The High-Rise and Fall
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High-rise condominiums offer an exhilarating lifestyle, including luxury amenities not available in most single-family homes. At the same time high-rises don't require many of the typical maintenance and chores that come along with a standard home. Sounds like a win-win situation, right? But is it really the right choice for YOUR lifestyle?
In earlier times, people lived in wooden houses with attap roofs. As time went by, concrete and brick structures constituted progress. These were all properties fixed to the land.
There are numerous reasons why families move homes, and space constraints is one of the main deciding influences. Customarily, we would see a growing family upgrading from an apartment or a single storey house, to a three or four-bedroom double storey home, or a bungalow, if affordable.
Imagine waking up in the morning, looking out the window only to see an eye soring pile of rubbish laying out on your (communal) yard. What about coming home? Sleepless nights from inconsiderate neighbours jamming to their maddening music? Dogs barking? Noisy pool parties? You name it. However, condos trump the average landed property unquestionably due to the gated and guarded security features.
Property management is all about people management. Bad habits live amongst us and while condominium lifestyle is the norm to our Singaporean neighbours, some Malaysians or at least up till Generation Y, had the choice of "living on landâ€ when they were growing up. Most condominium residents today will attest to this. It is a process, getting accustomed towards living in a high-rise building.
Having a property manager isn't always peaches and cream. Some condos are underfunded and therefore have no money in reserves to pay for capital improvements such as painting or roofing, fixing rusted water pipes or concrete repair. Thus, the management council would need to know how to engage a decent property manager to run and manage the property.
"There must be a process and procedure to the selection and know how. The marriage between the property managers and management council must be there, to ensure a seamless and smooth relationship" says Ken Lo, Chairman of Subsidiary Title Owners and Purchasers Association Sabah (STOPS).
It's a universal problem to have two management councils, both trying to throw each other under the bus. STOPS is an NGO which aims to help educate property managers on a more effective way to run and manage a property to avoid such problems from arising.
"The delay on the strata title issuance is another matter to press on" he said, adding that as stated in the Sales and Purchase Agreement, the developer is endeavoured to help owners obtain the strata title. However, when the delay occurs, no one is fully responsible nor accountable for it.
Flats or apartments, and condominiums are often referred to as compartmentalised units or parcels and after a period, owners are issued the strata titles. All these units have a common feature, they all have common facilities which someone must manage.
In return, service charges must be paid. In this instance, you might hear words like Joint Management Body (JMB) and Management Council (MC) being used. Once a property is completed, the role of the developer comes to an end, although obligations to rectify defective works continue as provided for in the sale and purchase agreement. This is when the JMB and MC becomes integral to the wellbeing of the property.
The current applicable Strata Management Act came into force in all states in Peninsular Malaysia and the Federal Territories on June 1, 2015, except for Penang, which came into force on June 12, 2015. Sabah and Sarawak, however, have their own legislation, similar in spirit but narrower in detail.
The middle to low end pocket
An MC works seamlessly for high-end properties but doesn't for low-cost to middle-ranged properties. The Government should take over in upkeeping and maintaining the surrounding and common areas in the housing estate, because having an MC or JMB manage the property just doesn't cut the deal. Some, if not most residents living in low-cost properties or flats are not able to afford the maintenance fees, resulting in the property being poorly managed. Undermanaged properties lead to dissatisfied residents. It is a chicken and egg situation - no one wants to pay when they see no progress but progress can't be made without paying the fees.
A Commissioner of Buildings (COB) may appoint companies to administer and carry out the provisions of the Strata Title Act for residential buildings with no MC. Until an MC or JMB is established, the developer is responsible for the maintenance works and this includes the responsibility to insure the building against fire and other risks.
There are many cases of residential and/or commercial properties not obtaining their strata titles yet, until today and there are many factors which may contribute to the delay. However, the laws have now changed under the Strata Management Act. Before any development can be carried out, the land title must be converted into its own purpose. Converting the Native Title to Country Lease makes it easier to obtain the title once the development is done. Once the development is completed, the developer would need to submit the subsidiary index and story plan to the Land and Survey Department, pay the premium to get the title.
Ken shared that STOPS will be looking to work with Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) and Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) to reward the best managed condo next year. The group will also conduct seminars, talks and training to educate people on their rights. They have since conducted various talks from the legality of Airbnb, handing over of property to the management corporation to running your housing community correctly and more.
Inconveniences of condo-living
1. Delay in obtaining strata title
2. Additional fees for maintenance and amenities such as access to facilities, whether one uses these or not
3. Tolerance due to shared common spaces and close proximity living style, for example, no late-night parties that are too noisy or boisterous; home theatre system or television volume must be controlled; you can't have your kids running wild and screaming or wailing as they wish;
4. No pets allowed in most high-rise residences (although some residents manage to sneak pets in and keep them silent and living like humans within four walls and on tiled/marble/wooden flooring etc.)
5. Participating or volunteering time to be part of residence committee
6. Lesser privacy as at times neighbours can have full view of another's home interiors especially those without curtains, blinds, one-way or tinted glass, or some sort of cover/shield
7. Close proximity living including vehicle space. Car enthusiasts will agree on this one, especially those who hate having â€˜dimples' and minor dents
8. Space constraint for growing families, those with 101 gadgets or sports equipment.
9. Residents who own more than one vehicles may not be fortunate to get enough parking space
10. Home renovation and services can only be carried out at certain times and hours of the day
11. Fixtures, furniture and fittings cannot be too large as it may not fit into the smaller living space, not to mention, the lift
12. Not much control of what's on the exterior such as the walkways, corridors, landscaping, exterior walls etc. â€“ unless you're on the resident's committee
13. Incompetent management and disputes
14. Vandalism in higher density developments
High-rises are definitely not for everyone. If the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, it's best to choose something closer to the ground with more privacy and outdoor space.
Of course, some homeowners â€“ especially those with small, narrow yards â€“ will tell you they also have noisy, unpleasant neighbours. Depending where you call home, many of the complaints one can make about condo living can frequently be lodged at a house as well.
So, the grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence. But at least on one side of the fence, you'll never have to mow the lawn.