KOTA KINABALU: The State Government, especially the Local Government and Housing Ministry, has been urged to set up an oversight committee for monitoring the Management Corporation (MC) of condominiums and other types of multi-level tenanted residential properties Sabah to ensure transparent and prudent management of the collected owners’ maintenance fee, proper maintenance of the properties and to provide a good living environment for the residents, which are the entrusted responsibilities of the MC.

This came from a group of disgruntled owners of Eden Heights Condominium units who emphasised the importance of protecting the rights, interests and well-being of the unit owners and residents, as more and more condominiums and apartments are being built throughout the State.

“We need an oversight committee to be set up at the Ministry-level to monitor the conducts of the MC of condominiums and other types of multi-level tenanted residential properties, so they will be accountable to manage properly and not using it for their own benefit and profit.

“This is vital for protecting the rights and interests of the property unit owners and residents, so they will not fall victim to improper misconduct of the MC like what is happening to us at the Eden Heights Condominium,” said them who only wants to be named as Mr Soo, Mr Andrew, Datuk Jipanus and Mr Lee in a press conference held here.

They said there are two parts to their story, firstly that at Eden Heights with the first being Eden Height Sdn Bhd (EHSB) which was the original MC set up under developer, Innosia Developments Sdn Bhd (IDSB).

”They have managed up to 19 years. We made a lot of complaints over the years but it all fell unto deaf ears. They’ve increased the monthly service charge without any dialogue with the owners nor any accounts to justify the increase. We made a stand in our refusal to pay the increment unless the accounts are tabled for viewing to justify the increase. Many letters were written to them but they never reply,” they said.

The other issue is the subsidiary title (strata title) for the condominium units, they said, even though the developer covenanted under the terms of the Sales & Purchase (S&P) Agreement to expedite the issuance of the Subsidiary Titles, the application for the subdivision was not submitted until 2018 which was 18 years after the Occupation Certificate (OC) was issued.

“We took the initiatives several years ago with the support of many owners to meet with the Local Government and Housing Ministry and even met with the elected representatives previously to get help but nothing materialised. We were so desperate! We looked for anyone to help including Assemblyman Hiew King Cheu. The past President of SHAREDA Datuk Francis Goh was also approached. We felt hopeful initially but ultimately gutted. Seemed to be fighting a losing battle! It was really frustrating that nobody can help us though they tried,” said Soo.

He said such issue is not specific to Eden Heights but many other condominiums and other types of multi-level tenanted residential properties in the whole of Sabah where the unit owners are being entrapped by those irresponsible MCs.

“So this is a class complaint, representing everybody who are affected. It is never easy going against these rogue MC unless laws are amended to force these MC to be accountable legally. We believe that State Assemblymen and the relevant Ministries can help to solve this wide spread problems faced by the buyers.

“Owners must have a legal avenue to complain against the developers and MC who failed to uphold their end of the agreement. Laws must be amended to force MC to table the accounts monthly for viewing. Proposal to increase the management charge must have prior approval from the Ministry,” he said.

On the Subsidiary Title issue, he said in their case at Eden Heights has been a long drag. “We are the ones doing the donkey works for the developer. Finally it’s gotten to a stage in which two final issues cropped up, Firstly it’s the land title issue. The original land being developed was a Native Title (NT) land. Since the Directors of the development company, IDSB are not Sabahan (Mr. Richard Yang is an American citizen and Mr. Andrew Lau Cheng Hiong is a Sarawakian), a local native, Mr. Marcel Annol became their nominee.

“The NT land was successful converted to Country Lease (CL) Title and the original CL title was taken by Mr. Marcel Annol. According to the EHSB director, which is also Andrew Lau, Marcel refused to release the CL land title to them. We found out later that this was due to non-payment of certain fees due to Marcel. Ultimately, Andrew Lau managed to get the CL Title from Marcel but it was not surrendered to the Land and Surveys Department (LSD) to proceed with the application for the subdivision of titles.

“Secondly, we were informed by Andrew Lau that the original surveyor Mr. Chua appointed by the developer for the subdivision is retiring. A new surveyor needs to be appointed at an additional surveying fees of over RM60,000, due to the new Surveyor Board’s Scale of Fee.”

“We approached the Local Government and Housing Ministry (LGHM) to use the developer’s retention money to pay this additional surveyor fee but didn’t manage to at first. Really frustrating! Eventually too, Andrew Lau surrendered the original CL Title to Dr. Gabriel Chong, who subsequently submitted it to the LSD. The unit owners, who have suffers for 19 years under the previous MC formed a group and there is a man called Zulkifli Chong who rose to be their leader who dared to challenge the MC, he even chained up the MC office, kicked the manager Lily Fung out and then took over the management.  Funny enough, Andrew Lau consented to this forceful take over despite knowing that Zulkifli has collected RM1,000 each from a number of owners to sue him but lamented that all files in the management office’s desktop computer had been deleted. They were blaming everything on Lily Fung.”

