Home locked by Penang City Council over RM468 paltry arrears of assessment


Hard lesson: After settling his assessment arrears, Chua Yung Lin, 37, finally receives the key (inside envelope) to unlock the chain used to seal up his unit at Taman Seri Hijau in Van Praagh Road, Penang. (Above) A closeup of the notice from the council pasted on the grille gate. — CHARLES MARI ASOOSAY/The Star

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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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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Penang low cost housing gone awry?


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Probe into housing bribery case

MACC investigating Penang rep’s father for allegedly soliciting money

GEORGE TOWN: The father of Sungai Pinang DAP assemblyman Lim Siew Khim is being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for allegedly soliciting money from applicants for low-cost and affordable housing.

It is learnt that MACC has begun calling up several people after a video clip purportedly showing Lim’s father, Keat Seong, was posted on social media on Sunday explaining to some people how to “cut queue” in the state’s housing schemes by paying RM260 for the application form and a few thousand ringgit to one “Uncle Lim”.

Penang MACC director Datuk Abd Aziz Aban could not be reached for comment but it is learnt that the commission had begun gathering information yesterday from the so-called victims, those featured in the video and several Gerakan leaders who held a Monday press conference on this.

Penang MCA deputy chairman Tan Teik Cheng said the case may just be the tip of the iceberg.

He said the Penang government should take action over the alleged soliciting of bribes by Lim’s father, a 68-year-old retiree.

“The state government proudly proclaims its ‘ Competent, Accountable and Transparent’ (CAT) policy, hence it should address the case instead of playing up the drama to divert public attention.

“After all, the demand by Penangites for low-cost housing is still high in view of the exorbitant property prices,” he said in a statement yesterday.

State DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow has also posted on Facebook the photograph of headlines in three Chinese dailies and The Star, which all referred to Lim’s father.

The caption read: “We are politicians and public figures. What we do matters. Unfortunately, what our parents, spouses, in-laws, and even distant cousins do, also matters.”

Penang Gerakan Anti-Corruption and Land spokesman H’ng Khoon Leng said the party would be seeking an audience with the Penang Yang diPertua to ask for the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry into the matter.

State Housing Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said there was no need to form a commission as it came under the purview of the police.

By  Arnold Loh Tan Sin Chow The Star

Lim clarifies video comment

DAP rep forced to explain alleged bribery video statement

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http://www.thestartv.com/episode/lim-clarifies-video-comment/

GEORGE TOWN: Sungai Pinang DAP assemblyman Lim Siew Khim has been forced to clarify her earlier comments on her father’s alleged corruption case involving affordable housing units after the release of a second video clip on the issue.

“I did receive a call from a youth leader from another party sometime last year but when I confronted my father, he denied any involvement,” she said after opening a Youth Empowerment programme in Sungai Pinang yesterday.

Last Sunday, a video clip purportedly showing Lim’s father, Lim Keat Seong, soliciting bribes to help obtain low-cost housing units in the state as early as June 2015 went viral after being posted on social media.

Siew Khim was then quoted as saying: “All this (in the video) was without my knowledge and I only knew about it on Sunday night.”

Now, a second video clip, which lasted about three minutes, was released yesterday.

This time it shows a screen-grab of a Whatsapp conversation between a mediator and a victim.

“I contacted her and gave her (Siew Khim) one day to reply and find ways for her father to return the money,” the mediator was heard as saying to the victim.

In another conversation, a man, who is said to be Siew Khim’s stepbrother Ong Hock Hin, was heard saying that his sister (Siew Khim) had asked for a meeting to be arranged with the aggrieved parties.

Siew Khim refused to comment on the contents of the second video, urging the person who released it to lodge a police report.

“Why release bits and pieces? They should report it to the police with their evidence,” she said.

Siew Khim also denied asking her stepbrother Ong to arrange for a meeting with any of the victims.

Asked why she only confirmed she had confronted her father when the second video surfaced, she said she could not remember it.

While her father has been remanded for seven days, Siew Khim was grilled for two hours by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) on Friday.

When contacted, Penang MACC director Datuk Abdul Aziz Aban said he was not aware of the second video but would direct his officers to investigate it.

Siew Khim’s counsel Ram Karpal said it was an offence to withhold information on the case as it was now investigated by the MACC.

“I urge anyone with information on the matter to pass it to MACC,” he said in Air Itam yesterday.

Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the uploading of the two videos showed it was a politically motivated move against Siew Khim, the state government and DAP.

