Know your stuff: Strata-title landed property

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on May 27, 2019 - June 02, 2019.

Tan: The façade of a building erected on stratified land is not common property that can be regulated by the management

Lee: It is compulsory for owners to pay maintenance fees and contribute to the sinking fund for the upkeep of the common areas

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One usually relates “strata developments” to high-rise projects such as condominiums and serviced apartments but in recent years, many landed housing projects, especially those within new townships, are categorised as such.

How are they different from conventional, individual-titled landed housing projects?

There is no official definition for landed strata titles. Chur Associates founder and managing partner Chris Tan says there are generally two types of stratified titles — stratified building and stratified land — and there are instances where a strata development has a mix of stratified buildings and stratified land.

“It is rather the subject matter that we are dividing. We can either divide the building or we can divide the land. Typically, all strata properties are landed — high-rise and low-rise buildings still sit on underlying land,” he explains.

“[When you buy a landed property with a strata title based on the land boundary], the boundary of the land parcel is stratified to the purchaser and not the building sitting on it. In other words, the owner can do what he wants within the boundary of the land parcel and it is his duty to maintain that parcel. The most common dispute here is with regard to tree branches and leaves falling onto a neighbour’s parcel, in addition to other landscaping issues.”

Laurencap Sdn Bhd head of property management Jerry Lee says a typical feature of strata properties is common facilities and areas such as a guard house, swimming pools, a clubhouse and other common amenities.

Other common areas include roads, landscaping and gardens that belong to and are maintained by the management corporation (MC) or joint management committee (JMC). “Since properties with strata titles have common facilities and areas, they are governed by laws such as the Strata Title Act 1985, Strata Management Act 2013 and the Strata Management (Maintenance And Management) Regulations 2015,” says Lee.

“It is also compulsory for owners to pay maintenance fees and contribute to the sinking fund for the upkeep of the common areas. If you fail to do so, your access card will be deactivated and you will be denied usage of common facilities,” adds Lee. “There are also house rules that typically restrict you from making any external alterations to your premises.”

Tan notes that such properties are further regulated by a deed of mutual covenants (DMC). One common misconception for such landed properties is that owners are not allowed to change the building’s façade, but he notes that such restrictions are only considered as house rules under the DMC. “In other words, the façade of a building erected on stratified land is not common property that can be regulated by the management unless it is part of some contractual provisions agreed to by the owner and the management,” he adds.

In a nutshell, if you buy a stratified landed property and have signed a DMC, you have agreed to follow the house rules.