CONFUSION: House buyers are often in the dark over the fees charged by lawyers as shown by this real-life example below
Soo LP@KL: I have a question on overdue strata title. I shifted into our apartment in December 1994. In 1997, a few other purchasers together with myself engaged Lawyer A and filed claims against the developer for liquidated damages, specific performance and all other remedies in respect of the developer’s breach of the terms and conditions in the Sale & Purchase agreement. Lawyer A filed a Writ of Summons at the Penang High Court on 9 April 1998.
We received a letter in November 1998 from Lawyer A informing that another lawyer, Lawyer B had agreed to lend his legal expertise and participate with Lawyer A in our action against the developer on the same terms with no extra charge or cost to us.
We were later informed that Lawyer A had passed away in June 2002. Prior to that, Lawyer B and a few of the purchasers involved had held meetings with the developer’s lawyer in 2000. Unfortunately, the developer did not admit liability but was prepared to allow the purchasers to withdraw the suit with no order as to cost. However, the purchasers still believe there is a case against the developer.
In July 2001, we were informed that some cases were fixed for mediation. We received a letter from Lawyer B in November 2002, that my case together with seven other purchasers were directed by the court to be referred to mediation.
At this juncture, I decided not to go ahead with the legal suit and mediation as I felt that this matter had taken too long and Lawyer B had asked for part-payment for fees and disbursements for court fees and numerous trips to the Penang High Court.
I informed Lawyer B of our decision to withdraw the case and requested for a letter from Lawyer B indicating the withdrawal and that there will be no cost to me. However, Lawyer B only wrote a letter informing the developer’s lawyer of my withdrawal from the case.
In 2005, I applied for our strata title using another lawyer, Lawyer C but was informed that as I still have a case pending, the strata title cannot be released unless I make a payment of RM5,000 (fees for strata title is separate) to the developer’s lawyer.
I informed the developer’s lawyer that I had withdrawn from the case. We personally appealed to the developer’s lawyer and he reduced the fees to RM3,500. I understand that the developer had already wound up in 2005/2006.
Some purchasers who were involved in this suit were also in the same situation but they paid up the amount to the developer’s lawyer to get their strata title. Even Lawyer C could not do much and told us that the developer’s lawyer was adamant that I had to pay up.
Until today I have not reverted to the developer’s lawyer. Please advise what is the best solution. Do I have to pay up to the developer’s lawyer before proceeding to apply for the strata title?
HBA: Simple and general queries can be answered via email but complicated ones require going through their documents. As the complaints above are of the second nature, we suggest that the complainant comes, if he resides locally, to our House Buyers Advice Centre (HAC) with all the relevant documents for our perusal so that a comprehensive explanation could be accorded to him. Our next HAC session is on 25th August 2012 (Saturday) between 1pm to 5pm.
Alternatively, if he is outstation, he could e-mail to us more details before we are in a position to offer answers to his queries, namely:
1. Does the ‘fees for strata title’ of RM5,000 (now reduced to RM3,500) include legal fees, registration fees, stamping fees, search fees and all incidental expenses for the perfection of the Strata Title in the name of the purchaser?
2. Who is to sign on behalf of the wound-up developer?
3. Has a Liquidator been appointed by the Court of Law to take over conduct of the affairs of the defunct developer?
4. Does the ‘fees for strata title’ include Liquidator fees?
5. Does the strata title have a ‘Restriction-in-Interest requiring written consent from the State authorities?
We suggest that the complainant seek such details first from the developer’s lawyer.
ADVICE CENTRE NATIONAL HOUSE BUYERS ASSOCIATION [HBA]
No. 31, Level 3, Jalan Barat, Off Jalan Imbi, 55100, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2142 2225 | 012- 334 5676
Web Site: www.hba.org.my