Good time to invest in property now


Better upside: (from left) Knight Frank Sdn Bhd international project marketing (residential) senior manager Dominic Heaton-Watson, Knight Frank Asia-Pacific research head Nicholas Holt, Sarkunan and capital markets executive director James Buckley at the event

KUALA LUMPUR: The slowdown in the local property market has bottomed out, with prices seen picking up later this year, according to property consultancy firm Knight Frank Sdn Bhd.

“We predict a stable rate in 2017 and we will possibly see better upside towards the end of the year or early next year,” Knight Frank managing director Sarkunan Subramaniam said.

“The market has had a few years of contraction and we feel that this year, what will clear up one of the major concerns of most investors is the political uncertainty,” he said at the launch of Knight Frank’s 2017 Wealth Report here yesterday.

According to the report, “political uncertainty” was among the top concerns of its respondents in Asia at 25%.

“We’re going to have elections possibly this year. Once they have cleared, there will be positive movement in the market and that’s why I feel now is a good time to buy property in Malaysia.

“Once the elections are out, the economy will generally start picking up and sentiments will improve. Capital will also start coming in,” he said.

According to the wealth report, potential fall in asset values was the highest concern among its Asian respondents at 30%, followed by rising taxes and tighter controls on capital movement at 28% and 27% respectively.

Going forward, Sarkunan said affordable homes would primarily drive the local property market.

“Affordable homes will still be a driver to an extent, but medium-to-high end properties will also pick up again. Also, when the mass rapid transit (MRT) lines come into the city, it will drive the commercial market there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of decentralisation push over the last 10 years and the MRT will bring office workers to the city.”

Sarkunan pointed out that locations with light rail transit (LRT) and MRT lines, such as Damansara Heights, have bucked the trend in terms of condominium values.

“Prices have actually increased compared with some of the other areas in Malaysia. Transport hubs or transport-orientated developments, such as Kota Damansara, have also seen improvements in prices.”

The Knight Frank 2017 Wealth Report tracks the value of luxury homes in 100 key locations worldwide, including 19 destinations from Asia Pacific.

According to the report, values rose globally by 1.4% on average last year, compared with 1.8% in 2015. Asia was the second best performing world region last year, with prices rising 5.1%.

Australasia was the strongest performing world region with prices rising 11.4% year-on-year.

Source: BY EUGENE MAHALINGAM The Star/ANN

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Protecting house buyers’ interest


I REFER to the reports “Court: No power to grant extension” and “A fair and right judgment, says housing developer” ( The Star, Feb 28 – Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says).

The High Court decision declaring as ultra vires (beyond one’s legal power or authority) the Housing and Local Government Minister’s granting of a one-year extension of time (EOT) to developers to complete a delayed housing project and thus denying house buyers liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD) provided for under the sale and purchase agreement is timely, sound and indeed meritorious. It is hoped that the decision would be maintained should the minister decide to appeal it.

The Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 was enacted for the protection of home buyers.

The long title of the Act (paragraph stating Parliament’s intent for the Act) says: “An Act to provide for the control and licensing of the business of housing development in Peninsular Malaysia, the protection of the interest of purchasers…” This makes clear that the housing development business is regulated to ensure that the protection of home buyers’ interest is paramount.

Two eminent judges, the late Tun Mohamed Suffian, former Lord President of Malaysia, and the late Tan Sri Lee Hun Hoe, the longest serving Chief Justice of Borneo, stated this in two landmark cases respectively.

Suffian LP (Sea Housing Corporation v Lee Poh Chee): “To protect home buyers, most of whom are people of modest means, from rich and powerful developers, Parliament found it necessary to regulate the sale of houses and protect buyers by enacting the Act.”

Lee Hun Hoe CJ (Borneo) (Beca (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v Tan Choong Kuang & Anor): “The duty of observing the law is firmly placed on the housing developers for the protection of house buyers. Hence, any infringement of the law would render the housing developer liable to penalty on conviction.”

Respectfully, it is submitted that the decision to grant the developer of a housing project extension of time and thus deny the home buyers’ statutory rights to LAD ought to be exercised with diffidence. The decision, if any, ought to be made with the Act’s long title in mind, namely, “for the protection of interest of purchasers”.

