Lower levels in high-rise living
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
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
These bodies are ranked based on how they do in seven areas (see graphic below for details); five stars is the highest rank.
69% below par
|65% 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
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
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
“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
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
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
“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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