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What Happens If You Don't Pay Your Building's Maintenance Fee? Here Are Things You Didn't Know As A Resident In A High-Rise

And other things like, who's responsible for safety during a fire? Why is there no life-guard at the pool?

What Happens If You Don't  Pay Your Building's Maintenance Fee? Here Are Things You Didn't Know As A Resident In A High-Rise

You there, the one who hasn't paid his building's maintenance fees for the past ten months. You gonna get a hurt real bad

"Somebody. Oh, I think you know who!"
So you live in a strata home. The multi-storey building that's currently ruining someone else's previously unobstructed view of KL.

Living in a shoe box stacked on top of each other is rapidly becoming the only means for the new generation of KL urbanites to own a home so it's best you know what you can and can't do, and what can potentially bite you on your bum if you ignore. 

For this list, we contacted Gunaprasath Bupalan, a veteran journalist with 10 years of experience writing on the property market. We asked him seven questions and we'll start with the one on all of our minds. 

1. What can the management do if I don't pay my maintenance fee? 

The difference between a block that pays the fees, and one that doesn't.
Different condominiums have different bylaws regarding defaulters. Some practise blocking access of defaulters who have more than three months' outstanding dues to the common facilities. Others have a flat figure of more than RM2000 for example. (There is also the Strata Management Tribunal under the Strata Management Act 2013 where defaulters will be charged for committing a criminal offence and made to pay fines.) 

2. I'm part of the Joing Management Body (JMB) and one of the renters is refusing to pay the maintenance fee. What can I do?

As management or member of the Joint Management Body (JMB), these are the things you can and can't do to defaulters: 

You Can:
  • Block access to common areas
  • Chase away defaulters from using facilities 
  • Disable passcard access and force defaulters to enter the grounds as a visitor
  • Send a guard to follow a defaulter to the unit every time they enter the compound
  • Send a lawyers letter of demand (LOD)
  • Blacklist the defautler in CTOS and CCRIS (which will negatively affect your future loans)
  • Send defaulters name to the tribunal to be prosecuted
You Cannot:
  • Block access to the defaulters parking lot
  • Block access to the defaulters home 
  • Cut the electricity or water supply of the defaulter 

3. Can I call the maintenance guy if something is wrong in my unit?

"Gimme five. Go ahead."
Sometimes, people misunderstand this facility. Yes, living in a strata means that you have access to the general workers and maintenance staff that are hired by the management office. However, they are employees of the management office. So if you do need them to work on any defaults in your personal unit, you need to fill in a requisition form that can be obtainable from the management office. However, sending someone to attend to your problems are at the discretion of the management and the charges also depends on the management.

4. If there is a water leak from the unit above, and it's staining my ceiling, what do I do and who is responsible to fix it?

This is the most common problem faced in strata living. The best way to solve this issue is to visit your neighbour above and explain the situation. By law, the neighbour above has to solve the problem because it derives from their unit. If your neighbour is arrogant or refuses to do so, you may then lodge a complaint to the management office. The management office has to try to get hold of your neighbour and explain the situation. If this too fails, you may seek the management’s office to lodge a complaint with COB (commissioner of buildings) and they will get in the picture and advice what to do next. Remember, fixing this problem isn’t your headache; it needs to be taken care off by your neighbour.

5. What happens in case of a fire? Who is responsible for the safety of tenants? 

Most JMB or management officers and security guards are trained to assist residents in the event of a fire breakout. They would have been trained by the BOMBA on the routes to take and where to assemble. This exercise should also be carried out regularly as a fire drill to all residents.

6. I have additional cars and no lots to park. Can I park at visitor bays?

This is a big NO-NO. Each strata should come equip with four types of parking bays: residents, visitors, handicapped, loading, and sometimes, waiting bays. 

So, as a resident, depending on your Sales and Purchase agreement, you would be allocated one or two bays that belong to you. You may not park in a visitor bay without written consent by the management. You may be parking only during the non-peak times, but imagine if your neighbour sees this and he too starts parking at the visitors bay. Then another four residents decide to do the same. Eventually, it will become a habit and there will be no visitor bays available for genuine visitors to park at. This isn’t fair.

7. There is no lifeguard at the pool in my building. Isn't that dangerous? 

Living in strata doesn’t mean that you are living in a hotel. This is a residential tower. Most stratas practice having their swimming pool at five meters and below, so that by law, they don’t require a lifeguard. You can't expect the management to be paying for a lifeguard to sit at the pool 24/7.
It should be stated at the pool that there is no lifeguard present and children should be accompanied by an adult. So if you have children wanting to use the pool, the best thing for you to do is to have an adult with them at all times.

8. What do I do if I suspect my JMB is misappropriating my money?

If you feel that something isn’t right, you can always request for documentation, because, as a resident, you are a stake holder. If they refuse to disclose documentation, you may proceed to lodge a police report and an investigation will be carried out. You have the right to do that. (And by law, they are personally liable)

Additional Information: 

We've spoken a lot about the JMB, but who exactly are 'The Management'? Who decided they would manage the building? And who manages the management? 

Who are the JMB? 

"Maintain the building, you shall. Pay you must."
The JMB is formed of house owners in the strata and its first meeting is convened by the property developer. Members are chosen based on votes and members work on a volunteer basis. Meaning: they don't get paid. 

What are their duties? 

The duties of the JMB are, among others:
  • Maintain the common property and keep it in good serviceable repair
  • Fix and impose charges for the maintenance works
  • Insure the building and apply insurance moneys received for rebuilding and reinstatement
  • Prepare and maintain a register of all purchasers
  • Ensure that the Building Maintenance Fund (BMF) is audited and provide financial statements to purchasers
  • Enforce house rules

Powers of JMB

The JMB is empowered to:
  • Collect maintenance charges from purchasers
  • Authorise expenditure for carrying out the maintenance works
  • Recover monies due from purchasers
  • Acquire property for use by purchasers in connection with the common property
  • Secure the services of a person to undertake the maintenance works
  • Make house rules
You can read more about the laws that govern JMBs here at the National House Buyers Association. Remember that a well run JMB will keep your strata in good condition, which will increase the value of your home in the long run. 

This column is part of an on-going effort by Rojak Daily to inform our readers about their rights as home owners. Drop us an email with your questions and we will get Gunaprasath to answer them for you in the next post. 

Portions of the questions asked were addressed in Gunaprasath's column in Real Spaces in the Malay Mail. The opinions expressed are Gunaprasath's own and do not reflect the view of any association, municipal, authority, or governmental bodies. 

You can contact him at or call him during his segment with TRAXX FM on Fridays between 8.15am and 8.45am during the property show. 

Gunaprasath also publishes a free independent property print and digital publication called Property360Digest, which you can download here