Condo-dwellers, you could be affected by the recently proposed key amendments to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA), even if you don’t know it.
In a nutshell, the BMSMA is legislation that governs the management of your condo, in particular the Management Corporation—yes, those guys you pay your MCST fees to every month or quarter.
Heck, you (or your father—middle aged men tend to be the most active when it comes to getting involved with MCSTs) might even be involved in the running of the MCST yourself—management council members are usually made up of residents who want to get involved in the running of their common areas.
So what’s going to change?
Most of the proposed changes relate to the MCST and their governance of the condo
While you pay the MCST every month to manage the condo, you do have some opportunities to get involved if you’re not happy about the way things are run. If that’s the case, you might be affected by some of the changes.
Now, most of the residents residing in condos have no idea, but things often get ugly and conflicts are not uncommon in MCSTs.
Since many management council members are just residents who are looking for something to do in their spare time, some end up power tripping or getting into spats with their fellow council members.
The changes are designed to prevent these folks from abusing their power.
For instance, there is now a limit to how many proxies you can control for voting purposes at a general meeting—2% of all the lots in your condo or two homeowners in any development. This is to stop people from trying to manipulate the outcome of voting by buying over other residents.
The MCST also now has the option of paying council members and deciding how much, so long as the honorarium is capped at $250 per year.
The treasurer of the managing council isn’t allowed to be the chairperson or secretary as well. You now also need someone’s consent before nominating and electing them into the council.
Why should you care about the MCST if you’re not involved? Well, if you have any problems with your property, you’ll be approaching the MCST, and a lousy MCST can be a pain to deal with.
The definition of common property will be expanded
When the proposed changes take effect, the definition of common property will be expanded. Before, anything that was not embedded in a unit and could be used by more than one owner was considered common property.
Now, common property will also include key structural elements of the building, such as pillars, beams and so on. The central air conditioning system, fire sprinkler and anything that serves more than one unit like pipes and cables will be considered common property, even if they are located only in one unit.
Why should we care? Well, residents are responsible for repairing defects in their own units, but not the common property. There was a court case in 2014 in which the MCST tied to force a couple to pay for the repair of cracks in the structural beams in the ceiling above their unit. Under the new rules, it is clear the MCST had no right to try to force them to pay.
Developers must seek approval of maintenance charges before selling the unit
Developers must now seek approval for the maintenance charges to be imposed before selling any strata lot.
For those who are buying condos in under-construction developments, this is a good thing, as you will know how much you’ll have to pay in maintenance charges ahead of time, instead of getting a rude shock when you discover you have to pay a lot more than the estimates you were given when you first committed to the purchase of your unit. This can add up to hundreds of dollars per month and is thus a significant sum.
Of course, developers aren’t too happy about that, since it’s hard for them to estimate the actual cost of providing these maintenance services years in advance. That being said, regardless of how much you are going to have to pay, don’t be silly and make sure you are using a service like CardUp which allows you to pay with your credit card. That way you earn benefits whilst paying your maintenance fees!
How will you be affected by the changes to the BMSMA? Tell us in the comments!