In doing so, some aspects to consider are:

> In granting EOT, how will home buyers’ interest be protected?

> LAD is agreed monetary payment for home buyers’ losses for delay in completion of a housing project. Is denying home buyers’ the LAD by the EOT tantamount to protecting their interest?

Although Section 11(3) of the Act states that the developer under “special circumstances” may apply to the Controller of Housing for EOT, it is submitted that Parliament and the long title of the Act surely did not intend LAD to be wiped out by “a stroke of a pen”.

To avoid doubt, “special circumstances” would mean act of God or natural disaster, for example earth quake or tsunami, and not business or economic related challenges or hardship.

The above view would make legal sense of Section 11(3).

Again, the High Court decision is lauded.

Home buyers’ interest is of paramount importance under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966. The Controller of Housing’s or Minister’s decision, although seemingly made “by a stroke of a pen”, must materialise or recognise this intent. Failing to do so would be ultra vires the Act.

May the redeeming light of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) 1966 continue to shine effervescently and protect effectively home buyer’s interest for many years to come.

This letter is dedicated to the National Housebuyers Association, its great team of lawyers, professionals and volunteers for their sterling and pro-bono efforts to speak up for and preserve home buyers’ interest.

Source: ROBERT TAN,  Home buyer and author of Buying Property From Developer: What You Need To Know And Do, Petaling Jaya

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Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says


 

 
Take them to task: According to the liquidated damages clause, condo buyers can claim 10 per annum of the purchase price for the delay

KUALA LUMPUR: The Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to developers who delay the completion of housing projects, the High Court has ruled in a landmark judgment.

This means a housing developer has to pay compensation to the affected buyers for delays in the delivery of vacant possession.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Hanipah Farikullah also held that the regulation which empowers the Controller to modify terms of the contract of sale was ultra vires the Housing Development, Control and Licensing Act.

The judge said this in allowing an application for judicial review by 71 buyers of the Sri Istana condominiums in Old Klang Road against the Housing Controller and Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister.

Their lead counsel Datuk Wong Kok Leong told The Star the judge held that the minister’s decision to grant the developer an extension of time to complete the project via a letter dated Nov 17, 2015 was invalid.

In the letter, the minister had granted the developer a 12-month extension to complete the project.

“This means that the Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to housing developers for any delay in completing their projects,” Wong said.

“Now, the developer has to pay the liquidated damages (a pre-determined sum) for late delivery of vacant possession of those condominium units.”

Wong called the decision a landmark judgment as many project developers seek extensions to complete their projects in Malaysia.

“This is a victory for all house buyers. With this ruling, the housing developer can’t just go to the Housing Controller for an extension of time to complete the project in order to avoid paying the liquidated damages to house buyers.

“This is because if an extension of time is allowed, house buyers lose their rights to claim damages for late delivery of vacant possession,” he added.

Wong explained that according to the liquidated damages clause, the condo buyers can claim 10% per annum of the purchase price for the delay.

In their application for judicial review, the condo buyers stated that they wanted to quash the decision allowing BHL Construction Sdn Bhd an extension of time for the delivery of vacant possession from 36 months to 48 months.

They also asked the court for a declaration that Regulation 11(3) was ultra vires of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) Act.

Wong said the judge has ordered the parties to address the issue of costs on the next date for case management.

When contacted, SFC Mohamad Rizal said the judge also allowed a similar application involving another group of condominium buyers involving the same developer and project.

Source: By  m. mageswari, royce tan, thean lee cheng, eugene mahalingam, The Star

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Structural defects to blame, stop history repeating itself !


Sniffing out signs of life: The K-9 unit of the City Fire and Rescue operations looking for possible victims at the site of the bridge collapse near Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: Structural failure possibly caused the collapse of an under-construction pedestrian bridge at KL Eco City near Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum here.

Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) director-general Datuk Mohtar Musri said the initial investigation suggested that a defective structure could have led to the disaster on Wednesday.

He said the department would refer to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall regarding the quality of materials used in the construction of the bridge.

Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said a task force has been set up to probe the incident.

