New strata tribunal to resolve cases quickly and affordably

PETALING JAYA: The soon-to-be established new Strata Management Tribunal is set to quickly resolve strata management issues in the housing industry between developers and purchasers, and to do so more cost- efficiently, Yong Yung Choy, the past president of the Home Buyers Tribunal, told a seminar organised by The Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Institute yesterday.

Yong is also a senior advocate and solicitor of the Malaysian Bar, a member of the Malaysian Mediation Centre and the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration.

However, he stressed that the new regulations will need to comply with the fundamental provisions of the Strata Management Act 2013.

The more flexible arrangement of the strata management tribunal is more user friendly than civil law. Under the tribunal,  the judge is allowed to perform on site inspections, set the time and place of the proceedings, draw on their own experience and expertise on the subject matter without being bound by the Evidence Act 1950.  

“Strata management is a complicated and technical matter — the tribunal will provide the expertise and specialists,” Yong  said.

In an earlier statement, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung said the tribunal  will comprise retired judges and lawyers with at least 10 years of experience in the field. They will take turns to sit on the tribunal.

To enhance efficiency, he said the Commissioner of Buildings (CoB) Department in local councils would have a full-time deputy to address problems concerning high-rise buildings. “The department will also have an additional four to five employees. This is all at the expense of the federal government,” he said.

The move was introduced as some CoBs are also local council presidents or mayors who might not be completely available to address issues on high-rise buildings due to their other responsibilities, he said.

Yong said the biggest limitation of the new tribunal is that cases filed cannot exceed RM250,000. Also, to avoid complications, cases cannot be filed in court.

People who are eligible to file claims include developers, purchasers, proprietors including original proprietors, joint management bodies, management corporations, subsidiary management corporations, management agents, anyone with leave of the strata management tribunal (if the tribunal sees fit) or COBs.

All disputes relating to performance and enforcement of all duties and powers falls under the Strata Management Act, while costs and repairs on a parcel and its common property is subjected to 16N(2) of the Housing Development Act 1966.

According to the act, the claims must be filed within 12 months from the certificate of completion and compliance, date of expiry of defects liability period and date of termination of the sales and purchase agreement.

The tribunal needs to resolve a case within 60 days and give reasons for the settlement in writing, while taking into account the relevant provisions of the act and in reference of law to the High Court of guidance.

There will be two categories of enforcement  (civil and criminal) under the tribunal. Failure to comply is considered an offence which will lead to a fine not exceeding RM250,000 or a jail sentence not exceeding three years, or both. A further fine of RM5,000 will be incurred for a continuing offence. Prosecution cannot be made without consent in writing from the public prosecutor.

The High Court has the power to review settlements, set them aside or remit them back to the tribunal for re-consideration.

The soon-to-be-established new Strata Management Tribunal is expected to be more user-friendly than civil law.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Aprill 11, 2014.

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