As an owner of a strata unit, there might be instances when you want to dispute certain committee decisions or the other way around. Luckily, there is the Strata Management Tribunal (SMT) to help bring justice and offer solutions.
1. What is the Strata Management Tribunal (SMT)?
The Strata Management Tribunal (SMT) is the legally recognised body that handles any disputes related to strata management. Its jurisdiction was established under Section 107 of the Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA) but does not extend to any claims related to disputes over ownership.
2. Who can make a claim to the SMT?
Among those who can make claims to the SMT include:
- Joint Management Body (JMB)
- Management Corporation (MC)
- Subsidiary Management Company (SMC)
- Managing agent
- Relevant parties (special permission granted by the tribunal)
However, it is also important to know the difference between a purchaser and a proprietor. This distinction between the two comes into play when the strata title for the property has not been issued yet. When an official strata title for the property is issued, a proprietor becomes the property owner. A purchaser merely owns an interest in a particular unit, as it is still being held under the master title. In this circumstance, the proprietor is the developer or landowner.
3. What cases can be brought to the SMT?
All disputes can be handled at minimum expenditure as no legal representation is allowed. This eliminates high legal costs. It also has cheaper filing fees compared to a court proceeding. However, the SMT has a pecuniary jurisdiction not exceeding RM250,000.
As mentioned before, the SMT’s jurisdiction does not extend to any claims related to disputes of ownership. However, the cases that it can handle include:
- disputes over failure to perform a function, duty or power imposed by SMA 2013
- disputes over costs or repairs of a defect
- claims for the recovery of charges, contribution to the sinking fund or any debts
- claims for an order to convene a general meeting, invalidate proceedings of a meeting or nullify a resolution on matters decided in a general meeting
- claims to compel the supply of information or documents
- claims for an order to give consent to effect alterations to common property or limited common property
- claims for an order to affirm, vary or revoke a decision of the Commissioner of Buildings
Every party will be entitled to attend and be heard at the hearing of a claim. All proceedings of the SMT will be open to the public.
4. What awards and penalties can the SMT impose?
Each award made by the SMT must be accompanied by the relevant grounds for the decision. Each award must be made within 60 days of the first day of the hearing. Among the awards it can confer include:
- Order a party to pay or refund sums of money, damage or compensation
- Order a party to pay interest of no more than 8% per annum on a monetary award
- Dismiss a frivolous or vexatious claim
- Make any further order it considers just and expedient
- Impose additional ancillary orders or relief as is necessary to effect any other order made by the SMT
- Vary or set aside a contract or additional by-laws, excepting those set down as of June 1, 2015, which prevail over any additional and inconsistent by-laws or in-house rules
The tribunal also has the power to impose the following penalties:
- A fine of up to RM250,000
- Imprisonment of up to three years
- Simultaneous fine and imprisonment
5. What happens if you ignore the tribunal’s order?
The tribunal can act on anyone who does not comply with its order, as stated under Section 123 of the SMA 2013. The penalties include the following:
- First offence – A fine not exceeding RM250,000; OR imprisonment not exceeding three years; OR both
- Continuing offence – further fines not exceeding RM5,000 per day
6. What are the recent trends of strata tribunal cases?
According to data from the Housing and Strata Management Tribunal (TPPS), there were 4,964 complaints forwarded to the SMT in 2018, a significant rise compared to 2,642 complaints filed in 2016. Most cases brought to the hearings were related to the collection of maintenance fees.
However, the average rate of resolutions dropped from 96.7% in 2017 to 92.35% in 2018. The Housing and Local Government Ministry (KPKT) is trying to resolve this issue by appointing more Presidents to head the tribunals.
Since living in a strata development means being part of a community, disputes are bound to happen. Strata unit owners are advised to get acquainted with the SMA, its rules and by-laws governing sub-divided buildings. If you feel there is any injustice, the SMT will be there to help provide solutions.
Edited by Rebecca Hani Romeli