He said the result of the investigation was expected to be made public in a month, and that tough action could be taken against the developer if it was found to have flouted safety regulations.

“We can bring them to court, not just under DOSH but CIDB too. Under the CIDB Malaysia Act 1994, they can face a RM500,000 fine or a two-year jail sentence,” he said.

The RM7mil pedestrian bridge linking the planned KL Eco City project to the Gardens Shopping Mall in Mid Valley, which was still under construction, collapsed and killed one worker and injured five others on Wednesday.

The search-and-rescue operation at the site of the incident was halted after it was confirmed that there was no worker trapped underneath the mangled brick-and-iron structure.

City Fire and Rescue Department deputy operations chief Ruhisha Haris said K-9 teams had confirmed that there were no signs of a body.

However, the mystery of the missing construction worker remains.

“We first received information that a worker might have been trapped because a colleague saw him under the bridge minutes before it collapsed.

“A head count by the developer also revealed a missing worker, but they were unable to give us a name,” he said.

The dead victim has been identified as Tran Xuan Vang, 21, from Vietnam. Two other Vietnamese, Tran Van Hai and Luong Van Guyet, as well as Indonesian Nor Syamsi, Bangladeshi MD Jashim and Pakistan national Rais Aman Majid were injured and are currently being treated at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre.

Medical staff were forced to amputate Rais’ left leg on site to save his life.

In a statement issued on the day of the incident, SP Setia, the developer of the project, said it deeply regretted the incident and was working with the authorities in the investigation.

“The project team is still assessing the situation,” it said.

Work on the KL Eco City project – a mixed development comprising three residential towers, one serviced apartments tower, three corporate office towers, 12 boutique office blocks and one retail podium – started in 2011 and is scheduled to be fully completed by 2023.

Commenting on the incident, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the time had come for players in the construction industry to practise their commitment to safety.

“All these accidents are preventable if the person in charge puts into practice good occupational and safety health measures and the site safety supervisor makes sure work is done properly,” he said.

By M. kumar and Nicholas Cheng The Star/Asian News Network

Stop history repeating itself

THE Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is horrified with the news of the collapse of the incomplete pedestrian bridge meant to connect KL Eco City and Mid Valley Megamall in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

Not even a month after a couple was crushed by a piling rig that fell on them at a construction site along Persiaran Astana, Klang, another tragic incident leading to serious injury and death has occurred.

If all the parties involved in the building industry – including the local councils, developers, contractors, architects, quantity surveyors, structural engineers, DOSH and all the others – had carried out their roles and functions efficiently, this could have been prevented.

Despite our repeated calls for the Government to conduct a full inquiry into the operations of the Department of Safety and Health (DOSH), it would seem like the relevant authorities are unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

When incidents like this happen, it becomes clear to us that DOSH and developers do not have their priorities right.

Instead of working on preventing such incidents, they wait until it happens before scrambling to take corrective measures to fix the problem.

The issue here is that there are no corrective measures that can be taken once a life is lost; that is not something that can be recovered.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Professor Datuk Dr Mahyuddin Ramli has been reported saying that incidents of this nature can happen when contractors do not comply with safety standards.

In this case, he said that concrete takes at least a week to dry and harden; the wet weather we have been experiencing means it will take even longer.

The USM professor also said that another way something like this can happen is if contractors do not use proper scaffolding during the construction process.

The distance between scaffolds and the size of the scaffolds used are very important as they will vary according to the structure they are meant to hold up.

DOSH’s director-general, Datuk Mohtar Musri, has stated that their initial investigation suggested that the incident happened because the structure was defective.

He said that they need to look into the quality of the materials that were used to construct the pedestrian bridge.

Whatever the cause, the relevant authorities and the public need to be aware that this is just history repeating itself.

If the incident did truly happen because of a structural defect, then it needs to be made clear that nobody can plead ignorance.

DOSH safety officers and onsite safety inspectors should have known about the structural defects if they did exist.

This begs the question of whether or not proper safety inspections were done at the appropriate stages by the relevant parties.

We ask that the results of the investigation into the latest incident be shared with the general public.

