PLAY YOUR PART AS A COMMITTEE

THERE was a time when neighbourliness was about being friendly and helpful to the people who live near you. Well, it still is, but in some instances, the bar has been lowered.

In today’s busy and stressful urban lifestyle, it is not easy to find the time or motivation to build meaningful relationships with neighbours.

And so, at those rare times when we do see our neighbours, what often passes off as neighbourliness is a wave and a smile, or perhaps a lightning exchange of pleasantries, before we retreat into our respective homes.

But for those among us who live in boxes stacked skywards – we sometimes call them apartment and condominium blocks – there is another way to define a good neighbour.

Most high-rise dwellers would be ecstatic just to have fellow residents dutifully pay the maintenance fees and contribute to the sinking fund, which is for capital expenditure.

It is a bonus if a lot of the residents play an active part in ensuring that the joint management bodies of the properties function well.

Unfortunately, every community has its share of bad neighbours try to play your part as a committee .

They need only the flimsiest of excuses to refuse to fulfil their financial obligations. When there are many such people, the upkeep of the place suffers and there goes the neighbourhood.

This is a big problem and it is one of the reasons that Malaysia has the Strata Management Act 2013, which came into force in June last year. It also applies to commercial and industrial stratified buildings.

The Act provides for action against a unit owner who defaults on the maintenance fees and sinking fund contributions.

For example, the joint management body can charge interest on the unpaid sum, name the defaulters on notice boards, deactivate their access cards or devices, and bar them from using common facilities such as parking lots.

The biggest stick is that under the Act, failure to pay up is a criminal offence and can lead to fines and jail time.

Sunday Star reported last week that the Government will form a nine-member team to look into the enforcement against the 34 offences listed in the Act.

According to the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry, about 60% of issues faced by residents of stratified buildings are linked to the non-payment of maintenance fees and sinking fund contributions.

It is comforting to know that educating property owners and residents on the provisions of the Act is part of the ministry’s strategy.

There is huge deterrent value if we hear of somebody being dragged to court for not paying his apartment’s maintenance fees.

But it is a crying shame if we have to get to that point again and again. What does it say about our society when it takes the weight of the law to prod people into showing neighbourliness, even at its most rudimentary level?

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