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.

Future generations will likely live in stratified buildings, so people should try to set a proper precedent for them. Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin

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.

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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.

Room for improvement

THERE are mixed views, but apartment and condominium residents generally agree that there is room for improvement in managing their shared living spaces.

Long standing issues continue to plague condo dwellers, such as poor cleanliness, wrongful use of facilities, low collection of maintenance fees and security problems.

Some believe in boils down to a lack of cooperation among residents while others have taken the developers and the management bodies to task.

A condominium resident in Petaling Jaya, who wishes to be known only as Aaron, says the joint management body (JMB) in his building finds it tough to make changes because of the attitude of his neighbours.

He laments that some residents do not dispose of rubbish properly despite signs being put up to advise them.

“Even if the bin is not full, some just toss their trash on the floor.

“This is the typical ugly Malaysian mindset – since they have already paid to keep the place clean, why should they bother so much?” says the 32-year-old engineer.

Aaron also notes that lifts are sometimes vandalised with graffiti.

“The JMB is trying hard to get things right but it’s the people living here who need to cooperate to ensure it works,” he says, adding that many of the units have been bought up by property investors, and such units are left vacant since the owners do not live in them.

Because of this, they do not pay maintenance fees, causing Aaron’s building to be poorly maintained.

“Some rent out their properties to tenants, who do not care and are not bothered about paying for the shared facilities like the swimming pool,” Aaron says.

While his JMB blocks the access cards of residents who refused to pay up to encourage more payment, the move isn’t effective enough.

Julian Ding, who used to live in an apartment in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, says some residents who smoke can be inconsiderate by throwing their cigarette butts out of the window, which eventually end up on balconies and in common areas.

He also recalls that some residents do not use shared amenities properly – he’s seen people dragging chairs into the swimming pool and leaving them there.

“There were also some security problems. Once, an unknown man had followed a female resident into the compound,” says the 31-yearold father of a baby girl.

Ding now lives in a condominium in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, and says his current neighbours are better, with only a fraction not up-to-date with maintenance fees.

“Facilities are fixed if complaints are made and the area is generally clean. But I suppose this is because it is a low density condominium with only 70 units,” he says.

Teacher R. Nithia, a resident in Penang, says the management corporation (MC) in her apartment is problematic because the new post bearers are continuously bickering with the former MC members.

“While they are feuding, the residents are caught in between,” the 40-year-old complains.

She says there are security issues that need to be addressed, such as cars being scratched and vandalised despite the apartment having guards on duty.

“Our access cards to the car park have also been duplicated by non-residents.

“But while we have tried to raise this to the MC, they seem to be more concerned in undoing what the former MC members have done, like changing contractors and the security company,” Nithia says.

Meanwhile, there are some who feel the project developer, who is usually part of the JMB, should do more, especially if there are complaints about the building.

An IT manager who wants to be known only as Johan says the developer of his condominium in Subang Jaya, Selangor, had initially led the JMB but was slow to act on complaints about the workmanship of the building.

“There were many issues, including tiles popping up after only three years,” says the 32-year-old.

He says residents were also promised that their units would be equipped with broadband Internet but the developer has failed to provide such a service.

The JMB, led by the developer, also overpaid for certain services like security when they paid the salaries for eight guards but only six were actually doing the job.

“Last month, the residents took over the management as an MC, and we hope things will improve,” he says, adding that the residents plan to bring up their issues with the developer with the Strata Management Tribunal.

Source: The Star 25 September 2016