THERE is no doubt that the quality of life of Malaysians living in flats, apartments and condominiums can be improved. Part of the problem is poor management. As such, it is commendable of the Housing and Local Government Ministry to introduce a new law to improve management.
The Strata Management Bill 2012 was tabled in Parliament by Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung in September. When and if passed, the Strata Management Act will replace the Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act 2007 in regulating the management of strata-titled properties.
However, the proposed law has generated heated controversies. While the bill is supported by many valuers and the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents (BVAEA) Malaysia, it has attracted very strong objections from those managing strata-titled buildings, including the Building Management Association of Malaysia (BMAM).
According to S. Venkateswaran, the secretary-general of BMAM, the new law will increase the financial burden of the property owners because it requires companies that manage strata buildings to be owned by property valuers. In a letter to all members of Parliament, he wrote: “The bill, by restricting building management and maintenance to valuers, would create a monopoly, and be open to abuse and rent seeking.”
At present, the law does not require property valuers and it is fair to believe that most of the companies managing strata properties are not owned by them.
It is important to note that there are 749 property valuers in Malaysia, while it is estimated that there are about 3,600 strata-titled properties with more than two-thirds in the form of condominiums and apartments while the rest are low-cost and medium-cost flats. Gated communities are usually strata-titled properties. If the bill is passed without amendments, property valuers will be very well rewarded. The demand for valuers will be so great that those serving the government will be tempted to resign and set up their own companies. Existing managing companies not owned by property valuers will close shop or sub-contract from them.
The valuers have not been keeping quiet. For example, BVAEA has placed an advertisement to explain that the Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Act 1981 (Act 242) does not prohibit Joint Management Bodies (JMBs), Management Corporations (MCs) and apartment owners from managing their own properties. It also states that it encourages owners of strata-titled buildings to manage their own properties.
While the board’s advertisement is correct, it is expecting too much to call on the JMBs and MCs to manage their own properties. Most members of these bodies have to take care of their day jobs. They need to engage private firms to manage their buildings and they should be given the freedom to choose any company they want, whether owned by property valuers or not.
There is no need to pass a law that provides for only property valuers to be involved in the management of buildings. Dr Ernest Y. Y. Cheong who writes a weekly column on property, also thinks so. In fact, he is against the bill. It is important to note that he is a property valuer who has experience in property management.
What is needed is a law to ensure that those who undertake the management of properties should be held accountable for their responsibilities.
While there is no doubt that those who manage strata-titled properties play an important role in the livability of the buildings, the bulk of the problems faced by the residents are caused by the building owners and occupiers. If the tenants believe that they can throw rubbish anywhere because they are paying property managers and the sweepers, then even the best and most qualified managers will not be able to keep the premises clean.
It is important to ensure that those who live in high-rise buildings and all strata-titled properties know their responsibilities besides paying their dues promptly. They should be duly punished if they flout the rules.
At a wider level, Malaysians must learn to behave properly when they are in public space. Unfortunately, there has been too much emphasis on rights and too little concern on responsibilities as citizens or dwellers of strata-titled buildings.
Source: The Sun Daily