CAP would also like to know what happened to the findings from the investigation of previous incidents.

Why has this information not been shared with the public when their lives are also put in danger by the conduct of those at construction sites?

In view of this, CAP calls for penal action to be taken against all parties who have been involved in the project. They should all be held accountable even if they were not directly involved.

By S. M. MOHAMED IDRIS President Consumers Association of Penang

[PDF]The Law of Construction Defects and Failures

 Worker killed in bridge collapse tragedy

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/3QFRF_5oRAY

The Star Graphics:  http://clips.thestar.com.my.s3.amazonaws.com/Interactive/midvalley/midvalley.mp4

KUALA LUMPUR: A Vietnamese construction worker was killed and five others were injured when a 70m yet-to-be-completed bridge near Jalan Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum and Mid Valley Megamall collapsed.

The victim was buried in the rubble of the collapsed pedestrian bridge.

As of press time, rescue workers were still searching for a Bangladeshi worker believed to be trapped in the rubble.

The authorities have since mobilised the K9 unit to locate him.

The firemen and paramedics were seen changing shift as the rescue mission continued into the night. Some were heard saying that locating the victim would be challenging.

However, all the rescuers were resolute in their attempt to find the last victim, never once giving up hope.

The five injured workers – two Vietnamese, two Bangladeshis and an Indonesian – were sent to the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre for treatment.

Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Sharul Othman Mansor said the bridge was 80% completed when the incident occurred.

“We are still investigating the incident.

“We were alerted at about 4pm of the incident and quickly mobilised a search-and-rescue team,” he said at the scene.

Four roads were also affected by massive jams due to the incident.

According to Star Media Radio Traffic, the affected roads were the Federal Highway from the arch, the Kerinchi Link after the Pantai toll plaza, Kerinchi Intersection from Bangsar South or Pantai Medical Centre and Jalan Syed Putra from the Kuen Cheng School till the Robson Intersection.

While the main reason for the traffic congestion was due to certain road closures to make way for rescue workers, traffic was backed up near the mall due to many motorists slowing down to see the collapsed bridge.

Mall patrons, construction workers and curious onlookers were seen crowding the area near the bridge, where it was cordoned off for safety precautions.

By Farik Zolkepli, Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi, and Austin Camoens The Star/ANN

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Govt may handle workplace safety

Fadillah: Independent monitoring likely

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government would like to take over the job of monitoring safety at construction sites away from developers following a string of deaths as a result of mishaps in the last three months.

Those duties, said Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, may be entrusted to third party organisations that will be given autonomy in the planning, execution and supervision of workplace safety at construction sites.

Usually, these jobs are handled by contractors hired by the project developers but Fadillah said that this would mean the monitoring process was not independent.

Speaking at the launch of the Sustainable Construction Excellence Centre (Mampan), the minister said the suggestion for independent monitoring was brought up by the experts at the centre.

Mampan is headed by the Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (Cream), a subsidiary of the Government’s Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).

Fadillah said the proposal to appoint third party safety monitors would be implemented first in Government construction projects.

He added that he hoped the private sector construction industry would do the same.

Currently, the Department of Occupational and Safety Hazard (DOSH) monitors government projects but it is reportedly too understaffed to keep track of every project.

For now we will have to make do with existing laws. This is why we need a commitment from the industry players,” he told reporters after the launch.

For now we will have to make do with existing laws. This is why we need a commitment from the industry players. Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof

He said that Mampan would be a key organisation under the Government’s environmental sustainability initiative for its Construction Industry Transformation Programme.

The centre will undertake research with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Rehda Institute to instil better industry practices, certification and awareness in the construction industry.

“We don’t want to build bridges that have no resilience and collapse when there is a flood.

“Our short-term goal is to position Malaysia as a regional leader in sustainability in construction and to raise the perception of sustainability in construction here,” he said.

Fadillah witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Cream chairman Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali and academics from the four universities and research institutes which will be a part of the new centre.

By NICHOLAS CHENG The Star/ANN

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Housing affordability is an income issue, what’s with the fuss?