Source: The Star Malaysia 4 Sep 2016By R. SEKARAN rsekaran@thestar.com.my

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Lessons from Penang affordable housing


AS we all know, affordable housing is the saving grace for the middle to low income group in our common dream to pursue the “roof over our heads”.

Most often, aspiring homebuyers are sandwiched between increasing property price and developers’ tendency to build high-end apartments especially in greater KL for the last decade.

The introduction of PR1MA and other affordable housing agencies by the federal government is aimed at addressing this gap and to promote better home ownership as part of the prime minister’s national transformation programme. Nonetheless, not many realised that affordable housing is also a state initiative whereby state governments are free to introduce affordable housing schemes given that land and development are within the exclusive power of the state under the Federal Constitution. For instance, Penang is fully behind the notion of affordable housing by placing their top priority on increasing homeownership ratio within the state.

Checking online, there are currently 29 affordable housing projects in Penang with 12 being developed by the state government and the other 17 by the private sector. Penang is delivering a commendable amount of affordable housing by trading plot ratio of built-up area in exchange for more units to be built.

The state government is constantly reviewing and updating the criteria for the purchase of affordable housing in Penang. A person who already owns a property can still purchase affordable housing in Penang provided the person can satisfy the conditions imposed.

For example, the house to be purchased must be of higher value than the one already owned.

In addition, for those who are not born in Penang, under the talented and skilled category, they may also purchase affordable housing in Penang provided they undertake to reside there for a minimum of five years. In short, affordable has become a driver for talent retention. This ultimately helps to upgrade living standard in Penang.

On the flip side, Penang has uncovered a problem. Those who are entitled to affordable housing may not qualify for financing, especially those from the lower income group as they are considered as high risk by banks.

Job and income security at this level are extremely vulnerable given the high cost of living that in effect reduces disposal income. Bank and financial institution are after all profit-making entities. Loan disbursements below a certain threshold amount does not always generate their desire margin. Many expiring home owners are left helpless.

While nothing is perfect, one can only achieve success through lessons learned along the way and from history. The federal government is aware of the high loan rejection rate. It has, therefore, provided a 10% loan guarantee and First House Deposit Financing to help purchasers with their downpayments. The “Rent to Own” scheme was also introduced to circumvent the stricter loan financing situation.

Penang has introduced a similar Rent to Own scheme. Under this scheme, the state government provides 30% of the home price so that the house buyer can seek a 70% loan margin.

PR1MA, on the other hand, is facing difficulties finding suitable land as land is state matter. There is also a tendency for the state government to allocate land for this purpose in areas they want to urbanise, but which are often far from amenities and transportation links.

We all know that to develop affordable housing is not the best commercial decision to make because profit margins are definitely lower. As such, we cannot expect private sector developers to always bear the cost.

Penang, on the other hand, is able to overcome this problem by reducing the development charges via an increase in plot ratio. This then attracts private sector developers to come in.

A recent survey conducted by PR1MA shows that buyers prefer to purchase residential projects close to schools, clinics and shops. They also prefer access to transportation. Penang is closer to achieving its objective in the affordable housing arena because it “focuses on the homeowners”.

Under the recently announced Penang Transport Master Plan, the state government is mulling over RM8bil worth of projects that will enhance connectivity.

The development of an underground tunnel from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam, Gurney Drive to Jelutong Expressway and an alternative road connecting Gurney Drive right up to Batu Feringhi will really improve connectivity.

Penang is ambitious in executing its affordable housing plans. It is also spot-on when it comes to addressing the different issues connected with this subject.

The banking sector must buy into it. Banking and financial institutions are governed by the fiscal policy of the federal government. Maybe some mandatory quota or corporate social responsibility initiatives can be imposed on banks to provide loans to deserving house buyers. So it is timely that Bank Negara has called for a comprehensive and carefully designed National Planning Policy to support the Government’s aim in delivering more social housing in its recently released annual report.

By Chris Tan

Chris Tan is the founder and managing partner of Chur Associates.

 

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Little by little, a little becomes a lot


NOW that Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year are over, many of us have started to reconcile the amount spent for these celebrations.

Not surprisingly, many have underestimated the current cost of living and have therefore overspent.

Hence, it did not come as a surprise to me when I overheard one of my relatives saying that the price of an eight-course Chinese New Year package at the restaurant that she often frequents has increased by 15% from RM898++ to RM1,028++ within a year. Not only has the price increased, she also noticed the serving portions were smaller than the previous year.

The rising cost of living caused by the depreciating ringgit, hike in transportation costs, the goods and services tax implementation, etc, was the hottest topic of discussion during these festive gatherings. Among the various counter-measures, some young ones welcomed the option to reduce the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributions, citing that it would help relieve their burden.

