If you live in a strata property, you might have heard about the Commissioner of Buildings (COB). But what exactly does this person do? Let us introduce you to the person who has an important role to play in your community.
1. What is the Commissioner of Buildings (COB) Malaysia?
The COB is an officer who is appointed for administering and carrying out the provisions in the Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA). Under the SMA (Act 757), the COB is responsible to provide proper maintenance and management of buildings, common property and its related matters. However, the law is only as good as the degree of its enforcement.
On 1 June 2015, the Government has approved 757 Act to come into force and the Strata Title Act (Act A1450) replacing the Building Act And joint property (maintenance and management) 2007 (Act 663) and the Strata Title Act 1985 (Act 318) with element improvements in both of the Act.
2. What is the objective of COB?
The objective of COB is to ensure the maintenance of the joint property. This is done by implementing laws and procedures for creating harmony in common property living for multilevel development.
3. What are the main functions of a COB?
- A COB or any authorised personnel, at any time, have full and free access to the account records and other records of the corporation and makes copies or extracts from any such accounts or records;
- Appointing an approved company auditor (if necessary) to investigate records, accounts and transactions;
- Carry out an inspection or investigation to determine whether an offence under Act 663 has been committed and may seize any record, account or document under this Act;
- Appoint an agent to manage, to exercise the power and discharge the duties and functions of the developer, JMB or MC after proving out that they do not function satisfactorily and do not meet the interest of the owner of the parcel;
- Order (in writing) the MC Council to hold an extraordinary general meeting. The COB may also allow any owner to call an extraordinary general meeting if he or she finds out that the council has not been properly represented;
- A COB or any authorised personnel at any time may enter into any building, land or premises for the purpose of carrying out any repair or immediate work on the building, land or premises;
- To indict any person who, without reasonable cause, fails or refuses to pay management and maintenance fees;
- To penalise any offence that is against Act 663 or any regulation made under this Act by collecting a sum of fine from persons suspected of committing the offence, but not exceeding the maximum fine for the offence; as well
- Any person who assaults, obstructs or hinders a COB or any authorised personnel to perform his duties under Act 663 will be charged as committing an offence and upon conviction, he or she is liable to a fine not exceeding RM 500 and can be jailed for a term not exceeding one month or both
4. How is the COB different from Strata Management Tribunal (SMT)?
The Strata Management Tribunal (SMT) is the legally recognised body that handles any disputes related to strata management. However, the jurisdiction of the SMT does not extend to any claim related to disputes of ownership.
SMT only serves selected stakeholders, namely managing agents, proprietors, developers, management bodies, purchasers and interested persons decided by the SMT. Issues that can be brought to the SMT include disputes over decisions made by Management Corporations (MC) or Joint Management Bodies (JMB), disputes over maintenance cost or misuse of sinking funds, by-law amendments, and debt recovery.
All disputes can be handled at minimal cost as no legal representation is allowed. However, the SMT has a pecuniary jurisdiction not exceeding RM 250,000.
Strata property owners are advised to seek the help of the COB first instead of the SMT when facing problems related to strata living. For example, when an Annual General Meeting fails to form a management committee, the COB could step in to appoint a managing agent.
The role of a COB is limited to enforcing the SMA, thus his/her power is subject to the SMT. For cases that cannot be handled by a COB such as to remove an entire JMB or MC, property owners will need to bring the case to the SMT.
5. Has the court ever ruled against the COB?
Yes. An example is where the court decided against the COB in the case of Badan Pengurusan Bersama Paradesa Rustika v. Sri Damansara Sdn Bhd (2013) 9 CLJ 813), where the Management Corporation (MC) sought to recover from the developer a shortfall sum of approximately RM500,000 being the sum of money collected by the developer prior to the formation of JMB which were not transferred to the JMB.
Prior to the filing of the suit, the JMB referred the matter to the COB and the COB purportedly exercised his or her power and demanded the developer to pay the said sum claimed by the JMB. In the suit, the JMB sought a court declaration that the developer owed the JMB the claimed sum as decided by the COB.
It turned out that the COB lacked jurisdiction under section 16 (5) of BCPA to make any decision with regard to the sum the JMB claimed must be paid over to them.
The COB as an enforcer appointed by the state government has the power to investigate and the power to attach moveable property. Along with the SMT, COBs are there to ensure proper maintenance and management of buildings and common property are carried out.