.

Strata Management Tribunals

On the Strata Management Tribunals to hear disputes, Mohamad Ridzwan says four such tribunals have been successfully set up to cover different zones in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Since their formation the tribunals have heard about 200 cases per month,” he says.

In March, Sunday Star reported that residents who do not pay maintenance fees and other charges were set to face the music, with the Government forming a team to strengthen the enforcement of the Strata Management Act.

The Act also enables residents to take their disputes to a Strata Management Tribunal to settle matters.

Building Managers Association of Malaysia committee member Richard Chan agrees that the “biggest and most critical” problem is the collection of fees, saying that it is rare that JMBs or MCs are able to collect payment from 80% of residents.

“It is more common for the collection rate to be at 40% or 50%,” he says.

Chan laments that petty excuses are often given by residents to defend their refusal to pay up.

“Some refuse because they don’t use the facilities.

“When people ask why they don’t want to pay, they simply say they don’t swim or play tennis,” he shares.

Chan adds that many unit owners live elsewhere or are based overseas and so are reluctant to pay.

“Some are not satisfied with services like garbage collection and defy orders to settle the fees,” he says.

He urges future condo owners to refrain from buying properties that come with all sorts of facilities if they are unwilling to pay up.

It is about their attitude and mentality


“Sometimes, it isn’t about whether they can afford the fees or service charges. It is about their attitude and mentality.

“Some don’t pay simply because their neighbours are not paying and are getting away with it,” Chan says, adding that such attitudes have resulted in some apartments owing up to RM200,000 in water and electricity bills.

The lack of money in the sinking fund also hinders JMBs and MCs from paying for major works like repairing lifts.

“It becomes a vicious cycle. Because people are not satisfied with the upkeep of the place, they do not pay the fees.

“But when they do not pay, there isn’t enough funds for upkeep,” he says.

Also, developers must do their part by informing all potential property buyers of the exact amount of all service charges, says Chan.

“Developers will try to promote their projects for more sales but they should also inform buyers of the fees they are expected to pay.

“Owners should also consider that, after a year, the fees may go up as warranty periods for equipment expire,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says many complaints against MCs have been made to the federation.

“High-end condominiums are generally better managed. We received a lot of complaints from people in medium cost apartments,” he says.

He says that consumers and the building management should both be more responsible.

“Consumers need to settle payments that they have agreed to. But they should also be receiving good service in return, like efficient rubbish collection,” he says.

Selvaraj highlights that the only way forward is for management bodies and residents to have a good working relationship.

“People should understand that managing their building is a collective responsibility.

“More dialogues should be held on how to improve the community to ensure good quality of life wherever we live,” he adds.


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