The reduction in EPF contribution came about early this year when the Government announced that employees had the option to reduce their EPF contribution by 3% from March 2016 until December 2017 to spur economic growth and at the same time, put more money into the rakyat’s pockets. According to our Prime Minister who is also the Finance Minister, this move is expected to increase consumer spending by RM8bil a year.

It sounds good as we now have the option to have more disposable income. Yet, should we encourage spending or saving during this challenging time.

Before answering this question, let’s ask ourselves what we should do with the extra disposable income. Repay credit card instalments, go after items such as expensive household goods, electronic gadgets or gourmet food?

If we are not careful, we will end up spending based on our desire instead of necessity. Hence, having more money to spend is not necessarily good. It depends on how we plan our future finances, and whether we spend the money on “good debt” or “bad debt” as explained in my previous articles.

If we unnecessarily spend the additional income on luxury goods such as a new car which depreciates over time, we are practically paying for “bad debt”, as these items are liabilities instead of assets.

In contrast, if we convert the additional income into “good debt” such as investing in commodities/ shares or to fund our housing loan, we can enjoy the long-term benefits as the value of these assets will likely appreciate over time.

At a glance, 3% taken out from the EPF per month may not be seen as a lot. However, it will become a significant amount in the long term.

For an individual earning RM5,000 a month, 3% equals to RM150. As such, the total amount is RM3,300 for the duration of 22 months (March 2016 to December 2017). Assuming the average EPF interest rate at 6.5% per year (based on the dividend declared this year), the compounding rate for RM3,300 could potentially become RM23,190.64 after 30 years!

Therefore, unless there are really good reasons to use this additional disposable income, it is better to retain this seemingly small amount as retirement funds, giving its potential to grow significantly in the longer term. Besides, the savings in the EPF can also be withdrawn during rainy days to fund the payment for children’s education, purchase a new home and payment of medical expenses for treatment of critical illnesses.

At this testing time when many are faced with the burden of rising costs and economic slowdown, it is important to resist the temptation of instant gratification, be prudent in spending, and be able to differentiate between “good debt” and “bad debt” in making financial decisions.

For those who have yet to opt out from reducing the EPF contribution from 11% to 8%, it is important to use the additional money wisely so as to ensure that your retirement fund is not affected. Every ringgit saved or invested is essential in making a difference in our future financial position.

When I was a kid, my parents encouraged me and my siblings to save. Each of us would have our own piggy banks and they would continue to remind us about the beauty of saving. Until today, I still like this Malay proverb – ‘Sedikit, sedikit, lama-lama jadi bukit’ (little by little, a little becomes a lot).

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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A challenging year ahead


AS the Fire Monkey swings in to take its place, many have predicted this year as a challenging one. So, what’s in store for everyone in this particular year?

Many came to me for advice on how to deal with this challenging period. Frankly speaking, I am not a feng shui master or an astrologist who can somehow predict the future. Neither do I know how to read a crystal ball and tell you what lies ahead. Having been through a few round of recessions and bad times during my early days, I can, however, only share my own experiences and observations.

As shared in my last article “Lessons from my father”, I have learnt how to live frugally since young from my late parents. I recalled starting up my own architectural firm at the worst possible time. The year was 1964, and it was during the time of the Malaysia-Indonesia confrontation. The country was experiencing an economic recession and it is not hard to imagine how tough it was to make a living. I basically lived on “char kuey teow” as my lunch for two years! Being frugal and practising delayed gratification somehow helped me sail through that rough period.

While it is wise to spend prudently, it is even wiser not to be in debt during times of uncertainty. I read an article which highlighted that Malaysian household debt as of August 2015 was 88.1% of gross domestic product against only 60.4% in 2008. The figure was among the highest in the region. It is rather alarming considering most young people tend to be indebted with at least a car and a huge outstanding of credit card and personal loan repayment.

It is important not to put ourselves in a vulnerable financial situation, in order to face the challenges ahead. Most items purchased with the use of personal loan, credit card and hire-purchase are likely to depreciate over time. As a result, if repayments are not made on time or at all, these items with depreciated value becomes a loss. Such loans are then dubbed as “bad debt”. A “good debt” is one that brings returns. It is time to re-look into our debt categories and reallocate our resources appropriately.

Conserving funds, while important, is not enough to withstand the inflation impact. It is therefore crucial to invest to fight inflation especially monetary inflation (money printing) which is a real problem in today’s world economy and is currently also causing asset inflation to continue. It is difficult to know the best form of investment during uncertain environment. However, I believe each of us has areas of expertise, and we should focus on those areas.