Success story: The Pinnacle@Duxton, a HDB public housing estate, in the Tanjong Pagar district of Singapore. The HDB programme provides the government with an effective means to ensure targeted housing supply meant for community dwelling. – Bloomberg

Best practices from from HDB should be carefully studied

IT is increasingly a cause for concern to see the rising cost of living leading to a significant erosion of income. This results in more youths and job entrants unable to afford decent dwelling, be it in urban or sub-urban areas.

Therefore, it has become a pressing policy matter to find an effective solution to keep real estate prices in check. Many governmental agencies have been set up, but affordability remains a problem.

> Current state of health

From property developers to banks offering mortgages, the real estate sector supply chain has a high correlation with domestic economic performance.

According to the National Property Information Centre (NAPIC), the Malaysian House Price Index growth has been moderating since 2014.

The index had eased to 7.2% in the fourth quarter last year, down from a 7.4% expansion in the previous quarter. It is the fifth consecutive quarter of slower pace of growth.

Similarly, Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth had tapered to 4.0% in the second quarter this year, down from 4.2% in the previous quarter.

Notwithstanding the current sluggish economic conditions, the pertinent issue surrounding the real estate segment is affordable housing.


>Severely unaffordable

Even though broad property prices growth have plateaued, the high absolute price to own a house continues to be out of reach for the common Malaysian.

According to the report “Making Housing Affordable” by Khazanah Research Institute, the overall Malaysian housing market is ‘seriously unaffordable’.

Using the “median-multiple ratio” standard by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlement at the World Bank, a housing market is considered “affordable” if the house price to household income ratio is below 3.0 times.

The study conducted by Khazanah Research Institute, following the latest available data by the Department of Statistics, indicated that the overall Malaysian median-multiple in 2014 was 4.4 times.

More worryingly, the median multiple ratio for Kuala Lumpur (5.4 times), Penang (5.2 times), Terengganu (5.5 times) and Sabah (5.1 times) are considered to be ‘severely unaffordable’.

According to NAPIC data in the first quarter of the year, the median residential property sale transaction price in Kuala Lumpur was within the range of RM400,000 to RM500,000.

Assuming that the property price is RM450,000, after paying the 10% down payment deposit and taking a 35- year tenure housing loan at 4.5% interest per annum, the monthly mortgage repayment comes up to slightly over RM1,900.

Meanwhile, the surveyed salary of a four-to-five-year experienced sales manager with a university degree was reportedly at between RM5,000 and RM8,000 per month, according to a local recruitment specialist report.

Effectively, this means that the manager is looking at a house-to-individual income ratio of 4.7 to 7.5 times if he or she were to purchase the Kuala Lumpur property on his or her own capacity.

Property price and value to Income per country in SEA 20014

Moreover, given Department of Statistics’ expectation of 1.2% annual population growth rate between 2016 and 2020, Malaysia’s demography will have to accommodate a projected 1.6 million more people by the end of the decade.

Housing is a pressing socioeconomic issue for the long term not only in Malaysia but also worldwide. It has to be sustainable and affordable.

 >Focus on sustainable supply side dynamics

Fundamentally, housing affordability is an income issue.

Given the high absolute value of real estates, household income – at a much lower base – would have to multiply much higher to catch up to the affordability threshold.

To extrapolate it further, even with higher income growth, would real estate ever be considered ‘affordable’?

A conventional profit maximisation motive could mean that property developers would eventually price their units in tandem with income growth rates, therefore creating the ever elusive ‘affordability’.

Keep in mind that there is no lack of demand for housing in Malaysia in light of the relatively young demographic.

In 2016, the estimated age group younger than 24 years old of around 13.4 million people makes up 43% of total population.

Besides, the average household size is expected to shrink from 4.6 people in 2000 to an estimated 4.0 people by the end of the decade, according to Khazanah Research Institute.

>More residential units would be required for dwelling.

Essentially, policy makers should focus more on the supply side dynamics to tackle the issue of home ownership and also on sustainable policies to ease the cost of ownership – especially for first- time home buyers.

Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, the government has already outlined the need for affordable housing – especially for the bottom 40% of households – to alleviate the increasing cost of living.

