Q & A with the speakers at the Talk

Questions from the audience at the Talk on “Are you destroying your investment in real estate” on Oct 20 were forwarded to speakers Chur Associates founder and managing partner Chris Tan, and Architect Centre accredited architect and trainer Anthony Lee Tee. The replies reflect the speakers’ personal views and do not constitute legal advice. Questions have been edited for clarity.

Chris Tan
Chur Associates founder and managing partner

Regarding the installation of ventilation fan with ducted hose outlet which requires the wall to be drilled with four-inch holes, do I need to get approval from developer and Commissioner of Buildings (COB), or just submit the application to the property management office?

Tan: Generally, you need approval from the management for any renovation. The holes required could be a penetration through a structural wall and might even involve a hole punched through the common property too.

If the developer is the party in charge of the management now (prior to the formation of the Joint Management Body and Management Corporation), approval from the developer is required. COB is not involved in this process.

Is it possible to own more than two car park lots in a condominium?

Tan: It is possible to own two or more car parks lots if you buy from the developer any extra lot offered prior to the issuance of the separate strata title, as it could be another accessory parcel. There is also the unlikely circumstance where car park lots can be sold as a main parcel on its own.

What are my legal rights as a property owner against my tenant who defaults on rental payment and destroys my property? 

Tan: First of all, the deposit collected and retained is your most direct and best bet for recovery. You can always resort to the Court of Law for further compensation based on the evidence that you can produce.

Is there an alternative way to evict a tenant other than taking legal action?

Tan: You can consider self-help but exercise with caution. Please consult a lawyer on your rights before you take any action.

Upon expiry of the termination notice given to the tenant, can the landlord cut off the electricity supply to the premises as provided for in the Tenancy Agreement?

Tan: Please consult a lawyer on your rights before you take any action.

Anthony Lee Tee
Architect Centre accredited architect and trainer

There is a foul smell coming from the bathroom in my serviced apartment. I want to install a ventilation fan but the developer did not provide any duct for the unit. Can I install a ventilation fan with duct hose in my bathroom?

Lee: Bathrooms need to have ventilation – either natural (windows or openings) or mechanical (with fans). If your bathroom has a window, you can open the window to improve the overall indoor air ventilation.

The codes for bathroom ventilation are regulated in the Uniform Building Bylaws. A ventilation fan is normally used to remove the dampness and odours from the bathroom and discharge out through ducts installed in the ceiling.

The effectiveness of a ‘ductless’ ventilation fan is doubtful unless it is installed on the external wall and allowed to discharge directly into an open air-well or outdoor area. This is similar to the kitchen where the exhaust extraction fan should ideally be ducted to discharge cooking odours.

I have bought a 40-year-old house and am concerned about the safety of the electrical wiring after seeing so many fire incidents involving old houses. Is there a need to change all the wiring? Are there any reliable bodies or electricians out there who could conduct safety checks of the wiring or change the wiring?

Lee: An older property may have been equipped with a single-phase electricity supply and out-dated protection devices. The lifecycle of the original electrical wires and switches would have expired. Renovations could have been carried out in your property over a period of 40 years such as installation of air-conditioning, modems and electric water heaters.

Such installations usually require a high demand of electricity, which may result in overloading and cause fires. It is also not uncommon for these installations to be carried out by unlicensed electricians using substandard materials.

There have been updated electrical by-laws issued by Suruhanjaya Tenaga “ST” (Energy Commission) particularly on the mandatory installation of protection devices. You can contact Architect Centre to conduct an independent electrical safety inspection report by an Accredited Electrical Engineer.

The master bathroom in my serviced apartment has a water seepage problem. I have reported this to the developer during the defects liability period which ended on Sept 18, 2018. The developer has sent the contractor to change the hollow and chipped floor tiles, but the problem remains, as the contractor did not replace the waterproofing layer on the floor and wall in the bathroom. After some time, I discovered water seepage through the plaster ceiling in the unit one floor below my unit.

