By LIM CHIA YING
CAN a Joint Management Body (JMB) restrict the number of occupants living in a condominium or apartment unit? Or is it illegal for them to do so despite what the JMB says it is looking into the interest and welfare of other owners at large?
Last month, the issue became contentious between two parties of the Le Chateau 2 condominium in Taman Seputeh - the JMB and a college.
Both were at loggerheads over the number of people allowed to stay in a unit, when the JMB imposed its in-house ruling of limiting just five people per household as decided during its annual general meeting (AGM) last year.
In discussion: This filepic shows the college representative Maran (facing camera, second from right) talking to some of the JMB members and residents.
That ruling did not go down well with the college which is renting some of the units of the condominium for its students, and had placed between eight and 10 students per unit.
The JMB said the policy was introduced following issues like overcrowding, noise, and misbehaving of the students while the college management demanded that such in-house ruling cannot override the tenancy agreement which was signed in 2006, and that they even have authorities’ approval on this.
Based on this case study, StarMetro spoke to some other parties who gave mixed views.
An apartment JMB president in Subang Jaya Lim Ai Yim, thinks there is a need to control the number of people in condominiums or apartments because they would inevitably turn into student hostels or hostel for factory workers.
“In my place, too, we’ve got about 30 units per block that have been rented out to factory workers, in different floors.
“In one instance, a unit had between 17 and 20 people, and because they work two shifts, you cannot detect them.
“The college had signed a contract with the developer but this was not made known to our residents association then.
“When you have large groups of students or workers, there is a tendency of facilities being monopolised and whatever damages done are repaired using our own JMB maintenance fund,” said Lim.
She said there was no reason why house rules could not be changed, subjected to JMB as per requirements as certain policies could not stay on forever since there would be issues cropping up from time to time.
“It is not healthy for condo or apartment units to be turned into hostels because ideally, three rooms can accommodate just six people or four rooms eight.
“But JMB has no right to impose that limitation on immediate family members,” said Lim.
She added that such in-house ruling should be carried out properly and with consultation like calling for an AGM to see if there were objections because disputes could arise in future and the unit owner could sue the JMB.
Another JMB chairman of a condominium in SS2, Petaling Jaya, who wanted to be known as just Ng, said the restriction of tenants was a way of taking care of the overall welfare of owners.
“In our case, too, the developer did sign a contract with a college whereby five units was rented out to more than 30 students, but we later set our own ruling to stop that.
“When you have more tenants, the wear and tear in common areas increases and that’s when it eats into our JMB maintenance funds.
“It’s a case of when companies or colleges just want to save cost hence putting so many people in one unit,” he said.
“But of course if it’s a big family consisting of immediate family members, we don’t have such restrictions.”
He said it was not illegal for the JMB to have such a ruling, claiming that there was such a bylaw that provided for the management committee (MC) to follow, but the other party (college or company) had to be informed of the policy first.
The Le Chateau 2 JMB chairman, Foong Chin Fee, reiterated that his committee had been vested with the power by the Commissioner of Buildings (CoB) to implement such house rules within their own fenced property.
“I don’t think we are doing anything illegal, as we have sought legal advice and know of other condos elsewhere imposing similar policies.
“The CoB is well aware of our action as we have deposited a copy of our ruling with them,” he said.
The Housing and Local Government Ministry, when contacted, said under Act 63, the JMB has the right to impose house rules for proper management and maintenance of the building as long as they are not contradictory to existing national laws.
When asked about the aforementioned case, a source said it was not a straight-forward thing to tackle as students were under the jurisdiction of the Higher Education Ministry, and for factory workers, the Human Resource Ministry. The guidelines should probably come from them.
“There are two different interests to look at here — one being business (as with the college), and the other being the residents or owners themselves.
“We have to see if the contract signed is in line with the status of land ownership which the building sits on, whether it is commercial (service apartment) or residential,” the source said.
The National Housebuyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong, when contacted, said JMB could not simply impose any limitation to its whims and fancies as any house rules must conform with existing laws.
“Under the Building and Common Property Act, whatever house rules cannot intervene with existing local council laws, and must be consistent with their bylaws as local authorities will have taken into consideration issues like noise and so on,” Chang said.
Local government expert Derek Fernandez said under the Local Government Act 1976, the minimum requirement for living space is 350 cubic ftt per person, and this is applicable across all local authorities.
“The JMB cannot infringe the rights of property owners restricting the number of occupants as long as the above minimum space under the Act is adhered to.
“The onus is for both parties - the college and the JMB in this case - to adhere to this 350 cubic feet policy,” he said.