The government targets to provide 606,000 new affordable houses during course of the 11th Malaysia Plan spanning from 2016 to 2020, introduce an integrated database to match supply and demand dynamics and also establish a land bank for future affordable housing projects.

This would be a continuation of the Program Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (PR1MA), Ruman Idaman Rakyat and Rumah Mesra Rakyat initiatives.

The government looks set to establish a land bank for houses and an integrated database for all relevant stakeholders to match demand and supply dynamics.

Across the straits, the Singapore Housing and Development Board (HDB) is often cited as a success story in providing affordable and quality homes.

The HDB programme is a comprehensive nationwide strategy that aligns the government’s legal powers to acquire land for public housing purposes, act as a central authority on township development, while leveraging on the Central Provident Fund as a financing means to ensure affordability.

Moreover, there is a holistic township planning whereby the development of physical HDB flat infrastructure is complemented by socioeconomic integration that promotes a cohesive society.

No doubt there are studies that indicate Singapore’s median multiple ratio is around 5.0 times in 2015, thereby classified as ‘severely unaffordable’.

The scarcity of land in the island state limits the potential for competitive supply of land.

Nevertheless, the comprehensive central planning that the Singapore government employs allows it to have a firm grip on keeping property prices in check.

In short, the HDB programme provides the government with an effective means to ensure targeted housing supply meant for community dwelling.

Given that Singapore’s home ownership rate has increased from 29% in the 1970s to close to 90% in 1990 and a vibrant resale market for the private sector, it is a considerable success story for providing quality living standards for the nation.

While it would likely be a gigantic task for other countries to emulate Singapore’s public housing policy from scratch in light of the legal matters of land and elements of socioeconomic welfare distribution, the best practices from HDB should be carefully studied.

>Housing matter should be top on policy priority

In Malaysia, land matter is a state matter. For a comprehensive public housing plan to take off, the government would have to put up an economically viable proposal to develop new townships across the nation with a cost effective structure.

The Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry is mulling over the idea of developing a ‘Youth City’ township to cater to the young population.

Perhaps that could be a platform for the government to walk the talk and deliver value-added townships for affordable housing.

On the other end of the equation, besides providing dwelling space, real estate is also an asset class that yields cash flow from rental and also capital appreciation through time.

Therefore, it is imperative that the housing market price should never be trapped in an asset class bubble.

The 2008 United States’ sub-prime mortgage crisis serves as a grave reminder of the dire consequences and the impact on the real economy.

Fortunately, Bank Negara has already in place various macro-prudential policies since 2010 such as limiting loan-to-value ratio to 70% for home financing, and increase in real property gain tax to 10% for sales of real estate within two years to stem real estate market speculation activities.

In light of these, the recent consideration to allow property developers to offer home buyers financing at a much steeper financing cost of 12% interest rate per annum should be deliberated properly.

It is one matter to provide easier credit facility to own a property but it is an entirely different matter to compromise on the people’s capabilities to service the loan in the longer run and the spillover impact on real estate prices.

In short, housing is a necessity and it is imperative for authorities to have a policy interest in the issue.

The policy challenges going forward would only be more challenging as demand for housing continues to surge. It would be interesting to take stock of the plan that government has in mind come Budget 2017 on 21 October.

By Manokaran Mottain

Manokaran Mottain is the Chief Economist at Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd

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High-rise living in below par, need professionalism in managing the property


Only 74 out of 7,325 high-rise residential properties in Peninsular Malaysia earned the top five-star ranking in an evaluation of their property management standards. And more than half are below par, earning only one and two stars.

IT is one thing to be a developed state by 2020. But it is another thing entirely to have a developed state of mind – and Malaysians have a long way to go to achieve that.

Take, for instance, condominium- and apartment-living.

Some of these properties may come with top notch facilities but when it comes to managing their upkeep, there is much to be desired.

Or so says the latest findings on the quality of managing stratified properties from a survey by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Every year, the ministry conducts its Strata Scheme Management Quality Evaluation, or “Star Rating”, which ranks the standards of joint management bodies (JMBs) or management corporations (MCs) of apartments and condominiums.

These bodies are ranked based on how they do in seven areas (see graphic below for details); five stars is the highest rank.

