BFM Radio Interview with Architect Centre
Published on Monday, September 6, 2010 at 11:47:01 AM by Mr. Root Admin

BFM 89.9: The Business Station.
The Property Show interview by Tiffany Chew with guests from Architect Centre, Anthony Lee (an accredited building inspector and trainer) and KC Ng (an engineer on the inspection team panel).

BFM: What is the inspection policy in Malaysia in terms of properties?
Anthony: In Malaysia, the current inspection policies are not mandated by any by-laws or statutory requirements. It is purely voluntary, unlike countries like Australia or the US, where there are many laws put in place by the government. Also, consumers in those countries demand for an independent inspection to be completed before properties are transacted.

BFM: So is it safe for me to say that if I buy a property, it might not be inspected because there’s no regulation or specific policy at hand?
KC Ng: There is only one policy that I know of and it’s the Street Drainage and Building Act of 1974, which notes “a local authority may, by notice in writing, acquire summons and require the owner of a building to properly inspect his property.” However, it’s just a minor part of it as it only applies to buildings that are over 5 stories high and more than 10 years old.

Anthony: It’s worth mentioning that as buildings are built, they are being inspected too- it’s an ongoing process until you receive the Certificate of Fitness (CF) and get the keys to your house. However, the main issue lies with the sub-sales property. If you’re considering buying an older property, you’d want to know if it was checked thoroughly before purchasing it. A good analogy to buying a house is that of getting a second-hand car- you’d want to know if was checked and maybe even ask a mechanic friend to test drive the vehicle and see if there are problems- before making the transaction. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, laws that require a property to be inspected before putting it on the market do not exist.

BFM: I would assume that there are different types of property inspections?
Anthony: Yes, and it depends on the type of property too. The most common type of inspections we do is for high-rise residential buildings. For example, we’ve done individual inspections for clients who have purchased units within an apartment complex and needed help to look into defects that can be found within the new apartment or condominium. But we also get called to inspect the common areas such as swimming pools, roofs and even slopes!

KC Ng: Slopes fall under the category of common areas and can pose a serious threat if not maintained properly. The main contributing factor to any landslide is water- if drainage systems are not maintained well, water will seep into the ground and eventually cause a landslide. The same rule applies to treated slopes too-they can pose a hazard to the inhabitants of surrounding areas if not looked after.

BFM: Can you walk me through the process of a building inspection for stratified properties?
KC Ng: You’ll have to go through the Joint Management Body (JMB), a group set up to represent the residents first. There’ll be a lot of decision-makings, meetings and consensus approvals to go through before the inspections can be carried out. The main factor that influences an individual owner to get inspections done is budget. Also, there was no avenue before. Homeowners might have been hesitant to contact professionals because they didn’t know how much it would cost them. However, with Architect Centre, we can help create awareness that there’s now an independent body available to turn to for professional opinion. Not to mention getting the job done within a reasonable rate!

BFM: When you say reasonable (being very Malaysian) can you tell me how much?
Anthony: A typical advisory, where we have a visual inspection of the property first, can range between RM900 for a terrace house to several thousand ringgit if the property is larger. What we offer is a value added insight into the problems of your property. These days, buying a property is not like buying a car- it’s an investment- you have to add couple of zeroes behind the total price.

KC Ng: The cost really depends on the complexity of the building inspected too. For example, as a layman, when you see cracks, you do not know if they are minor cracks or whether they have a structural implication. A minor crack can be fixed easily by chipping away the surface and patching it up. However, some cracks that appear on the surface may have a deeper structural implication- it may imply that some sediment or even the foundation is unstable. So you really need someone who has the experience and knowledge to look at the pattern and investigate the signs to get to the root of the problem. Only then will you know how serious the issue is. Therefore, rectification work which follows is influenced heavily by the outcome of the investigation.

