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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Managing strata properties in Malaysia

I LIKE to highlight the rather difficult and controversial issue of the management (and maintenance) of stratified properties, particularly flats, apartments and condominiums, in the context of the proposed Strata Management Act, 2012 which is expected to be tabled during the upcoming session of Parliament.

The Building Management Association of Malaysia (BMAM) is the only multi-stakeholder organisation (established in 2009) representing the collective interests of chambers of commerce, developers, engineers, architects, shopping and high-rise complex managers, management corporations (MCs), joint management bodies (JMBs) and managing agents.

However, BMAM was not nvited to participate in the workshops and discussions held by the National Land Council and the Housing and Local Government Ministry when the draft Bill was deliberated, although the implementation of the Act will have consequences that will directly affect BMAM stakeholder-member organisations.

According to the information available to us, the Bill states that only licenced valuers who have been admitted as Property Managers pursuant to Section 21(1)(a) of the Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Act, 1981 (VAEA Act) to manage and maintain stratified (or subdivided) buildings as managing agents.

No such restrictions exist in the current laws that regulate building management, namely the Strata Titles Act, 1985 (ST Act) and the Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act, 2007 (BCPMM Act).

Building management is a multi-disciplinary occupation and cannot be exclusive to the valuers alone.

The JMBs and MCs want to have the independence and opportunity to appoint any fit and proper person, or appropriate entity, as managing agent on a “willing seller-willing buyer” basis on mutually agreed terms and conditions.

The Bill, by restricting building management and maintenance to valuers, would create a monopoly, and is inconsistent with the spirit of the Competition Act, 2010, which clearly discourages the creation of monopolies.

Though building owners (JMBs and MCs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have been exempted from this ruling, most JMBs and MCs, led by volunteers, do not have the time, skill, expertise or experience to manage and maintain their buildings, and neither can they afford to appoint a registered property manager as a managing agent.

JMBs and MCs would be required to pay a management fee in compliance with their Fee Schedule, excluding other operating costs such as staff salaries, electricity, water, cleaning, security, etc.

We will soon see the mushrooming of more urban stratified slums and ghettos, thereby defeating the objectives of the Government’s squatter resettlement programmes and public housing projects.

The fiduciary responsibilities of the MCs and JMBs have been clearly stated in the ST Act and the BCPMM Act on the management of the Building Maintenance Fund and the Sinking Fund.

The managing agent appointed by the JMB or MC to manage and maintain the subject properties is only required to perform these functions for and on behalf of the JMB or MC. A registered property manager is therefore not required.

The MCs and JMBs only need building and facilities management for their common properties.

Since common properties and facilities cannot be sold, and most residential building owners do not lease their common properties to third parties as they would need them for their own use.

Many non-valuer managing agents have several years of experience in building and facilities management.

They have also been admitted as members and registered building managers by BMAM upon satisfying the required admission criteria.

They are qualified and skilled in building management, operations and facilities maintenance, and have also subscribed to a professional building management liability insurance policy entered into between a local insurance company and BMAM.

Any attempt by the ST Act to split managing agents as valuers and non-valuers will be detrimental to the growth and development of the building management industry in Malaysia.

It will result in the loss of valuable management talent in the industry. It will also have serious social implications on the upward career mobility of qualified and experienced local building managers, many of whom are bumiputras.

The Commissioner of Buildings (COB) should be the sole regulatory body to
supervise and oversee the management and maintenance of stratified buildings in Malaysia.

The involvement of third parties, who have no ownership interests in the properties, will not only erode the COB’s authority but may also result in unnecessary layering, additional costs (with no proportionate increase in service quality), corruption, rent seeking and abuse of power.

Building Management Association of Malaysia

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