“There is no denying that some developers take responsibility and rectify the problems during the defect liability period but there are those who do not and turn a blind eye to complaints by owners.

FOR the average Malaysian, owning a property is a dream come true but for many, it remains a pipe dream, no thanks to spiralling housing prices that are beyond their reach.

It is therefore apt to say Malaysians, especially those from the middle and lower-income groups, literally put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears into ultimately buying and owning a property.

But the dream of owning a property can quickly turn into a nightmarish situation.

For some, it happens immediately after receiving the notice of vacant possession while for others, a few months down the road.

A sizeable number of properties sold in Malaysia come with bare basic fittings, and the purchasers have to do their own renovations such as building a kitchen before being able to occupy and call it a home. This entails additional costs.

For instance, in the Klang Valley area, an affordable apartment unit comes with a minimum price tag of RM300,000 while basic renovation works could cost about RM20,000 or more.

On top of that, there are also hidden costs such as utility deposits and charges, home insurance, property tax, maintenance fees and sinking funds for a strata or gated community property. This is when the nightmare begins.

Despite paying a hefty amount, many end up with defective units due to poor workmanship and suffer the consequences of such slipshod work by developers.

There is no denying that some developers take responsibility and rectify the problems during the defect liability period, but there are those who do not and turn a blind eye to complaints by owners.

At most, the maintenance office of the developer might undertake to carry out one-off repairs, but the main problems, especially those pertaining to structural issues, are never fully resolved.

Such problems affect all types of properties, from high-end dwellings by well-known companies to low-cost housing projects undertaken via government-sponsored programmes.

The grouses are aplenty – from sub-standard wiring, poor workmanship, multiple cracks and water leakage – common problems faced by desperate homeowners.

Some developers take the easy route out by blaming extreme weather conditions.

This is perhaps applicable for houses built a few decades ago, but not the ones built in the last 10 to 15 years, given that there is now greater awareness of the adverse effects of extreme weather and global warming.

The irony is that decades-old buildings at times seem steadier and stand solid as a rock.

“We got our keys and moved into our unit in February 2021. Since then, there have been multiple cracks and leakage. Some units (in the apartment building) have water seepping out from the floors,” said a low-cost apartment owner in the Klang Valley, who requested anonymity.

“I am afraid that someday the apartment would just crumble and collapse,” she said.

This writer knows all too well the dilemma of homeowners as she herself has been struggling to get things fixed with the property purchased from a well-known developer.

Defective air-conditioning systems, low quality wiring and extremely poor workmanship are among the multiple problems she has been facing ever since her family moved into the unit in 2020.

A highly placed official of the developer for the housing project openly acknowledged that this particular project was a problematic one.

But that was it. There was no recourse and no further action taken by the developer to put things right to repair the apartment units, while the purchasers continue to suffer.

Undoubtedly, from news reports and media coverage, there are similar or even worse cases of shoddily-constructed properties and horror stories told by homeowners.

Their predicament is made worse by apathy shown by property developers.

It is easy to suggest that homeowners seek recourse by filing a lawsuit against such property developers, but lawyers do not come cheap.

As it is, homeowners have to grapple with the rising cost of living to make ends meet.

Therefore, taking the developer to task through the courts is the last thing house owners want to do as it would require much time and energy, not to mention the costs.

The government, especially the consumer affairs and housing ministries, valuation department, as well as agencies involved in construction, must step in to help such helpless homeowners.

Perhaps by-laws need to be changed to ensure that property developers are held responsible for slipshod work regardless of how long the property has been purchased.

If developers are not held accountable and do not undertake the necessary repairs on the properties they sold, one shudders to think of the consequences.

As events have shown, it could be a disaster or accident waiting to happen, such as housing and building structures collapsing, if such defects are not rectified quickly.

The government must do more to protect housebuyers.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com