Condo owner obligations
Daily Express (abridged)
By Datuk John Lo
03 July 2017
Writing in a major east-Malaysian
newspaper, Datuk John Lo explains why he thinks that Malaysia should
copy the strata (condo) model that was developed by Singapore.
Kota Kinabalu's (the capital of the state of Sabah) physical development
is improving in quality and is gaining recognition as the international
city for this region. These factors are stabilising comforts for local
and foreign property investors in spite of the less-than-favourable
economic conditions globally.
These investors have focused on apartments and condos. Most common
complaints are on poor management and maintenance, which in some cases
will consequent on poor appreciation, lower rentals and in some cases,
reduction in price. For Kota Kinabalu to achieve further meaningful progress, this
problem must be addressed fast and effectively. If left unresolved, it
can ensue many woes to the condo owners eventually.
The Singapore model
It is therefore appropriate time for the authorities to critically
review the quality of management and maintenance for strata living in
Sabah. Kulua Lumpur is no better than Kota Kinabalu. The obvious and nearest example is
Singapore where strata living is popular and the best managed in the
region if not in the world. More than 80% of Singaporeans live in high
To achieve a coherent approach, Singapore has merged two separate legislations on strata housing into one.
They are “the Land Titles [Strata] Act and the Buildings and Common
Property [Maintenance and Management] Act. Today, relevant parts of the
LTSA and the entire BCPA have been combined into a single legislation
known as the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act” after
extensive consultation with the public and other stakeholders.
This combined legislation together with “very strict, no nonsense” and
fast enforcement have uplifted the quality of strata living for condos
and HDBs in Singapore that has gained international recognition.
condo living is a lifestyle with shared
Below are some outstanding features. The Singapore Legislation makes it
very clear that condo living is a lifestyle with shared
responsibilities. This legislation makes the strata living communities
take possession of responsibilities for the management and maintenance
of their own properties.
Failure to do so will result in prosecution and penalties, including jail terms in some cases.
Condo owners joint responsibilities
Common Properties Condo owners have joint responsibility for common
properties which include upkeep of common facilities like lifts, car
parks, sport and recreational facilities (for example, swimming pools,
tennis courts, gyms and billiard rooms) in their estates.
By-laws governing the use/enjoyment of these common properties must be strictly adhered to by all condo owners.
Share value of the condo owners I believe Sabah has this concept. The
share value of a property is a ﬁgure that represents the proportionate
share entitlement assigned to each strata unit in the same development.
The purpose of the share value is to determine the amount of shares
each condo owner has in relation to the other owners in the development.
Condo owners’ responsibilities exterior features are permanent ﬁxtures that form part of the external fašade of buildings.
the penalties are
severe, including jail term
These include openable windows of the condo unit. It is the condo
owner’s duty to maintain his lot (unit), including the external openable
windows and pipes that are exclusively used by him. The penalties are
severe, including jail term and fine if the condo owners have failed to
maintain these exterior features.
Further, failure to maintain these exterior features also attract
similar severe penalties as the Act also covers potential as well as
Inter-ﬂoor leaks I have heard of many horrifying cases of extreme
irresponsibility of the unit owner above when there is an inter-floor
leak in Sabah. Some simply refuse to allow MC (management) and unit owner below into
their units for inspection.
Worse, some refuse to pay for repairs.
In Singapore, it is legal requirement for the condo owners to jointly
carry out an inspection to establish the cause of any inter-floor leak
and proceed with repair immediately. They should also both resolve the
cost of repair without delay.
In cases like this, it is presumed that the leak has originated from
the upper ﬂoor unit unless the owner can prove otherwise. Therefore,
the owner of the upper ﬂoor unit cannot claim that the leak has not
originated from a defect in his unit. He has to jointly investigate the
cause with his lower-ﬂoor neighbour and proceed with any repairs
This provision of the legislation is strictly implemented, penalties
are heavy. The unit owner below can also claim damages to his property
in addition to repair cost.
