A SALESMAN is furious that his apartment unit was padlocked by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) because he failed to pay two years of assessment arrears amounting to RM468.86.
A council official, however, defended the action, saying that MBPP was empowered to do so under the Local Government Act 1976 if a ratepayer failed to pay a year’s assessment.
Chua Yung Lin, 37, got the keys to the padlock when he paid up the arrears as well as the RM111.86 second half assessment for this year and a RM20 penalty in Komtar on Wednesday after a neighbour informed him a day earlier that the MBPP had sealed the unit.
But he is adamant in not unlocking the padlock himself, saying that the council should do so as its officials were the ones who locked up the unit.
“They gave me all the keys to the padlock and when I asked them if I needed to return the chain and padlock, they told me I could keep them,” Chua told reporters outside the unit at Taman Seri Hijau in Van Praagh Road, Penang, yesterday.
He lodged a police report on Wednesday to inform the police that he had settled the arrears and for his safety should he decide to unlock the place himself.
Chua, who has been renting out the unit for the past three years, said it was dangerous for MBPP to padlock the unit as there could be someone inside who would not be able to escape should there be an emergency.
“Thankfully, there was no one in the apartment as I think my tenants have gone out of town,” he added.
He claimed to have forgotten to pay the assessment because his tenants did not inform him of the bills.
Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Lee Boon Ten said MBPP had acted prematurely and could be charged with criminal negligence for sealing the gate of an occupied home.
“He only owed them a nominal amount. If someone was inside the apartment when they locked it, it would have been false imprisonment,” said Lee who was also present.
MBPP treasury revenue unit head Suhaida Kamalul Ariffin said Section 148(3) of the Local Government Act 1976 empowered the council to seal premises whose owners defaulted in a year’s assessment payment but the council usually only did so after the arrears were accumulated for two years.
“We can actually break down the door and seize the belongings inside. If we don’t do that to avoid destroying the door, we will seal the premises as an indication to the owner. This is however only carried out after we have checked to see if anyone is inside.
“Only after we are sure it is unoccupied, do we seal the premises,” she said when contacted yesterday.
Suhaida also said the council pasted a notice demanding the owner to settle the arrears on the unit’s grille gate in May.
“There was no response, leading us to seal the apartment. Once payment is made, we usually give the owner the keys to the lock as it is standard procedure to let them unlock it themselves,” she said.
Source: The Star
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