Soo said; “Finally, there was a meeting held on February 17, 2019 at the condo lobby. Andrew Lau informed that he had employed Zulkifli’s wife Mdm Law Foong Harn as the MC staff. The owners were relieved to have a new start from 1st January 2019 under Zulkilfi and wife and the chance to view the management and audited account was finally coming to past.

“However, much to our dismay, we were not been able to see any accounts despite Zulkifli boasting about posting the accounts on the board every month for people to see how much has been collected and how the owners’ money was spent, which is normal in other countries like Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the management’s monthly account which is certified will be displayed on the notice board detailing on the yearly collection to date, expenses, the shortfall or surplus.

“It’s been one year and still no account to view! To make matter worse, Zulkifli likes to do mini projects around the condo and until today, we don’t know the cost of these mini projects. At one time, Zulkifli installed CCTVs and an access card system and was claiming that it cost RM90,000! Does it really cost that much? He even tried to sell the access card at a rate of RM100 per piece to the owners and residents of EHC! Obviously, some owners refused to pay up due to the lack of transparency and proper accounting.”

The Subsidiary Titles were finally issued and a new EDEN HEIGHTS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION (EHMC) was registered by Land and Surveys Department on 25th September, 2019, but not before the previous management racked up a debt of about RM400,000 from Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) and RM36,000 from Sabah Water Department (JANS).

He said the second part of the story under the new Management begins when a Pro-tem Committee was set up quietly without informing the owners who are equal shareholders in EHMC and employed bullying tactic like cutting water supply to the units without giving any notice, blocking access to the lift lobby by voiding the access cards, issuing notices imposing interest rates as high as 24%, calculated from 2010 without any official stamp, signature, just to put fear into people to pay.

“We learnt that the water bill outstanding was settled (part or full) by the new management after JANS threatened to cut the water supply. Similarly, SESB came and cut off the electricity supply to the management area on 17th December 2019. The question is – why is the new Management under a self-appointed pro-tem committee on 17th Oct, 2019 helping the old management to pay these debts which are under the developer’s account?

“Another thing is that palm trees are also being cut down without the consent of the unit owners. The worst thing is that he (Zulkifli) is not even an owner or management staff of Eden Heights condominium! What is his right to cut down the trees that has been growing for 20 years,” he said, adding that many police report were lodged since the beginning of this year but the police can’t act on it because it’s a management issue.

“The money (maintenance charge) collected is entrusted to the MC to expense prudently and properly and no one should be benefiting from it. We want a change for the better. We have suffered for almost 20 years now,” he said. They also showed two of the police reports lodged and other documents to support their claims.

Soo said the latest bullying tactics employed by the self-appointed “pro-tem committee” chaired by Mr. Marcel Annol who signed the “TERMINATION OF FACILITIES” circular dated 19th December 2019, which read as follows:-

“Termination of entry access, elevator, parking, water supply, swimming pool and other usage of common facilities are included here. The Management is giving a grace period of SEVEN DAYS till 26th December 2019 to clear up your long overdue (Before terminating the facilities).”

He said their objections are that they do not recognised the formation of this self-appointed “pro-tem committee” because there was no meeting with the owners who are the legal shareholders of EDEN HEIGHTS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION to form the committee, and that the self-appointed pro-tem committee consists of Marcel Annol (chairman), Melissa Chong (Deputy chairman), and five council members; Jerry Ho, Alex Ting, Annie Lee, Kevin Lam and Dr. Mathan.

“Was the chairman’s circular discussed with other members or was it an unilateral act? Why did they choose the Christmas season to issue this threat when many owners are away or in festive mood?” he charged.

He said Andrew Lau also issued three earlier circulars to raise the Maintenance fee again, while threatening to impose 24% interest charge for late payment, all water meters more than seven years, quoting the Water Department will be changed at a cost of RM350!just to mention a few.

“Yet they never mentioned all the law-breaking acts committed over the years by EDEN HEIGHTS SDN BHD, Director Andrew Lau and Richard Yang. A quick check with the police Department, Fire and Rescue Department, and may be even the Immigration Department with regards to Eden Heights Condo will be most interesting indeed.

“Last but not least, when was the last year that EDEN HEIGHTS SDN BHD has filed the audited account and Annual Return to The Registrar of Company? Need we say more? Can any YB, Minister, relevant authorities intervene please! It has been a long 20 years staying in this badly managed condominium!”-pr/BNN