Beginning In Strata Management
The Sunday Star (16 December 2012)
by Roger Tan
With more and more people living in stratified buildings, the
new Strata Management Act is timely in helping to reduce animosity among
residents and owners during dispute resolutions.
LAST Sunday, I attended the annual general meeting (AGM) of the management
corporation of an upmarket condominium as a proxy for my wife. Its last AGM was
held in September last year.
This AGM was by far the most heated and disorderly since the management
corporation was set up some six years ago. A fight almost broke out despite the
presence of representatives of the Commissioner of Buildings (COB) and the
Let me now share with you my personal thoughts about the AGM, before examining
whether the new Strata Management Act (SMA), when it comes into force, will help
minimise and remove such animosity which appears to be rather prevalent and
common among occupants living and undertaking business in stratified buildings.
In fact, trouble was already brewing before the AGM. In the AGM notice sent to
owners of all the 170 parcel units, all the three outgoing 2011/2012 Council
(CM2012) members – in their 30s (let’s call him CM1), 60s (CM2) and 70s (CM3) –
jointly signed and attached a three-page letter containing allegations of
impropriety against the previous Council (CM2011) members.
The CM2011 members, through their lawyers, demanded that their written
explanatory response also be circulated to all the parcel owners before the AGM.
This was refused.
The situation was aggravated when CM2, the outgoing CM2012 chairman, used his
welcoming speech, delivered in Mandarin, to reply to CM2011 members’ written
explanatory response, which was also not circulated during the AGM. He also
attempted to make more allegations of impropriety against CM2011 members until I
intervened because the latter had not first been given any opportunity to be
heard. Procedurally also, this should not have been done before first electing
the chairman of the AGM.
I also observed that each time someone spoke up against any resolution proposed
by CM2012, CM3 would shout and try to interrupt and intimidate the speaker. A
fight almost ensued when some parcel owners confronted CM1 and CM3 during the
break. They wanted to know why their parcel unit numbers had been displayed on
the notice board as not having settled a one-time payment of RM400 for upgrading
work, approved in the 2010 AGM. The parcel owners felt aggrieved that they had
been publicly shamed, claiming and showing proof that at the time the notice was
put up, CM1, CM2 and CM3 as Council members themselves had failed to pay
maintenance charges for a few months, but their parcel unit numbers were not
mentioned in the said notice. CM3 then raised his walking stick cum foldable
chair, wanting to strike his fellow septuagenarian CM2011 member who questioned
him until he was restrained by police and the former’s wife.
(Interestingly, I was informed by the COB that a fight virtually broke out
before him during the extraordinary general meeting of a nearby condominium on
Oct 28 when chairs were also thrown! Fortunately, goodwill prevailed when the
injured decided not to press any criminal charges.)
The AGM then proceeded with election of 2012/2013 Council members. The House
decided to elect only seven Council members. Eight owners were nominated. When
the COB suggested that voting could be dispensed with if the House decided to
change the number to eight, CM2 strenuously objected. CM2 vociferously
proclaimed that he could not accept the CM2011 Chairman into the new Council.
When one of the eight said he would withdraw so that the number could be reduced
to seven, CM2 objected too because that would mean CM2011 Chairman would get
elected. It was obvious to everyone present that there is a lot of bad blood
between CM2 and CM2011 Chairman. Then almost half of those present who are
owners living in the condominium walked out in protest.
Nevertheless CM1, CM2 and CM3 were elected even though it was obvious that they
did not enjoy any support from the live-in owners. Their support came, instead,
from the proxies. Twelve proxies who were present actually represented owners of
48 parcel units. CM1, CM2 and an estate agent who is also an owner (EA), were
also each a proxy to several parcel unit owners. It was abundantly clear that
these proxies were mainly CM2’s friends.
When challenged whether these proxies knew who the principals/owners they were
representing, the mainly Mandarin-speaking group just remained silent. But CM2
openly instructed them on how to vote and they voted according to his
instructions. If voting had been done by show of hands, CM1, CM2 and CM3 could
have lost, but it was done by poll where the proxies’ votes are calculated
according to all their principals’/owners’ shares of the parcel units.
