Unless you live by yourself, you need house rules. Residents of a strata title property, like a condo, have to follow the house rules. At the annual general meeting, new rules are made (AGM).
Why do we have these rules? The deed of mutual covenants (DMC) is signed along with the sale and purchase agreement. It says what can be done on a person’s parcel and in the common areas.
The house rules, which are mostly taken from the DMC, should also be in a separate handbook. In one of the condos I live in in Kuala Lumpur, the manager of the property management company, who was also the chairman of the first AGM, suggested that the house rules be approved so that the use, maintenance, and management of the common property can be properly regulated.
At this AGM, the JMB was put together. (Section 17 of the Strata Management Act (SMA) of 2013 says that the JMB must be set up no later than 12 months after the date on which the property is given back to the owner. This is where the trouble is. In our house rules book, there are more than 250 rules. It wouldn’t be surprising if voters didn’t know all those rules and what it would mean to vote for all of them at once.
Even though these are general rules, not all of them will work for every building. Some of these rules would come back to haunt us when the management put them into place.
After the Strata Management Regulations (SMR) went into effect in 2015, the rules in the new DMC should be in line with its By-Laws, which control how strata title properties are kept up and managed.
At the AGM, new rules can be made, but the By-Laws that are required by law can’t be taken away or changed. The SMR 2015 is part of the Strata Management Act of 2013, and they go into effect when the developer takes over management. The SMA was published in 2013, but it didn’t go into effect until 2015. Only Peninsula Malaysia and the Federal Territory of Labuan can use this law.
The rules in your home should also match the ones made by the local government for your area. Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), for example, lets small dogs live in high-rise buildings. The SMR lets people have pets as long as they don’t bother anyone and don’t break any written laws or rules of the state or local government (SMR Reg 14).
If you live in a DBKL area, make sure your dog is a small breed that is allowed. You can keep your dog unless it causes annoyance, nuisance or is a danger. SMR Reg 15 has taken the place of the old laundry rule, which said that clothes could be hung out in public. Under the new rule, the management can give permission for a specific area to be used for drying clothes, and there are no requirements about the view. There is nothing in the SMR that says you can’t use portable clothes racks. If your management says you can’t have them, it won’t be true unless it’s passed at the AGM.
The regulation on children’s play is another important part of the SMR 2015. It says that owners must make sure that children in their care who are playing on common property do not hurt themselves, damage common property, or bother other people (SMR 2015 Reg 24).
Even though it doesn’t say that the management can put limits on how much children can play, they can fine anyone who breaks the rules (SMR Reg. 7(1)). People in our condo tend to use the “No Horse Play” rule to stop unwanted children from doing things that aren’t specifically allowed.
This has made some people unhappy because they don’t agree with how the management defines “horse play.” Recently, things have gotten better because our management used their own judgement to end a long disagreement about how to use floaties. This is an improvement.
At the AGM, at least 3/4 of the voters present are needed to add, remove, or change a house rule or propose a resolution, like a major upgrade of facilities. We call these “special resolutions.”
There must be at least 75 votes if there are 100 voters present. It’s important to know what you’re voting for. The rules and decisions that management wants to make need to make sense and be for the good of the whole community, not just a small group of residents. Once a rule is voted in, it is hard to change it because 3/4 of the votes are needed.
Normal resolutions, on the other hand, only need a majority vote. For example, if, out of 100 people who vote, more people vote for the motion than against it, it will pass. It doesn’t have to be more than half of those who can vote.
If you aren’t sure if a resolution or motion needs 3/4 or majority votes, please ask your management or the Commissioners of Building (COB) to confirm in writing so that there are no disagreements at the AGM.
Most votes at the AGM are made by a show of hands, unless a shareholder or his representative asks for a poll (SMA 2013, Second Schedule, Sec 17). At my condo’s AGM last year, voting was done by a show of hands, but there were people who tried to sway the vote. Two people who agreed with the management’s decisions stood up and held up their cards to encourage the other people to do the same.
On one issue, I even voted with them, even though I had planned to vote against it. The AGM was very long, and I just wanted to get it over with. I think this is wrong, and the chairperson and the person in charge of the property should not have let it happen. If this is the case, you could ask for a poll where no one but the people counting the votes can see who voted how.
Source: StarProperty, which was written by property appraiser Mary Lau.