Compliance with notices
It has become a culture with condo owners in
Sabah to ignore any notice served by a public authority for
maintenance. Do that in Singapore, the MC may arrange for the required
work and recover the costs incurred as a debt owed to the MC from unit
owner. In the event of failure to pay, the MC can take legal action to
recover the cost of repair, legal fees and related costs.
Improvements and additions to units It is quite common for condo owners
in Sabah to simply make improvements and additions to their units
Any intention to carry out works on a unit that may result in an
increase in the total gross ﬂoor area of the entire development, you
will need to apply to and obtain a 90% resolution from the MC in
Examples of such works include rooﬁng a private enclosed space and putting a slab over a void in a unit.
Depending on the type of work done, you may also be required to obtain the consent of other approving authorities like DBKK.
Maintenance/ failure to pay contributions
Again, there are many cases of
condo owners failing or refusing to pay maintenance fees in Sabah.
Common reason given is that they don’t stay there or don’t use the
facilities. Absent and non-occupier condo owners are the worst
offenders. Condo owners in Singapore must pay maintenance fees.
Developers in Singapore are also required by law to pay maintenance
fees for units unsold or units sold and not handed over after three months
from date of obtaining occupancy permits.
The developer of a condo project is required to obtain written approval
from the Commissioner of Buildings [COB] before collecting maintenance
charges from purchasers.
Sabah must have the legal provision to ensure condo owners to pay up maintenance fees promptly.
This is a very serious matter in Singapore as failure to pay within 14
days after the written demand has been served, you are liable for an
offence amounting to a ﬁne. The MC can recover any unpaid contribution
through the Small Claims Tribunal or the courts. In more serious cases,
the MC, under the act, can also register a charge on the lot for none
payment, which may eventually lead to auctioning of the unit.
The condo owners in Sabah need to adopt a more responsible attitude
with regards to strata living in their own interest, most important of
which are that their properties, with proper maintenance, can maintain
value, better return on their investments and fetch better rentals.
The Singapore strata living law is very comprehensive with checks and
balances in MC, provisions for decent and proper personal behaviour
within the condo property and dispute settlements between the condo
Above all, there is strict, very strict enforcement by the MC as well
as the authorities. For those interested for more details, especially
the authorities like DBKK and MCs, they can google “Strata Living in
Singapore” by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.
This write up has many interesting ideas that Sabah can consider
adopting for the benefits of condo owners and orderly development of
Supply & demand
For a long time the Sabah property development industry has been
plagued with the inability of synchronising supply and development.
Results? Many abandoned projects, developers absconded and left
purchasers in life-long financial dilemma. The Sabah Government has
been forced to step in, at great cost, to complete these abandoned
To curb excessive speculation and overbuilding by developers
the Singapore government has introduced an interesting device, which
can be adopted in Sabah. The Singapore Government imposes on developers
percentage fine of the value for all unsold units after a given period.
With this penalty, over eager developers with unnatural market
exuberances are forced to adopt prudence.
I like the Singapore model because the legislation on strata living is comprehensive and well thought out.
It puts the first line of responsibility for management and maintenance
where it should be – squarely on the condo owners as a community. This
is the right approach as the condo owners must take charge and resolve
problems related to their own properties. The condo owners in Sabah
must adopt this same attitude.
They owe it, first of all, to themselves if they want to enjoy strata
living as a life style, maintain value and hope for appreciation from
their investments. They cannot blame the Government or any other
parties if they fail in basic decent human behaviour especially failure
to pay management and maintenance fees and lack of spirit of
co-operation. The only thing the Sabah Government can do is to provide
the legal framework similar to the Singaporean one. Most of the
implementation, enforcement and resolutions must stay on the shoulders
of the condo owners and their MC. More serious disputes can be referred
to and settled quickly in the court.
The condo owners in Sabah should stop asking what the Sabah Government
can do for you – ask what you can do as responsible members in your
respective strata living community.
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