Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Protection for JMC

as published in

Give condominium panel members more protection

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
Kuala Lumpur

1 comment:

Community guy said...

Besides indemnity for JMC members which the Minister must look into immediately, this is another issue regarding protection for the unpaid servants :

I am the chairman of a JMC in a lower medium-cost apartment development.

When the JMC was born, the development was in the process (this project took off long before the formation of the JMB saw light) of putting up a controversial fence for which owners were asked to contribute RM600 per unit.

Controversial because nobody knew exactly what they would be getting for the RM600 they are paying. Besides the length of the fence, mystery surrounds the provision for a guard house and security services thereafter.

So I inherited an uncompleted project. That would have been no issue, but only if (1) there was money in hand to finish the job professionally.

Money there is not enough. That is bad.

But worse still, (2) the layout of the fence already erected imposes severe constraints on the possible safe and practical site for a guard house.

To compound my woes, half of my fellow JMC members have a habit of not attending meetings. Therefore, as Act 663 says, my JMC meetings are short of quorum. And I take it to mean that my hands are tied where committee decisions are to be made.

That’s the gist of the story on the one hand.

Now, on the other hand, a few residents are demanding that the fencing project be completed because there are too many crimes being committed.

One victim came to my house early on one of my sleep-in Saturday mornings to report that her car had been broken into. I advised her to make a police report and to furnish me a copy of the report for record purpose. Three days later, she woke me up from deep slumber to yell at me for not being at home the last three days. Like it was that I should be a sitting duck in my house waiting for her (and in reality I was home for more than half of day light hours and decent night hours on those days). Or that my letter box was not available? Despite being advised to drop the police in my letter box, that wretched villain persisted to visit my home, again when I happened to be out during normal working hours. This was her last visit to date that I know of, but it was very telling because she uttered rather abusive and threatening words against me to my early-teenage daughter. SHE CHALLENGED MY DAUGHTER TO GET ME FACE HER, BRANDING ME A COWARD IN THE PROCESS. Remember, she has my contact number and letter box at her disposal.

This I call harassment, criminal intimidation, and bringing unwarranted disrepute to the JMC, among other personal liabilities.

Not the end of the story yet.

One of the two residents who personally took it upon themselves to get the fencing project going (against my vehement opposing wisdom during initial discussions) apparently just lost his new bike. He then sent me an SMS (in addition to the host of earlier aggressive SMS ordering me to do this and that with an occasional soft threat). This latest SMS deserves special mention, a mention in a court of law, that is.

This SMS started by accusing ME of irresponsibility for not completing the guardhouse. Further down he made wild allegations in respect of some jobs done for which I had objected to but lost to a majority decision in the JMC, and spiced up the defamation with “jalan [my name]” and my VIP car park (we do not have reserved parking lots – its free for all, and I always try to avoid parking in front of my unit, the so called VIP car park, because of the proximity to the communal dustbin). He ended off with “this Saturday I will wait for you at … “ (the developer is having a briefing over our strata title, nothing related to the JMB/JMC), signing off as “Angry [name]”.

I could take all this personally, and I do. But I am the target because of my position as chairman of the JMC. And I cannot but find such behavior threatening and a harassment, intimidation, insult and defamation of the JMC.

With the experience of discomfort and insecurity suffered unnecessarily in relation to my position, I am urging the Minister (as referred to in Act 663), to pass an addendum to the Act to cover the PROTECTION OF JOINT MANAGEMET COMMITTEE MEMBERS.

I am sure that I am not, and will not be, the only one to be victimized by such barbarism. Therefore, I am urging all of you civil society, to support my call to the Minister to ensure that we elected representatives are protected by law against malicious and vindictive people.

For the convenience of the Minister and AG’s chamber, I have drafted a gist of what I think is necessary:


(a) Any person whether personally or through the employment of servants or agents who commits or causes to be committed any act in Paragraph (b) to or against a Joint Management Committee or any elected or appointed member of a Joint Management Committee or servant or agent or employee or legally appointed representative of a Joint Management Committee in the performance his duty under this Act or by virtue of his office in or his relationship with the Joint Management Committee shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.

Upon conviction, the offender shall be liable to a fine of not less than Ringgit Malaysia One Thousand (RM1,000) and not more than Ringgit Malaysia Twenty Thousand (RM20,000) for the first offence, and a fine of not less than two times the fine for the preceding offence subject to a maximum fine of Ringgit Malaysia Fifty Thousand (RM50,000) plus a mandatory jail term of net less than seven (7) days and not more than twenty four (24) months for every subsequent offence. A person convicted under this provision shall lose all his rights and privileges accorded under this Act for a period of up five years from the date of conviction.

An aggrieved party under this section shall lodge a police report and lodge a copy of the report with the Commissioner of Buildings.

Nothing in this Act shall preclude or void the rights of the JMC or any of its members to seek legal remedies including but not limited to personal damages by way of private civil action against the party who transgresses upon his safety or the decorum and dignity of the Joint Management Committee as defined in this Act.

Note that an appeal process is intentionally omitted to make it extremely difficult for a conviction to be set aside.

(b) Acts and events referred to in Paragraph (a) include but is not limited to :

(i) threat;
(ii) obstruction;
(iii) harassment;
(iv) intimidation;
(v) instigation;
(vi) slander or defamation;
(vii) malicious act;
(viii) criminal act;

in whatever form whether or not bodily harm is caused or damage or loss is suffered.