I have complained to the developer but they replied saying that they have inspected the unit and found no presence of water leakage or dampness. Hence, no rectification work will be carried out. What can I do?

Lee: Inter-floor water leakage is an industry-wide epidemic to an extent special clauses are found in the Strata Management Act 2013 to deal with this issue.

If constructed properly, a bathroom / toilet floor should not leak in the first place. A proper and permanent method for preventing leaks requires a suitable waterproofing to be applied on top of the entire bathroom floor slab after the removal of ALL the floor tiles, wall tiles (to a certain height depending on the location of the shower) and cement screening (below the tiles).

In addition, waterproofing must be applied to lower sections of the bathroom walls (an upturn) to avoid sideway leaks. After that, a sustained pond-test must be performed for a period of time to check for leaks.

Some contractors will use a pressure grouting with polyurethane foam, which is ‘pumped’ from below in order to avoid hacking the tiles. Again, this is only a temporary fix, and water leaks will recur after some time.

It is advisable to get an independent inspection done with infrared thermal imaging to establish the root cause of leakage. The independent findings may provide the basis to file a claim against the developer through the Home Buyer’s Tribunal taking into account the leak is now a latent defect. Your other option is through the civil courts.

Can the owner request the developer to replace a new waterproofing membrane for the entire bathroom?

Lee: Yes; if the root cause of leakage requires new waterproofing.

After the developer has handed over the building management to a Joint Management Body, can individual parcel owners request that the developer provides information regarding warranties, trade brochures, contractor and manufacturer/products for waterproofing systems to the toilet and wet area?

Lee: Yes, do request for it and check it thoroughly.

Does the owner of the upper floor unit have the right to claim from the Common Property Defects Account to make good the inter-floor leakage?

Lee: Only if the floor above is a common area for instance the roof or swimming pool.

There is foul smell in my master bedroom bathroom, due to inefficient drainage, waste and ventilation system in my unit. What can I do? Is the developer responsible for rectifying the problem?

Lee: Pour some water into all the floor traps in your bathroom. The water should act as a seal to prevent insects and sewerage odours from getting in from the floor trap. If this does not work, get a licensed plumber to check the S-Traps and waste pipes connected to the WC bowl. There are engineering regulations that govern the installation of sanitary pipes in a property. Foul odour is a bio-hazard and is considered a building defect.

I have wall cracks in my unit. I understand that the cracks may move and enlarge over time. Is it sufficient to cut the crack into a “V” shape and fill it up with elastic sealant? Any other solutions?

Lee: Inspection should be done by an engineer to establish if such cracks are structural in nature. Structural cracks require special attention to establish the root cause and repairs. If wall cracks are not structural in nature, for instance wall plaster shrinkage which is a relatively simple fix, may be carried out by an experienced painter. Types of sealant will depend on location, for instance external walls.

Are there any laws or regulations regarding the standard reference for the width of parking ramps, car park entrances and exits in a high-rise strata serviced apartment?

Lee: Vehicle parking width and ramp sizes are usually governed by Local Authority Guidelines; and may differ from state to state.

Should the Bomba air release valve only release oxygen? Does it have to be located at the highest floor of the building? Should there be a padlock on the air release valve?

Lee: The air release valve is meant to do that, i.e. release air (only) at the highest point of the vertical Bomba riser pipe. All Bomba or fire-fighting related equipment should not be tampered. Caveat – as with all fire-fighting equipment, always consult an accredited independent Fire Engineer before making any changes or repairs in your property.

May I know what is the cost for onsite inspection for defects and (which will) provide cause and remedy inspection report for tribunal reference?

Lee: Please contact Architect Centre Sdn Bhd for an official quotation to engage the services of an accredited Architect, Electrical, Mechanical, Structural or Fire Engineer.

This story first appeared in the pullout on Oct 26, 2018. You can access back issues here.

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