But, as it turns out, more than half – or 69% – of condominiums and apartments nationwide ranked “below par”, scoring only one and two stars in 2015. In 2014, a slightly smaller percentage, 65%, were ranked below par.

Only 1% – or 74 – out of 7,325 strata development schemes surveyed earned five stars in the 2015 ratings, made available to Sunday Star.

If such a trend continues, future residents will inherit poor standards of living amidst modern facilities.

Currently, almost six million Malaysians out of 20 million city folk are living in stratified buildings like apartments and condominiums.

“But this number is expected to rise in future as the country progresses and becomes more urbanised,” says Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division under-secretary.

He says one of the major problems that condo dwellers continue to face is the refusal of other residents to pay maintenance fees. Other problems are building defects and matters involving enforcement.

“For now, about 70% of residents are at a level where they are merely aware of what needs to be done in managing their property. They are not yet at a level to appreciate the benefits of cooperating with each other and creating a better living culture,” he says.

Mohamad Ridzwan says there is a need to change the mindset of people to foster more civic-minded communities in high-rise buildings.

“Future generations will likely live in stratified buildings, so people should try to set a proper precedent for them,” he says.

He points out that there are also more people moving out of landed properties and into high-rise buildings.

“This group of people will have to learn to adapt to the culture of living in stratified buildings as it is different from living in houses.

“They will need to be more inclusive of and cooperative with their neighbours,” he says, adding that they would also have to learn to be more considerate when it comes to using shared facilities.

Stressing that it all boils down to the mindset of residents, Mohamad Ridzwan highlights the case of Rumah Pangsa Orkid, a low-cost flats property in Ulu Tiram, Johor, which made it into the Malaysia Book Of Records in 2014 for obtaining the ISO 9001:2008 standard for exemplary management.

“Until today, they remain the only low cost flat development to have achieved this,” he says, adding that there are yet to be any high-end condominiums accorded the same standard.

Mohamad Ridzwan says the ministry will continue to actively educate dwellers on proper management of their properties.

“We will embark on more education programmes to promote better practices through advertisements in the mass media,” he says.

On the Strata Management Tribunals to hear disputes, Mohamad Ridzwan says four such tribunals have been successfully set up to cover different zones in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Since their formation the tribunals have heard about 200 cases per month,” he says.

In March, Sunday Star reported that residents who do not pay maintenance fees and other charges were set to face the music, with the Government forming a team to strengthen the enforcement of the Strata Management Act.

The Act also enables residents to take their disputes to a Strata Management Tribunal to settle matters.

Building Managers Association of Malaysia committee member Richard Chan agrees that the “biggest and most critical” problem is the collection of fees, saying that it is rare that JMBs or MCs are able to collect payment from 80% of residents.

“It is more common for the collection rate to be at 40% or 50%,” he says.

Chan laments that petty excuses are often given by residents to defend their refusal to pay up.

“Some refuse because they don’t use the facilities.

“When people ask why they don’t want to pay, they simply say they don’t swim or play tennis,” he shares.

Chan adds that many unit owners live elsewhere or are based overseas and so are reluctant to pay.

“Some are not satisfied with services like garbage collection and defy orders to settle the fees,” he says.

He urges future condo owners to refrain from buying properties that come with all sorts of facilities if they are unwilling to pay up.

“Sometimes, it isn’t about whether they can afford the fees or service charges. It is about their attitude and mentality.

“Some don’t pay simply because their neighbours are not paying and are getting away with it,” Chan says, adding that such attitudes have resulted in some apartments owing up to RM200,000 in water and electricity bills.

The lack of money in the sinking fund also hinders JMBs and MCs from paying for major works like repairing lifts.

“It becomes a vicious cycle. Because people are not satisfied with the upkeep of the place, they do not pay the fees.

“But when they do not pay, there isn’t enough funds for upkeep,” he says.

Also, developers must do their part by informing all potential property buyers of the exact amount of all service charges, says Chan.

“Developers will try to promote their projects for more sales but they should also inform buyers of the fees they are expected to pay.

“Owners should also consider that, after a year, the fees may go up as warranty periods for equipment expire,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says many complaints against MCs have been made to the federation.

