But many Malaysians have no clue about communal living. I suppose this is why there is such a high number of non-payment of service charges. And the managers of these properties have largely been unable to do much except to beg and plead for the defaulters to pay up.

HAVE you ever driven along some highways and seen a giant billboard advertising a property development boasting numerous facilities? It has become a trend for developers to win buyers by highlighting the number of facilities at their projects. I suppose you cannot blame them for this. They are merely responding to market demand.

Many times, prospective buyers would scrutinise the number of facilities a project has rather than focusing on the property itself. This has lead to the kind of billboards I mentioned above.

Little do these buyers realise that these facilities come with a price. That beautiful waterfall that cascades into a koi pond looks pretty but is expensive to maintain. And if you purchase a unit that has this, you will have to inadvertently pay for the waterfall and the koi pond.

You cannot, after buying the unit, decide that you don’t like the koi pond and will not pay for it. You cannot also say you are not going to pay for the upkeep of the common swimming pool at your condominium block just because you don’t swim. The stupidest excuse I’ve heard for not paying maintenance or service charges is from someone who lives on the ground floor of a strata building, who argued that he never used the lifts and hence should not have to contribute to the cost of running them.

The attitude of some Malaysians is really deplorable. Perhaps, before they buy a property in a strata development, they should be sent for a course on communal living. Hopefully, they will then learn that there has to be a fair amount of give and take in any environment where people have to share resources within a fairly confined space.

But many Malaysians have no clue about communal living. I suppose this is why there is such a high number of non-payment of service charges. And the managers of these properties have largely been unable to do much except to beg and plead for the defaulters to pay up. Horror stories of defaulters turning aggressive and unruly are aplenty. Just talk to some property managers and they will be able to entertain you for hours about the antics of these defaulters.

But all that is about to change with the Strata Management Act 2013. This act will give more power to the building management to take action against owners who do not pay their service charges. This authority is backed by the respective local councils as well as the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Recently, a newspaper carried an article about the Kajang Municipal Council’s Commissioner of Building Department seizing items from a defaulter’s home. This was a good action. Residents cannot expect to live in a condominium with communal services and not pay for the services. They must realise that if they don’t pay, someone else has to bear the burden on their behalf. Or else, the level of service and maintenance will have to be lowered. When that happens, those who pay dutifully will be inconvenienced because of those who don’t.

I was visiting a friend in Sungai Long the other day. As I was entering the makeshift guard house, a large banner hanging between two trees caught my attention. In bold words, it said “Don’t Let Your Neighbour Pay For Your Security”. In its simplest form, isn’t that what the defaulters do? Making someone else pays for the conveniences that they get to enjoy.

Come on Malaysians, wake up. Communal living has a price and you should be prepared to pay for it. If you don’t want to, perhaps you should consider living alone in the forest.

Happy hunting and may the force be with you.

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