Get legal advice before suing developers for property issues: lawyer

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PETALING JAYA: Owners, Joint Management Bodies (JMBs), and Management Companies (MCs) should seek legal advice from attorneys familiar with condominium management and real estate dispute laws before taking legal action to protect their interests, said lawyer Raymond Mah.

He and his partner John Chan had recently represented PJ Centerstage JMB in a claim to recover 342 parking spaces, landscaped areas, a pool deck and other commons from the developer and the buyer of some of the areas.

Shah Alam High Court Judge Wong Kian Kheong canceled the condominium titles that had been issued for the common property areas and ordered them returned to the JMB.

In another case, the duo represented an individual owner of a unit at Menara Rajawali in Subang Jaya in a claim against the JMB and the parking lot owner regarding various maintenance charges. The Court of Appeal held that a JMB is required to determine and set a single maintenance rate for all types of plots in a strata scheme.

Mah said that if there is a problem between buyers and property developers in the years after the project is completed and vacant properties are delivered, such as developers selling common property, including parking lots, to private owners , the lawyers can advise the owners, JMB and MC on the merits of their claims, represent them in negotiations with the promoter and, if necessary, initiate legal proceedings.

“Depending on the nature of the claim, the owners, JMB and MC may seek from the court a declaration of their rights, faults of others and orders to invalidate the resolutions passed at annual general meetings or special general meetings”, he added.

“This is to release information and documents, orders to pay maintenance charges at the correct rates, return common property, invalidate illegally issued condominium titles on common property, pay damages -interest, etc.”

Mah also said that other common issues between buyers and developers were misuse by the latter of funds in the management account and sinking fund accounts before transfer to JMB or MC, and defaults of common property that were discovered before the expiration of the defect liability period, and that were reported to the developer but not properly rectified.

He said owners are increasingly aware of their legal rights and are generally quite prepared to make demands of their promoters, JMB and MC.

However, certain expenses related to the legal process should be carefully considered, including the payment of professional fees to lawyers and the costs of the opposing party if the procedure fails.

“JMB and MC benefit from the maintenance account funds to sue the developers. However, this can be difficult for individual owners.

“You have to have the financial support of the JMB or the MC if you are suing the developer. Without such financial support, much effort is required to organize contributions from multiple owners of a strata title project to take collective action for the benefit of all owners,” Mah added.

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