• It is important for homebuyers to be smart and aware of those unprofessional and unqualified BIs in the industry. Getting a licensed and professional BI will give you peace of mind and protect your rights as a homebuyer with a report that is recognised and accepted as the expert report in the Court or Tribunal. 

Upon delivery of vacant possession (VP), Rahim found his condo unit filled with defects and design faults. In reply to his complaint, the developer claimed they were acceptable standards. Still, noting his rights under the defect liability period, he lodged the needed report and gave the requisite time stipulated for the developer to rectify and make good the defects. Unfortunately, the developer kept pussy footing.

To escalate his cause to the Housing Tribunal, Rahim decided to appoint a building inspector (BI) to conduct the inspection and obtain a professional report. Checking online, he found one, who initially charged him RM600 for the site inspection report, but it seemed worth it when he received a voluminous report two inches thick.

However, when the developer requested for a joint site visit, the BI demanded another RM500 from Rahim for it. Even attendance in the Tribunal required extra charge.

It was later discovered that the said BI did not have the requisite credentials and his “qualifications” and credibility were questioned at the Tribunal.

Increase in demand

Building surveyors (BS), or more commonly recognised as building inspectors (BIs), is a relatively new profession which was introduced to Malaysia back in 2000. Back then, not many people or industry players were aware of the roles and functions of this new profession.

However, when travelling was restricted during the Covid-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022, there was a sudden surge in demand for the services of BIs, when many foreign homebuyers or property investors were not able to come to Malaysia for the handover of their newly completed properties, and therefore, engaged BIs to do so on their behalf.

Noticed but not adopted

Back in the 1990s, the government did notice and was aware of the roles and importance of the BSs in our property industry. As such, Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) have then introduced such professional courses since the 1990s. 

Throughout the years, many BS graduates have been produced. However, the industry and the government did not seem ready to adopt this new profession then. Many BS graduates reportedly faced difficulties in getting a job related to their area of study.

Currently, some of the BS graduates and practising professional BSs are registered and governed under the umbrella of the Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (RISM). Despite several attempts to register this profession with a professional board officially, none of them have been successful. 

Industry gone haywire

With the vast usage of social media, there is an explosive and extensive exposure to the services of BIs. Many homebuyers would share their experiences and defects found in their new houses via their social media platforms. Indirectly, this has created awareness to the public about the importance and role of a BI.

With the increase in demand for building inspection services, many fresh graduates, retrenched workers and those who wanted to earn extra income, especially during the movement control orders, have all jumped onto the bandwagon. However, some merely attended a two-day QLASSIC Assessor Course, and thereon professed they were “Certified CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board) Assessors”; then set up companies to provide BI services for the public.

In worse cases, some are providing BI services without any training and experience. This has led to a disruption in the building inspection industry, where the unqualified ones seem to market themselves as “professional and certified”, just because they have attended a crash course. 

To make matters worse, there is a significant price war among these unprofessional and unregistered BIs to compete for business to survive.  Many are even lowering down their prices to RM200-RM400 per inspection.  However, it is important to note that these are not the professional BSs as they bear no responsibility or any professional liability on the works and reports they prepare. Should any losses incur as a result of inaccuracies in the reports, these uncertified BSs will not hold responsibility. Many a times, their qualifications, if any, have been challenged and questioned in the Courts of Law and Housing Tribunal.

Problems encountered

This phenomenon will cause several problems to the building industry.  Some existing and potential issues that require attention are:

1. Breach of safety and public interest

BIs bear the duty and professional liability to ensure the buildings inspected are safe and up to acceptable standards, and that the interests of the public are well protected. BIs should have the technical knowledge about the building structures, mechanical and engineering (M&E) systems and other regulatory compliances as stipulated in Act 133: Street, Drainage & Building Act, 1974.

2. Violation of homebuyers’ rights

BIs should carry out the inspection services to the best of their professional expertise and knowledge, basing their inspection results on approved construction industry standards.  They not only have to ensure the building is safe to be occupied, but also have the responsibility to capture and highlight all defective or substandard workmanship to the homebuyers and developers. Homebuyers’ rights would have been been violated if such professional standards were compromised.

3. Professional integrity questioned

When the bar for becoming a BI is lowered, it will affect the public’s perception on the professionalism of BIs. The public might lose their trust because of their bad experiences with unprofessional and unregistered BIs.  This is detrimental to the reputation of genuine and trained professional BIs. Looking at the bigger picture, this phenomenon is undoubtedly unhelpful to the industry, society and nation’s development.

4. Property industry (developers and contractors) affected

The issue of incompetent BIs has been a thorn in the flesh for many property developers.  Some developers have voiced their concern over this issue as these unprofessional BIs have failed to comply with the approved construction quality standards. This has resulted in an inconsistency in the quality standards in the industry and created unnecessary additional costs or complaints by the homebuyers. Some BIs don’t even know the industry’s acceptable tolerance level under the current market practices.

Training and certification needed

While Malaysia is advancing and progressing into a developed country, there is a need to ensure all the new and existing buildings are well taken care of and inspected by professional BIs. Additionally, with the surge in demand for BI services by homebuyers during VP stage, it is high time to regulate the conduct of BIs before the virus spread beyond control. 

This profession has existed in the industry for a few decades and proven to be useful and beneficial to our nation’s development. Thus, our government, or more precisely, the Public Works Department (JKR) under the Ministry of Works should work with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to address the issue and take action.

All existing practising BIs and those intending to pursue a career in building inspection need to be competently trained and certified before they can provide such professional services to the public.

In addition, there is a need for the formation of a new Building Surveying Act or professional board to regulate and control the conduct of this new profession to protect the interests of the public and homebuyers, and guarantee the quality of the works and services provided by BIs. Those with qualified, relevant academic background and professional experiences in building inspection including architects and engineers should be eligible to be registered and recognised as professional BIs. This will hopefully eliminate the unprofessional ones plaguing the industry.

Homebuyers beware

It is important for homebuyers to be smart and aware of those unprofessional and unqualified BIs in the industry. Getting a licensed and professional BI will give you peace of mind and protect your rights as a homebuyer with a report that is recognised and accepted as the expert report in the Court or Tribunal. 

Currently, these professional BIs would have registered with RISM and MyRBS (Malaysia Registered Building Surveyors) and certified as a QLASSIC Assessor CIDB (Level 4 – with official appointment letter from CIDB). 

Datuk Chang Kim Loong is the Hon Secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA). 
HBA can be contacted at: 
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.hba.org.my 
Tel: +6012 334 5676

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