Sunday, December 16, 2012

New beginning in strata management

Act for peace: An effective and efficient dispute resolution mechanism will help promote peace and good neighbourliness in stratified buildings.
The Sunday Star
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 police.

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.)