Give condominium panel members more protection
WITH the implementation of the "Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act 2007" last year, owners of apartments, condominiums and other buildings are required to form their own management bodies.
The Management Body then appoints a Joint Management Committee (JMC) to carry out the functions of the body, namely the management and maintenance of the building and common property as provided under the Act. While the Act seeks to protect JMC members from criminal liability for offences which may be committed by them, it does not protect them from any civil suit brought by the owners/occupiers for damage or loss.
Members of the JMC are placed in a posi-tion of trust to carry out of their duties and responsibilities to the owners and can thus be sued and be made liable to owners or other occupiers for any loss or damage due to negligence or oversight on their part. The circumstances under which such a suit for negligence (even if done in good faith), arising from the maintenance and management of the building and common property, can be brought are numerous and varied. As the tasks undertaken by JMC members are largely voluntary in nature and carried out in their spare time, the Act should accord them some degree of immunity from civil action.
A logical safeguard would be for the JMC to take out a separate insurance of indemnity to protect itself against potential negligence suits. There is no reason why the premium should be paid by JMC members from their own pocket; hence the question is whether it can be lawfully paid out of the Building Management Fund.
None of the provisions of Section 22 (3) of the Act – which sets out the purposes for which money in the fund can be utilised – seem to allow for such payment. As this premium may impact heavily on the fund and thus impose an additional financial burden on the owners, it would perhaps be best to accord JMC members legal immunity from civil suits.
This protection would then encourage more owners to serve on the JMC, without which it would be difficult to imagine owners readily willing to do so.
Ajit Singh Gill