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Fire! Fire! – The Sequel

September 15th, 2004 - Wednesday


With land getting scarcer by the day in the island, there is no other way to build affordable housing in Penang but up. Residential development has been going vertical for a while now with many projects rising more than twenty storeys. What used to be suburbs are now thriving townships peppered with a mix of high and low-rise apartments.

High-rise living takes a lot of getting used to, especially when many families live in close proximity to one another in such confined spaces and amenities have to be shared among those living in the same building. Additionally, each apartment has to contribute to a monthly service and maintenance fund to keep the common property in good habitable conditions. The amount collected goes towards paying for the water and electricity supplies to the common property, maintaining the elevators, employing security guards and cleaners, among others.

Where I live, we have not been issued with Strata Titles yet. The developer controls the management of the premises. Apartment owners like us have little say in the running of this place which we call home and which rightfully belongs to us now. We are left to the mercy of their whims and fancies. We were never consulted over major expenses and construction of additional structures which have now been deemed illegal by the authorities.

The monthly collection amounts to nearly RM49,000. The management takes RM4,000 for their services, the guards RM12,000 and cleaners RM9,000. For the amount that the management charges us for their services and employing of guards, I would expect a certain degree of professionalism on their part. Complaints, verbally or through letters, to the management went unheeded. This is truly appalling.


I wrote a letter to the management more than one month ago. It was regarding a fire that broke out at the apartment one floor below mine. That letter was copied to the State Assemblyman of my area YB Goh Kheng Sneah and the Pengarah of Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat for Penang. A few days ago, I received the copy of a letter from the YB Goh regarding this matter. It is good to know that he has taken a concern in this matter and is acting on it. However, I am disappointed that the management have neither bothered to reply nor acknowledge my letter to them.

The arrogance on the part of the management is a major cause for concern where safety issues are related. I came to live in this apartment knowing full well the risks of staying in a high-rise apartment for a disabled using a wheelchair. I would have no cause to complain if the premises is properly maintained. However cars are allowed to be parked indiscriminately in the driveway that prevented access to fire engines on two occasions when fires broke out. The emergency generator which should be maintained was not.

When a blackout occurred in my area in April, the emergency generator could not start because the battery was flat. The generator provides essential supply to power elevators, corridor lightings and the pump to provide water pressure to the rising mains. It is crucial that water pressure be maintained in the rising mains at all times, especially more so when there is no power supply. Some people will resort to lighting candles to illuminate their apartments when there is a blackout. Should a fire occur, I would want to see how the firemen extinguish the flames at the higher floors without water.

There are many other issues which also need to be addressed. The management should listen to the grouses of residents and try to get to the bottom of it accordingly. This is really a nice place to live in. The management should be genuine and honest in helping us resolve our concerns and problems. If only both parties can sit down and discuss in-depth the issues at stake without one trying to stamp their clout over another, many problems would already be settled by now. For now, I will just have to wait and see how the local authorities will act on these complaints.



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7 Responses to “Fire! Fire! – The Sequel”

  1. concern says:

    Hi Peter

    This really unbecoming of the Management responsibilty.

    I am very much surprised that no strata title has been given. How long was that already? I thought at one time i read in the paper that the housing ministry has instructed and assurred that the strata title MUST be out within a certain period?

    I think you should highlight this to our minister, also.

    Well, for a start, i urge you to make as much noise as you can.

    It would be better if you can get at least 10% of the residents to involve in this making noise to all the relevant authorities.

    Points to bring out…the back up battery is a very serious one as you have highlighted on the fire on the top! and also the lift. Strata title is also another issue. I suggest you also enlist the church members to assist you as the network in the church is throughout Malaysia & also the world. That can generate enough noise!

    I guess it is not only your place. It involves other apartments & condos as well especially in big cities like Penang, KL, and JB.

    It is great for you to bring up this matter!!

  2. Peter says:

    Concern,
    The developer has just applied for the Strata Titles. As I understand it, it should have been done within six months after the issuance of the CF. The project here consists of four blocks which were built in stages which is where the loophole is manipulated.

    They waited for the whole project to be completed before applying. That meant those staying in the first block completed had to wait for more than five years for our Strata Titles. And as I understand it, it could take anything from twelve to eighteen months for the Strata Titles to be issued by the Department of Lands and Mines after an application has been submitted.

    We formerly had a Pro-Tem Management Committee to liase with the developer regarding the management of the premises here. However the developer had never consulted nor asked for the opinion of this committee for the things that they wanted to put on the premises. They were merely informed and were expected to agree to it which was preposterous.

    A Residents’ Association was formed and registered but so far the developer has refused to recognise it as a body representing the apartment owners and residents. They continue to run the premises as their own fiefdom while blatantly ignoring the issues brought up by apartment owners.

    Complaints have been lodged with the various government departments and authorities but action has been slow in coming. This is one problem the Kementerian Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan and the Kementerian Tanah dan Pembangunan Koperasi should look into. Laws should be enacted to address the problems faced by apartment owners and give them more rights in the management of their premises as soon as the CF has been given and not wait for the issuance of Strata Titles. At the same time, the developers’ hold over high-rise buildings’ management should be dampened lest they abuse their position by misusing the monthly collection and sinking funds under their control.

    Thank you for taking the time to write and for your suggestions.

  3. Little Dee says:

    what can i say, “malaysia boleh”. i must say i am not surprised or shocked any more with any of the dodgy stuff people do anymore. especially in malaysia where everything can be gotten at a price of bribing the right person… *sigh*

    not saying that this doesn’t happen in western countries; but at least it is not so obvious and when people are caught there is greater outrage rather than, “shrug, that is common and part of our culture.” *sigh*

    praying for a better world……

    i wish you luck with this! hopefully you can crack a few skulls!

  4. concern says:

    Actually, Peter, you have brought up a VERY important issue that should be a CONCERN for everyone.

    I am very much surprised this issue receive very cold response.

    I think we should show our support to Peter and also to the other apartment’s dwellers as well.

    I still think not only Malaysia Boleh (Malaysia Can Do)BUT the attitude of TIDAK APA (don’t bother).

    I am staying in a terrace house but I think I support what Peter has highlighted. There will be more high rise building coming up and how are these people going to call it their home if what Peter has highlighted were being casually put aside.

  5. concern says:

    By the way Peter, have you informed the famous CAP of Penang? I mean the Consumer Association of Penang!

    Wakil Rakyat is another and also the well known Chief Minister of Penang.

    I think your letter should be “cc” to all important people and departments and also the Prime Minister himself. (and also to all forum Blogs!!!) and to all major newspapers be it local or foreign.

    Your letter should have your current web address.

    At your condition you can highlight so well, I do not see why people in the normal condition should be ignorant to your plight when this are a concern for the PUBLIC.

    Strive and complete what you have started, Peter.

  6. Marita Paige says:

    I often wonder how this country can function as it does in the midst of such dysfunctionality.

  7. Peter says:

    Dee,
    We only stand up and notice when lives are lost. Then the press will highlight comments by the authorities that the problems are being looked into. Many years later, the same thing happens again and we get the same comment again. This is how it works here.

    Concern,
    The Residents Association is currently pursuing this and other matters with the Majlis Perbandaran and other relevant bodies. The press had also highlighted our grouses but up to date, nothing concrete has been done to address it.

    Marita,
    This is Malaysian bureaucracy for you. Little people like us gets the short end of the stick again and again while going against the developers who have unlimited resources to fight against our complaints.