“High-end condominiums are generally better managed. We received a lot of complaints from people in medium cost apartments,” he says.

He says that consumers and the building management should both be more responsible.

“Consumers need to settle payments that they have agreed to. But they should also be receiving good service in return, like efficient rubbish collection,” he says.

Selvaraj highlights that the only way forward is for management bodies and residents to have a good working relationship.

“People should understand that managing their building is a collective responsibility.

“More dialogues should be held on how to improve the community to ensure good quality of life wherever we live,” he adds.

by Yuen Meikeng The Star/Asia News Network

More professionalism needed in managing high-rises

WITH more high-rises mushrooming, a Building Managers Board is urgently needed, according to Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok, deputy president of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia (BMAM).

BMAM is an umbrella body comprising stakeholder organisations representing management corporations (MCs), joint management bodies (JMBs), chambers of commerce, developers, engineers, architects, shopping and high-rise complex managers, and managing agents.

Appealing to the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry to set up the board urgently, Teo says such a body is long overdue.

“Millions of stratified properties are coming up. Building management is becoming a very big industry. We have to start regulating. All building managers must be registered and regulated,” he says.

To date, some 600 building managers have voluntarily registered with the association, he shares, estimating that there are probably tens of thousands more.

Meanwhile, the BMAM is focused on educating its members and interested parties on good management via collaborations with institutions of higher learning.

Describing building management as a multitasking, multi­discipline function that attracts people from various backgrounds and with a variety of skills, Teo says that basic criteria for the role is needed. A Building Managers Board, once set up, will have guidelines and regulations to bring professionalism to the role.

Persons deregistered by the board cannot be hired as property managers, he suggests. This, he feels, will make hiring building managers cheaper while ensuring that they are monitored.

“So long as they fulfil the board’s requirements, anyone can be a building manager. The board will monitor and weed out the errant ones. JMBs and MCs can hire cheaper, smaller companies, even individuals, to manage their buildings if they don’t have the budget.”

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division undersecretary Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin acknowledges the proposal to set up a Building Managers Board.

“However, no decision can be made by the ministry yet as this matter is still being discussed,” he says.

He says the ministry issued a directive to Commissioners of Buildings nationwide last month to register all managing agents to protect residents from unscrupulous parties.

The BMAM would also like to see the country’s 150-plus Commissioners of Buildings (COB) given proper funding and staff. The role of the commissioner is mostly undertaken by local council heads or mayors, which isn’t right because they already have so much on their plate, he says.

The Commissioner of Buildings must be a dedicated, full-time position supported by an adequately funded department. Now, it’s mainly a one-man show, he observes.

“The Act is a good tool,” he says, referring to the Strata Management Act 2013, “But it’s for the COB to implement it efficiently. An effective COB can nip many things in the bud – the COB can call a unit owner, find out the grouses and give directives. If the COB can offer easy resolution, a lot of problems will be solved.”

Apart from supporting the position of COB, JMBs and MCs must familiarise themselves with the Strata Management Act, says Richard Chan, a committee member of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia and a past president of the Malaysian Association for Shopping and High-Rise Complex Management.

“For instance, many aren’t aware that money collected should go to JMBs and MCs – not the companies or individuals hired to manage the property. What if these companies don’t pay the service contractors?”

On Tuesday, a full-day strata management seminar will be held at Wisma Rehda in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, to explain the Act, he says, urging stakeholders to attend the event.

Teo feels that the Act is too harsh on JMB volunteers. Calling it a thankless job, he says it’s difficult getting residents to even attend AGMs, what more serve on the JMB.

“Despite not being paid, JMB members risk personal liability actions. It’s too onerous. It’s overkill because there are already laws like the Penal Code which imposes fines and jail terms.”

And he feels that the Act places too many obstacles in front of willing volunteers.

“The JMB chairman and members can only serve for two and three years respectively. Such restrictions will make things worse because as it is, no one wants the job. Our solution is to extend the chairman’s term to three years; but if at the AGM there’s no one else who wants the post, he or she should be allowed to stay on. And members should be permitted to stay on for as long as they want.” –  The Star

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