What are the common issues in strata living and how to solve them?

Living in stratified properties means you will be sharing a lot of resources and facilities. Nevertheless, you will come across endless issues and challenges related to strata living.

Strata living isn’t for selfish and no-sense-of-community people. It requires shared responsibilities involving maintenance fees, quit rent and ensuring everyone lives in harmony. Unfortunately, some problems and difficulties are bound to arise from the situation.  Here, we address the most common issues related to strata living and how owners can overcome them.

1. Keeping of pets in highrise residences 

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There are all types of people living in a strata community. This means not all of your neighbours are fond of pets. Some of them might even be allergic to certain animals. Therefore, they are at risk of various health problems when they come into contact with these pets. Under the ‘By-Law 14 in the Third Schedule of the Strata Management (Maintenance & Management) Regulations 2015’, there is a provision for pets to be kept in a highrise residence unless they cause threats, annoyance, nuisance and even health hazards to other residents.

Make sure you’re aware of your building’s bylaws regarding pet ownership. Also, check the city council’s requirement about keeping pets in highrise residences. Even if your management allows you to own one, you should be aware of your pet’s whereabouts at all times. Don’t let them wander into other owners’ private properties or create a mess in common areas. Also, make sure your pets don’t create such loud noises. Pets should be limited to being within the care and confines of a particular residence. 

2. Noise

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Living in a strata area means living near others. It doesn’t take that high of volume from one unit for noise to bother others. Making noise or causing a racket during wee hours (between midnight and 6 am) – playing with firecrackers, playing very loud music or musical instruments, revving of motor engines and very loud laughter. These include noises made near public roads, public places, business premises, or places which adjoin public roads.

For strata property residents and owners, they are bound by the laws and regulations set out in the Strata Management (Maintenance & Management) Regulations 2015 as well as the Deed of Mutual Covenants which spells out the ‘house rules’ that all residents must follow. The first option should always be to communicate directly with the source of the problem. However, practice common sense and be friendly. Offer solutions if possible.

Nevertheless, if an agreement cannot be reached, speak to your strata committee and have them draft a strongly worded letter. Under the Strata Management Act 2013, the management body is given the authority to enforce bylaws that prohibits nuisance acts. Upon which, when violated, they may impose a collectively agreed-upon penalty on the offender. Alternatively, you can file a police report at the nearest police station (PDRM) or call in to complain.

READ: Know your rights and obligations as a strata property owner

3. Limited parking spaces

Limited parking spaces seem like a common problem throughout the city and not just at strata developments. If your designated parking spot is occupied by another owner, resident, or visitor, you can take the help of the committee. They can move such vehicles to another part of the common area. However, they cannot forcibly remove or tow a vehicle without providing prior and clear notice to the vehicle’s owner or driver first. The same applies to vehicles causing an obstruction. If you have guests, visitor parking is usually allowed in common parking lots.

4. Maintenance fees 

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To keep the maintenance of the building and common properties running, each unitholder needs to pay management fees. There are typically two types of fees:

  • Service charge

Monthly payments for maintaining common facilities and common property in the development such as swimming pools, elevators, and security services. Also known as maintenance fees.

  • Sinking fund

The sinking fund is a reserve fund collected from the strata owner for future expenditure. Examples include the painting of the facade, refurbishment works, or replacement of fixtures.

To derive the share units in a strata scheme, there is a standard formula under the Fourth Schedule of the Strata Titles Rules 2015. It is as the following:

Operating expenditure / Total share units in condo development = Maintenance fee to be paid

A unitholder can request a review from the commissioner if he is unhappy with the amount of the maintenance fees determined by the developer or the Joint Management Body (JMB). The commissioner will then determine or instruct the JMB or developer to appoint a property manager to recommend an amount for the maintenance fees.

However, if a unitholder fails to pay the fees, his or her name may be displayed on the defaulter list in common areas and services to his or her unit will be suspended. The JMB or Management Corporation (MC) can also stop him or her from using common facilities and even enforce a ban on entering the building. Should a defaulter still refuse to pay the amount due, the management body will then file a claim with the Strata Management Tribunal (SMT). The errant strata owner will be brought before the SMT for an order to pay up. 

Find out more about the Strata Management Tribunal (SMT) here.

5. Rubbish, repairs, and maintenance

Maintenance fee is for maintaining common facilities and common property in the development such as swimming pools, elevators and security services

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The owner is responsible for the repair and maintenance of any fixtures and fittings inside their unit “air space”. Many strata land parcel owners expect the management body to maintain their houses such as repair the roof when it leaks or to repaint the exterior over time. However, under the SMA, such benefits do not exist. If the problems are in a common shared area, you can file a complaint to the management.

6. Interfloor leakage/ leakage from the adjoining unit

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A stressful situation for strata owners is when there is leakage from ceilings and walls. Besides giving space for mould growth, it can cause damage to the property and lead to more severe mechanical and electrical problems. Also, potentially affect the selling price of the property. 

The first step to take is to clarify with management to understand the cause of the leakage. Then, you should negotiate a solution with the responsible party. If this fails, complain about it to the management body. Once they confirm the responsible party, they shall instruct him to fix the leakage.  Also, a unitholder can proceed with the repair and claim to the SMT if the responsible party refuses to take action.

READ: 5 things Malaysians should know before buying a high-rise strata property

7. Handover of management from developer to the Joint Management Body (JMB)/the Management Corporation (MC)

According to the Strata Management Act 2013, the management of a strata residential property shall be handed over by developers o the owners before the developer’s management period expires (within 12 months from vacant possession).

Developers should conduct a pre-handover education with the owners and provide a checklist for the convenience of the incoming management body. This includes handing over the balance in the maintenance and sinking fund account, and all records relating to maintenance and management of the building and common area.

At the same time, the owners should maintain good communication with the developer after the handover to ensure proper knowledge transfer.

8. Participation in general meetings

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The purpose of general meetings is to inform strata owners on the performance of their property management. However, good property management requires strong participation from the owners.

To encourage participation, an early notice should be served on the requirement to participate as well as the fee payment status before the official notice of the meetings.

Not just that, the management also needs to clarify the requirement and participation process. They must always look for and negotiate solutions to ensure the participation of unitholders.

9.  Strata title late issuance 

What is a Strata Title? A strata title is issued for properties in a multi-storey building where the land usually belongs to the owners or developers of the property. Strata titles are divided into separate individual titles issued to units of houses, apartments or offices within a development that share common facilities.

Under the Strata Title Act 1985, developers are required to apply for the strata titles on behalf of the purchasers. When the strata title is issued, the person who owns the property can use the property like how it is used for an individual title.

However, in the case of late issuance of a strata title, the owners should first seek clarification with the developer and the authorities and then negotiate for a solution. The owner should also check with the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims or check with the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

ALSO READ: What is the Commissioner of Buildings (COB)?

Living near so many other owners, we might find certain things that our neighbours do annoying. There are laws to help you do deal with that. But is it always better to first try solving the issues directly with your neighbour? Be friendly and practice common sense.

For example, there is not much one can do when a baby is crying and making noises at night. You would be surprised at just how effective a gentle word and a peace offering might do to diffuse a tense situation compared to a formal complaint or slapping your neighbour with a legal letter.

Edited by Rebecca Hani Romeli

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