If you are planning to own a property, a good inflation-hedging tool, do creative searching for your dream home.

Muhamad Azree Abdul Rahim, a 26-year-old Malaysian, solved his problem of owning a property by thinking-out-of-the-box. He turned a used shipping container into his home by taking a RM75,000 loan and buying a plot of 2,400 sq ft land some 25km from Shah Alam. He was able to build a decent, fully-functional home with a garden next to it. His unconventional way of building his own house without being manacled to a 30-year housing loan is something that we should learn.

While everyone would love to stay near to the city centre and preferably, own a big comfortable home, we need to be realistic in order not to be financially overstretched. Start with a smaller home, and buy a home that you can afford, not what you like. It is absolutely fine if you chose a house next to the last MRT station, far away from KL city centre, as long as you find it easy to commute. No point being near the city yet having to endure the daily routine of traffic madness and at the same time, forking out a large sum beyond your means.

In the 1986 recession (the worst recession that I could remember), I had a team of 20 sales team members. Instead of waiting for customers to drop by our office, we went door-to-door and street-to-street to look for customers. Imagine swimming against the current, you may feel very tired and exhausted, but at least you are few steps nearer to your destination and you become a much stronger person. Hence, building resilience and perseverance in weathering the storm during challenging times is just as important.

Back to the year of the Fire Monkey, I realised that there are similar characteristics that we can learn from those who are born in the year of the Monkey. According to Chinese zodiac analysis, monkey is the mnemonic symbol associated with intelligence, creativity, perseverance and flexibility. Perhaps, take the cue from the monkey and brave through this challenging year by applying some of its traits.

Land & Property Food for Thought Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the World President of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

 

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Immigration & education drive property prices; Secondary property sales may take lead


Immigration and education are two drivers of property prices in cities in the next 10 years to 2024, said property consultancy Knight Frank International.Its Asia-Pacific reaearch director Nicholas Holt said up to 76,000 Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI) from China have immigrated the last 10 years – the highest – while up to 72% of Malaysia’s UHNWI send their children abroad, the highest. (See graphics below).

The cities include London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Holt was presenting his Wealth Report 2015 updated till third quarter 2015 at the 25th National Real Estate Convention in Kuala Lumpur.

He defined UHNWIs as those with US$30mil and above in investible income excluding their primary residence.

In an Attitudes Survey involving 600 advisors of UHNWIs by Knight Frank, the advisors – bankers included – said about 10% of their Malaysia’s ultra-high net worth clients were considering changing their domicile in the earlier part of this year.

“This compares with an overall 12% in Asia who are considering changing domicile,” said Holt.

Data show drop in primary market transactions

SUBANG JAYA: The ongoing slowdown in the local property sector could see transactions in the secondary property market overtaking that of the primary market.

Citing data from the National Property Information Centre (Napic), PPC International Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Siders Sittampalam said the economic slowdown has affected transactions in the primary property market this year.

“Siders: ‘Total volume of transactions in the primary market has dropped, and this has also resulted in values dropping. >>

“Total volume of transactions in the primary market has dropped, and this has also resulted in values dropping.

“As such, there will come a time when the secondary market will lead the primary market,” he said at a press conference after the launch of the 25th National Real Estate Convention (NREC) 2015 yesterday.

Siders said it was difficult to provide a specific timeline on when he expected transactions in the secondary market to exceed that of the primary market.

“In terms of value, the primary market will find it harder to match the secondary market due to rising land and building costs,” he said.

Siders said he expected transactions in the primary market to improve once cooling measures imposed on the local property sector have been relaxed.

“Once the economy picks up and Bank Negara backs off on its cooling measures, the primary market will pick up again.”

He also said a drastic hike in interest rates will have an impact on the property sector.

“Over the last few years, the property market had been steadily growing due to various measures such as the developers interest bearing scheme (DIBS). Because of these measures, pricing in the market has been distorted.

“Now, when people have committed to their loans, especially youths and first time buyers, and there is a sudden hike in interest rates, there will be a dip in the market.

“Loans go bad and many properties will go under the hammer. This will not be a healthy market.” Siders said he was hopeful that any interest rate hike by the central bank would be a “sustainable increase.”

Bank Negara maintained its overnight policy rate in September at 3.25%.

The NREC was organised by the Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia and the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector, Malaysia.

The event highlighted major concerns for the future of the real estate industry in Malaysia during the current economic period.

BY EUGENE MAHALINGAM

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