BFM: What are some of the problems you face while carrying out an inspection?
Anthony: Most property owners, especially for stratified buildings, do not know where to start because they’ve inherited the building from being homeowners themselves. They have to be in charge of managing the building. The process is made complex as there are so many things to consider such as the mechanical and electrical aspects, in addition to facilities in common areas like swimming pools. On top of that, there’s a possibility that they might be sued (under the current JMB Act) for failing to ensure the building is in shape! A lot of these unresolved issues are often inherited as they’re not addressed during the window period when defects are meant to be fixed. These defects are often not picked up because everyone’s busy trying to move in and get their own unit done.

BFM: How long does an inspection take?
Anthony: If you’re looking at an apartment of about 2000-3000 square feet or a terrace house, it could take anything between two and a half hours to three hours. Some take a bit longer than that. But if you want us to inspect the common areas- checking the entire building and making sure we pick up all the problems- it could take up to a month to do the work.

BFM: How’s your inspection process different from those property developers?
Anthony: The problems that are found in our construction industry are built in. Not all buildings here are 100% checked and a lot of it are reliant on the contractor and supervisory staff. In the trade in Malaysia, we rely heavily on unskilled workers- this is where all the problems are built into the buildings. Sometimes, they surface early and sometimes, later. It’s like a fever- you could come down with what appears to be a normal flu, but it could be symptoms of something more sinister in your body.

BFM: So it’s really an issue of quality control then?
KC Ng: Yes. You may wonder, “If the property is not done properly, how can they get the Certificate of Fitness (CF)?” The thing to keep in mind is that the authority can issue CFs as long as there are no by-law violations, even though there might be other problems. It’s not wrong for CFs to be issued based on the certification of all consultants, but there are some patent defects that can only appear when the defect’s liability period ends.

BFM: So the issue is a lot more complex than just getting the CF and hoping for the best?
Anthony: That’s right. It’s very complicated because buildings in Malaysia are still built conventionally. We’re not using a lot of industrialised building systems or very high technology. In fact, we’re still building by hand out of bricks and sand. When anything is built by hand, we should rely on skilled workmen, but in Malaysia, it is often not the case as Malaysian house buyers are not well protected against substandard workmanship.

BFM: Are there any professional benchmarks that you adhere to?
Anthony: In Malaysia, we currently don’t have a benchmarking that we can use as far as quality control is concerned. Generally speaking, when a property developer requests a new building, the consultants rely heavily on current by-laws under our Uniform Building Laws and the specifications based on the drawings we’ve made. Therefore, quality control or the benchmarking is often where it falls short.

BFM: Like the Green Building Index or something for inspection?
KC Ng: It also comes back to the main objective of the inspection. For example, with some properties, the client requires building assessment in terms of structural integrity to find out whether or not the building is safe enough to occupy. For that purpose, we usually won’t go into the miniscule cracks that appear on the wall. Therefore, the standard varies depending on the whole purpose of carrying out an inspection to begin with.

Anthony: In Singapore, CONQUAS is used. In 1998, the Building Construction Authority of Singapore started benchmarking a lot of workmanship, such as the quality of tiling and waterproofing. They’ve developed a fairly effective benchmarking system and they’ve even exported some of these to Malaysia. Malaysian developers, in turn, have been quick to pick up that consumers are looking for quality and that they don’t mind paying for it too. As a result, some Malaysian developers have adopted CONQUAS as a basis for benchmarking. They’ve even used it wisely to market that they are promoting quality buildings in Malaysia. Recently, the Malaysian CIDB has put out a QLASSIC too- which is almost a copy of the CONQUAS Singapore. However, our property developers have been slow to adopt it and consumer awareness regarding the latest benchmarking standards available is still low.

BFM: Why’s the adoption rate so low?
Anthony: There are a few factors involved. The apathy of our consumers plays an important role too- they’re not quality driven. Most of them are forced to buy properties because they’re constrained by a certain budget or location. As a result, quality gets pushed down in the decision making process and is considered later or not at all. However, in the case of higher end properties, quality and proper benchmarking are given more emphasis.

