Saturday, February 2, 2002

More protection for housebuyers

The Star
By Chelsea L.Y. Ng

KUALA LUMPUR: The gazetted changes to housing laws will allow housebuyers to enjoy more protection, ranging from having disputes resolved by a tribunal to enhancement of enforcement up to the stage of issuance of the certificate of fitness for occupation (CFO) and transfer of titles.

The Housing Development (Control and Licensing) (Amendment) Act 2001, gazetted on Thursday, emphasises on preventive measures, better protection for purchasers as consumers and also focuses on enhancing the authorities’ investigation and enforcement powers.

The new Act does away with the exemption of co-operative societies, statutory bodies and agencies under the control of the federal or state governments (which include the government’s housing developers) from its application.

It also creates a new office of Deputy Controller of Housing, who, together with the Controller, can delegate their powers to the local authorities.

Two members of the ministry’s Steering Committee on Legislative Drafting – the ministry’s legal adviser Shamsulbahri Ibrahim and lawyer Roger Tan – said in their joint article on the amended Act that the legislation was a major revamp of the 1966 principal Act which was last revised in 1977.

The Bill for last year’s amendment went through the Houses of Parliament in October and received Royal Assent on Jan 24.

They said the new Act was expected to enhance the enforcement of the provisions in it. There were several other amendments, which focused on the same note.

One requires developers to exhibit “at all times in a conspicuous position in any office and branch office of the licensed housing developer’’ a copy of their licence, advertisement and sale permit and to report to the Controller not later than Jan 21 and July 21 of each year on the progress of their projects. This helps the ministry to monitor the progress of every housing project and to take necessary action to ensure that such a project would eventually be completed.

Another allows the ministry to monitor the progress of handing over of vacant possession in accordance with the Uniform Building By-Laws.

It also allows the Controller to undertake the necessary investigation to ascertain the reason why a particular local authority refused to issue or withheld the issuance of the CFO so that the Controller can take the matter up administratively with the local authority.

Apart from that, the legislation has more ‘goodies’ in store for homebuyers. It gives protection to the last 5% of the purchase sum deposited by housebuyers with the developer’s lawyer pending the handing over of vacant possession, similar to that of monies held in a housing development account. This move ensures that the housebuyers’ monies will not be deemed as part of the developer’s property in the event the licensed housing developer should be declared a bankrupt or his company liquidated.

When contacted, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting confirmed that the Government had gazetted the new Act.

He, however, said the Act could not be enforced immediately as there were some final fine-tuning to be carried out.

“We are in the process of setting the date of enforcement of the Act,” he added.

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