Legalizing Illegal Renovation

Legalizing Illegal Renovation

Scenario A: I bought my terrace house some 20 years ago and I didn’t know that I have to obtain building plans for my extended kitchen.

Scenario B: Waste of time to legalize the balcony that was created on-top of the car porch. After all, I am selling off my house to migrate.

Scenario C: All my neighbours have the same illegal extension to their kitchen without the 5 feet setback. We just copied them. What should I do then?

Scenario D: We have obtained the approved building plans from the Local Council but didn’t procure the Certificate of Compliance and Completion (CCC) from our architects. We are not sure whether the contractors built according to the plans. But, our architects have not issued the CCC yet. What can I do?

These are the often heard complaints and remarks from unwary home owners who have somehow or other made renovation to their main structure albeit illegally.

 

Unpermitted additions and renovation works

Amid rows of uniformed double-storey terrace houses in the Bandar Puteri Puchong and USJ areas which were constructed by their developers in the mid 1990s, the sight of extension to the ground floor until the tip of the boundary and the verge of the drain of the back lane (extent of new the kitchen space) and building an extra room above the extended kitchen have been rampant. These extensions requiring approvals from the Local Council ie Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) have been ignored and caught the eyes of the Local Council when one finds these illegal extensions protruding un-uniformedly. There is no setback of the required 5 feet space at all, as required by the law and many flouted and clearly disregarded the rules because of the lax in enforcement.

Extreme renovation and extension have become a commonplace, especially as escalating property prices have made many households unable to upgrade to a bigger house in tandem with their growing families. There was a growing need for larger living spaces. However, many of these home renovations and extensions seldom have approval from the Local Council before construction. Many take the shortcut of hiring contractors who claim to know the guidelines in regards to home renovations but in actual fact, they do not. There were a lot of broken promises by those dodgy contractors, deviations from approved plans and some draftsman even shirks their duties after having collected their money from the unwary home owners.

 

Retrospective approvals of three (3) permitted additions/ renovation works on an ‘as built’ plan

It was in 2013 when I was serving as a Councillor in the Puchong area, the chairman of Bandar Puteri Puchong 8 Residents Association approached me with the view to explore the possibility to legalizing these mushrooming illegal extensions and unpermitted additions on the rear of those houses. We pondered on the issues and its possibilities and hence sought the intervention of the Member of Parliament and the Local Assemblyman to tackle these issues as the initiatives would benefit majority of the ignorant home owners. Numerous technical meetings were held with the Yang DiPertua of MPSJ, Director of Building Department, Ir Mohd Ariffuddin Hj Kamari, law-makers and the relevant State departments.

Fast forward, the proactive initiatives are now made law and applicable to the entire State of Selangor after the State Planning Committee (SPC) on 15th

December 2015 approved three (3) crucial initiatives in the special ‘retrospective’ approval process to the renovation guidelines. In the context of MPSJ – Guidelines and Building Standards, 1999 the following are permitted, inter-alia:

  1. Dispensation of the need of 5 feet (1524 mm) setback from the rear boundary;
  2. Allowing construction of an additional floor above the rear extended kitchen; and
  3. Allowing the construction of a balcony just above the car porch provided that it has the minimum 10 feet (3048 mm) from the front boundary ie the gate.

Check out the MPSJ website at www.mpsj.gov.my for the details of the special legalization program. These 3 initiatives (for the time being) may be expanded to others in the future. It’s merely the ‘stepping stone’ to further expansion of the ‘other illegal renovations’.

More than 30,000 homeowners who have illegally extended or renovated their homes in Subang Jaya can escape heavy fines and possible demolition, if they submit their plans to the council and pay a flat rate of fine: RM500. MPSJ is giving homeowners a one (1) year grace period (amnesty period) from 1st March 2016 to submit their renovation plans. This literally means that those who had not submitted their renovations plans are exempted from the penalties which is 10times X submission fee. Nevertheless, homeowners would still have to pay the plan submission fee, which ranges from RM80 to RM800 depending on the extent of addition works.

 

Advantages of the legalization program

I will not touch on the ‘structural format and design’ but more on the advantages of this legalization exercise. There is a long list of benefits but I state a few such as :

  • Buyers are now more wary and watchful of illegal renovation when they embark on buying a house in the secondary market. They demand to see the Certificate of Fitness (to Occupy) (CFO) and the current regime of CCC. This CCC was implemented on 12th April 2007 with the amendments to the Street, Drainage and Building Act, 1974 (Act 133) (amended 2007) as a self-regulatory model;
  • The value of the house will be enhanced with the proper approvals from the Local Council. Without such proper approvals, potential buyers will be prompted to seek a reduction in the sale price;
  • It is worth our while to invest in the legalization drive because the current value has far exceeded its original purchase price umpteen years ago;
  • Banks and financial institutions demands for CFO/ CCC when granting a housing loan, for sake of record and when they seek out their panel valuers to assess the valuation of the collaterals;
  • Insurance company will not pay for an illegal extension in the event of an insurance claim against fire. Sometimes, those uncompromising insurance companies will use that tool against the insured to disclaim liabilities;
  • the enforcers in the local council cannot threaten demolition and subject the homeowners to constant harassment;
  • vulnerability to complaints from revengeful neighbours

It is our duty as responsible adults to legalize those illegal constructions/ renovation/ additional works before we eventually transmit the property to our children. Don’t pass down the problems to our children. It will solve inheritance matters.

We must acknowledge that with the legalization of the renovations; it would affect the increase of assessment fee. It will be revalued with the permitted structure(s) and such increase would not be a dent to the current assessment fee, the ratepayers are paying to the Local Council.

 

Streamlining the process

Local Council must be proactive in making the program a Reality. They must organize themselves with a clear and accurate Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to facilitate administrative work; a set of ‘check-list’ with an easy to understand Flow-Chart. Participating PSP must be briefed to ensure that the task is made easier. Local Council should adopt a ‘one-piece flow’ with a One-Stop agency to expedite submission, processing, collection of fee/ fines and effectual issuance of CCC. There should be sufficient manpower to undertake the influx of applications since a deadline has been imposed. Express lanes must be created for single applicant as compared to draftsman with multiple submissions. Kiosks are to be made available to draftsman: to make minor amendments/ changes to their drawings. Flyers of this legalization program should be in four (4) major languages. Finally, emulate those Local Councils that adopt a more expeditious process. I hear that DBKL does it within a week?

 

All ‘registered draftsman’ are permitted to undertake the job

These simple undertakings need not have the expertise of Architects – draftsman will do because of the cost element. Moreover, there is no need to use the panel draftsman of the Local Council. So long as they are registered draftsman with the Board of Architects (www.lam.gov.my) they are deemed as the ‘Principal Submitting Person’ (PSP). There is no restriction under this program. The professional services of PSP are regulated under the Schedule of Architects ‘Scale of Minimum fees’ Rules, 2010.

Smart homeowners should know how to bargain and pay progressively (by stages) for work performed.

 

Amnesty Period to be extended?

MPSJ is giving homeowners a one (1) year grace period from 1st March 2016 – 28 February 2017 to submit their renovation plans.

Yes, it is within the power of the Councilors to lobby for a reasonable extension of the amnesty period from the Local Council and State Government with the subtle prompting by the elected assemblyman. Be that it may, the deadline is still 28th February 2017 (for the time being) depending on the support from the masses.

Chang Kim Loong is the Secretary-General of the National House Buyers Association (HBA): www.hba.org.my, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) manned by volunteers. He is also the NGO Councillor at the Subang Jaya Municipal Council.

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