BFM: Yeah, because I’ve seen some notices on building sites that say, “This is endorsed by Building Construction and Association of Singapore” just to show that it has quality. So there must be growing awareness, right?
Anthony: Yes. Having buildings benchmarked by CONQUAS or QLASSIC is a proactive way of assessing their workmanship or contractor’s rating. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean final products delivered to clients will completely meet their expectations. Also, not every unit is examined 100% in the end. What often happens is a cross section of the property is taken for sampling. From there, information is gathered and given as feedback to the developer. This information is used as guidelines on how developers can implement better standards for their next projects.

BFM: Is it of your opinion that the inspection process should be regulated at the end of the day?
Anthony: I believe the enforcement of guidelines present is more important as we already have so many rules and regulations in Malaysia. Stakeholders need to be educated and informed about their rights too. Finally, it’s the consumers who really have the power to drive this and make these changes come about. Developers who are fast to note that creating a brand that emphasises on good quality properties may be able to fill this niche, hence setting themselves apart from competitors. When they meet homeowners’ demands, they’ll unwittingly enable quality to rise as a decision making factor- in addition to price and location.

BFM: It’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Homeowners have to take the responsibility to ensure the homes we live in are safe and sound too- not for just 2 years!
KC Ng: I’d like add a few things regarding safety too. This aspect involves the owner becoming more aware of the problems in his property, after being given proper feedback on the results of the inspection. Owners should also demand for more information and transparency, because if they don’t do so, developers will fall short and not take the initiative to do a good job.

BFM: Any final tips for our listeners in terms of building inspections?
KC Ng: There’s another thing which I’d like to add concerning the construction of bungalows within gated communities. Nowadays, it is quite common for bungalows within those communities to be constructed with the neighbouring houses being built at a later date. Therefore, there’s no proper supervision of how all the projects are being managed simultaneously. The best way to minimise problems from arising is to observe the side conditions before the neighbours begin their construction. You may want to consult a professional’s advice to observe the development at the neighbours and anticipate problems which can arise. It can avoid problems, not to mention disputes due to construction.

Anthony: I’d like to add that for people who are considering buying a used home, it’s always a good idea to go through a checklist. There’s a simple one available on our website which allows you to conduct your own house inspections. But if you’re considering buying a new property, try to work out all the problems and pick up on potential issues- put it all in writing during the window of opportunity offered in the liability period. It’s very important because if these issues are not noticed early, you might end up having to pay for these defects yourself later. Believe me, repairing a leaky bathroom can cost you thousands of dollars!

BFM: That was Anthony Lee and KC Ng from Architect Centre. This is The Property Show. BFM 89.9 The Business Station.

isabel, gonzalez says:
  Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 2:21:22 PM
  I am planning to build a house outside of Johor Bahru. Could someone tell me what usual fees are to architect, third parties (signing project off, etc.)???

Monica, Chuah says:
  Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 12:35:32 PM
  In your article, you have mentioned that it is advisable to have an inspection carried out by third party ie your Company before handing over the the JMB or MC.

Should such inspection be made and defects found in common property area eg lift, roof leakage, etc should the developer make good such defects at their own cost before handing over even the defects liability period is over?

From your experience, can lifts break down so frequently within 2-3 years?

What would be the cost of such inspection.

Thank you


Yong, Teck Ann says:
  Friday, February 10, 2012 at 5:25:54 PM
  I just bought a condominium unit at the 18th floor of a 25 floor condominium which is still under construction.
This unit comes with a large balcony and above my unit there are no balcony from 19 to 25 floors. Recently, I just realised that my balcony is design to be without a roof over it.
My concerned is my family will be put at high risk of getting serious injuries as things may be thrown downed by residence staying above my unit onto my balcony.
My question is whether this is an safety issue and if it is, I wanted to know whether the Architect and the Developer are neligence in the the design and contruction of my balcony and thereby causes my family members to be always at risk of getting injured which we cannot avoid.

How do I address this problem?
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