How to make apartment owners cough up maintenance fees.

PETALING JAYA: Do you live in an apartment complex that is badly maintained, dirty and dangerous because some of your neighbours don’t pay the maintenance fees? Perhaps you should pressure the committee that manages your building to use the law against the defaulters.

According to the National House Buyers Association (HBA), action against them can be taken under the Strata Management Act (SMA) and the Strata Management (Maintenance and Management) Regulations (SMR).

Under SMR, the management can publish the details of defaulters on the building’s notice board, deactivate electromagnetic access cards and suspend a defaulter from using common facilities, said HBA honorary secretary general Chang Kim Loong.

But in many cases, these are ineffective, especially if the defaulter doesn’t live in the unit and rents it out.

Chang spoke of a recovery method which would be more effective � through the Housing and Strata Management Tribunal (TPPS) or a commissioner of buildings (COB).

The TPPS is headquartered in Putrajaya, but it also has offices in Johor Bahru , Kuala Terengganu and Kepala Batas in Penang. It has several courts across Peninsular Malaysia.

The TPPS’s jurisdiction is limited to Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan, and not in Sabah and Sarawak, with the housing matters in the two states coming under the jurisdiction of their respective state housing ministries.

Sabah and Sarawak only have tribunals for house buyers seeking claims from developers on issues like the late delivery of homes.

First, the management of a condominium or apartment complex has to serve a written notice to the defaulter to pay up within 14 days, said Chang. Failing that, the management can go to the TPPS to recover the outstanding sum.

Defaulters who fail to comply with the TPPS’ decision will be liable to a maximum fine of RM250,000 or a jail term of up to three years or both.

An apartment owner who continues to be in default after the tribunal’s ruling is liable to a further fine of up to RM5,000 a day.

Chang said resorting to TPPS action would be cheaper than going through legal action in a civil court because lawyers could not take part in the tribunal’s proceedings. A fee of RM100 is charged for each filing.

If a management committee goes through a COB, the defaulters’ movable properties could be seized and auctioned off.

Chang said he believed that going through the TPPS or COBs would be effective enough and there was no need for the more extreme measures practised in other countries like Singapore.

In Singapore, maintenance fee defaulters risk seizure of their apartment units, he said.

However, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said extreme measures were exactly what was needed.

Speaking to FMT, CAP president SM Mohamed Idris said Malaysia should emulate Singapore and empower COBs to seize apartments and condo units and auction them off.

To me it’s not extreme; it’s fair, he said. In Malaysia you have to do this or you won’t get results.

Idris also said that the government should amend the law to make it compulsory for all apartment and condominium management bodies to submit their records to COBs periodically.

He said CAP had found out that many management bodies were afraid to take action against home owners because they feared repercussions.

Management bodies are run by home owners themselves and they can report defaulters to the COB, but many are hesitant because they are afraid of repercussions from the defaulters.

Idris said the government should amend the law to take the risk factor away from management bodies.

If the government makes it compulsory for management bodies to submit management records on a quarterly basis, then COBs can take action against defaulters without waiting for complaints.

Source: Malaysian Trades Union Congress