In fact, this expressly went against the COB’s circular that a person can be a
proxy to only one owner at any one general meeting. According to the management
office, just like last year, CM2012’s supporters’ completed proxy forms were
submitted in bulk by CM2 and EA, that is, they were not submitted individually
by either the owners/principals or their proxy holders. No verification was also
done whether the owners/principals did personally execute the proxy forms or
whether the owners/principals and proxies knew each other.
It is sad to see that the live-in owners who were present were powerless to
decide on the affairs of their condominium which they know most. Instead, these
outsiders (one of them a former gardener at the condominium), who appeared bored
and lost throughout the proceedings when English was used, had the ultimate say.
To my mind, the entire AGM is invalid as the legality of the proxies’
appointment and voting is seriously in doubt because it has also gone against
the law of agency.
In fact, I had raised this issue of manipulating the proxy voting system even
way back in June last year in my article, “Resolving
tenancy disputes” (Sunday Star, June 12, 2011). I also
subsequently had a brief SMS discussion with the Housing and Local Government
Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung.
I am glad that the SMA has now made the one-proxy-one-owner rule clear in
paragraph 18 of the Second Schedule. However, in light of the above and the
relaxation of quorum requirement, paragraph 18 should be amended to state that
only an owner’s immediate family member, tenant or attorney (appointed by way of
a power of attorney) is qualified to be his proxy. If the owner is a corporation
or organisation, the same principle should also apply in that there should be a
close nexus between the owner and his proxy.
This will also compel owners to take more responsibility and a keen interest in
the management affairs of their properties by making an effort to attend the
general meetings. Such an amendment is not required to be tabled before
Parliament as the minister is empowered to do so under Section 152 of the SMA.
That said, assuming the SMA is in force now, the above fiasco could have been
avoided. Under the new law, the Council will be known as a management committee
and no committee member shall hold office for more than three consecutive terms.
Also, a committee member will be deemed to have vacated his office if his
conduct brings discredit on the management committee.
Most importantly, any dispute or altercation among owners living in stratified
buildings can be resolved through the Strata Management Tribunal. Hence, the
Tribunal ought to be set up expeditiously unlike the Strata Titles Board which
was never set up since the enabling provision was first inserted in the Strata
Titles Act, 1985 (Act 318) in December 2000.
With an effective and efficient dispute resolution mechanism in place, this will
help promote peace and good neighbourliness in stratified buildings. A lot of
precious time can also be saved during general meetings. For example, in the Dec
9 AGM, CM2011 and CM2012 members seemed to be more obsessed with each other
instead of discussing real issues such as lax enforcement of House Rules, the
recent robbery-cum-rape case that reportedly took place and the appearance of a
large crack on the exterior wall of the building next to one of its columns.
Similarly, the performance of the managing agent engaged by CM2012 at RM8,000
per month was not discussed. In my view, the performance of CM2011 members in
managing the condominium is better than the said managing agent’s. Not to
mention, they did it voluntarily. In this respect, I must register my agreement
with Chor that registered valuers should not have monopoly over the management
of stratified properties because strata owners must be allowed to have a choice
and the right to decide who is best to manage their building.
As a whole, congratulations are in order for Chor, Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah
Embas, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) and their ministry
officials in revamping the laws relating to strata management. When the SMA
comes into force, the Housing and Local Government Ministry will take over from
the NRE in monitoring the management of all stratified buildings and the
operation of the SMA. Act 318 has also been amended and the Building and Common
Property (Maintenance and Management) Act 2007 will be repealed.
Time will only tell how successful the SMA is in coming to grips with
multifarious problems faced by those who live and do business in stratified
buildings. But it cannot be gainsaid that this new law marks a new beginning of
a comprehensive legal framework in strata management.
*The writer is a former Chairman of the
Conveyancing Practice Committee of the Malaysian Bar Council.
General Meeting, AGM)。上一次的周年大会是在去年9月份。
of Buildings, COB)
Management Act, SMA），在其生效时，会否帮助减少及消除这似乎是在分层建筑的住户与业务者间相当普遍和常见的仇视。
Titles Act, Act 318）。
Seri Douglas Uggah Embas），
and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act 2007）将被废除。