Strata-title time bombs due to poor upkeep

By THE STAR

MANY strata-titled properties may be sitting on a “time bomb” as their continued neglect through poor management and maintenance will eventually be the buildings’ death knell.

Landserve Estate Agency Sdn Bhd Chen King Hoaw should know. As a veteran estate agency boss, he has seen how people refused to buy or rent properties in a bad shape.

He laments that many Malaysians were still unprepared for apartment living and were not civic-minded enough to share the responsibility of paying their maintenance charges. “I think Singaporeans are more ready for condo living,” he said frankly.

Chen said under Section 6 (2) of the newly introduced Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act 2007 and paragraph 15 of the Second Schedule of the latest amendments to the Strata Titles Act 1985, an owner who defaulted on his/her maintenance charges would have no rights to make any decisions during the management corporation’s annual general meeting or extraordinary general meeting.

“It is sad that property managers in our country only carry out about 50% of the required amount of work. The other 50% are either neglected or not known about. Hence, the emergence of a group of professionals known as facilities managers to fill the gap,” he said.

He regretted that some of these work was not managing facilities but mere property management.

Facilities management as defined by the International Facility Management Association is the “practise of co-ordinating the physical workplace with the people and work of the organisation. It integrates the principles of business administration, architecture and the behavioural and engineering sciences.”

Chen said the role of the property manager was to educate all users of the facilities on the adverse effect of vandalism.

“In order for a property to be successful, it requires the joint effort of all stakeholders to play their respective role towards sustaining and enhancing the value of the property,” he said, adding that the spate of recent problems faced by several public buildings could be a result of a tidak apa (lackadaisical) attitude.

Landserve Property Management Sdn Bhd managing director Vincent Tiong said although registered valuers were allowed to carry out property management, having the relevant qualifications might not ensure a competent property manager.

“To most, property management is just a mundane job to ensure timely collection of service charges and that buildings and facilities are maintained to a reasonable standard. In reality, however, the spectrum of property management is very wide.”

“It involves the operation and proper maintenance of such facilities as swimming pool, gymnasium, playground, and lifts,” he said, adding that it also covered the less obvious facilities such as the water reticulation, sewerage, fire-fighting and ventilation systems.

A property manager must also have financial and operational expertise as well as good communication and interpersonal skills.

A property manager must also keep abreast with all changes that would affect the interest of the assets being managed. These include changes in the property market, cost of building materials and labour for repair work, cost of various building services, amendments to all relevant laws, and the latest systems and technologies of building services.

Tiong said professional property managers were often appointed only when the development was nearing completion or had been handed over.

“They will have to make do with what has been built. At this stage, it is already too late for them to comment on the functionality and maintainability of the layout and design of the development. Any changes at that stage would be costly to either the developer or the strata owners. They have no choice but to inherit the problems due to poor planning and design,” he said.

Tiong said it was not unusual for developers to cut construction costs, and such moves would result in higher maintenance cost in the future. There were also instances where unnecessary additions were made incurring extra costs while causing greater liability to the management upon the project’s completion.

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