Think condominiums, and many would quickly associate it with affluence, luxury and high living, but fewer think about how putting your name down for a condominium also means signing up for a set of duties and responsibilities. As with all types of home ownership and being inhabitants of any shared space, condominium residents also need to respect each other’s personal space and rights to common facilities if they are to live harmoniously.
This guide will help you better understand condominium etiquette and facility management, in the hopes of saving you from headache (and even monetary penalties) and building a residential community that everyone enjoys being a part of.
Understanding basic terms surrounding the organisation of strata-titled properties
Activities within the compounds of a condo are governed by the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA), a statute that combines the Building and Common Property Act (BCPA) with portions of the Land Titles (Strata) Act (LTSA).
Guidelines within the BMSMA determine collective decision-making and dispute settlement within condos. But to understand how these mechanisms work, we must first explore the technical terms surrounding condo management.
Management Corporation (MC)
The MC council is a group of representatives who oversee the daily functions, as well as future developments that occur within the boundaries of the condo estate. A body of individuals is elected from the residential population every year at an Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Mind you, the MC council is not an informal cool kids’ club, or simply an “extra-curricular” activity to leisurely take part in. The elected body is backed by the legal power of the BMSMA to control and manage common facilities concerning anything from the lift lobby to the swimming pool.
Management Agent (MA)
MAs function under MCs. The MC council may periodically employ the services of MAs to be their hands and feet so that sufficient manpower is available to keep planned operations running.
Subsidiary Proprietor (SP)
SP refers to whoever owns a portion of the condo estate. As the owner, you would have received ownership of a unit that was transferred over from the original developer. This makes you a partial owner – or SP – of the estate, and this status is reflected on the strata certificate of title.
This means you have a stake in what happens within the development and have the legal right to influence decisions at general meetings. This can be done by voting on major decisions such as estate overhaul or the election of the MC council.
Being an owner of a condo unit grants you voting power, but does not necessarily mean you hold equal power as your neighbours.How much sway you have over decisions that happen within the condo is determined by your share value.
What is share value, how it is calculated and why does it matter?
Share value is defined as the proportion of the entire estate that you own in relation to other owners. It is directly related to the following:
- Your monthly obligations towards common maintenance fees
- Your influence over AGM meetings and votes
- Your share of the entire estate
Simply put, owners of larger homes have greater voting power as well as responsibilities. The calculation of share value for each household, however, is slightly more complicated in reality.
Share values are predetermined and allotted by the Commissioner of Buildings (COB) after the developer submits a proposal for acceptance. The COB has a set of guidelines to determine how much share value a unit should have. Factors include your floor area grouping, which is the expected number of occupants your unit will house, as well as your unit’s perceived usage of common facilities.
According to the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) General Guide to Strata Living in Singapore, share value of condo owners increases by 1 for every 50m2 of floor area.
|Floor area (m2)||Share Value|
Source: Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Strata Living in Singapore, A General Guide.
If your apartment unit has a share value unit of 5 and the total number of share value units in your residence is 450, you will have a share value of 5/450.
One thing to note about these factors is that they can be slightly arbitrary. A unit with higher floor grouping may technically house a greater number of residents but be in fact owned or occupied by just one person.
This may or may not be to your liking if you are the sole resident of a larger apartment, since it will mean higher monthly bills but also higher voting power. Unfortunately, because share values are predetermined, you won’t be able to appeal your way to lower maintenance fees after purchase. The MC also has the legal right to recover any unpaid fees in the form of debt.
Being an owner means you now have certain obligations, and also have to be mindful of boundaries. Here are some of the areas you should take note of:
Maintenance of personal unit’s exterior features, and common areas
Common areas in condos are any part of the complex that is not included within the strata title plan (the floor plan you received at the showrooms). These areas are typically assumed to be used or frequented by two or more SPs. Modification of common areas is strictly prohibited outside of the MC’s approval.
As an SP, you have a duty to maintain the exterior of your unit in a manner that avoids damage to others and their property. If you fail to comply, the MC is entitled to claim monetary compensation to fix damages that have occurred due to your negligence.
This can come in the form of leaky pipes that result in erosion or mould growth in other units, or obstruction of common areas that bring inconvenience and damage to the personal property of other individuals. Ideally, disputes should be settled amicably outside of court, although legal action is possible.
This refers to any permanent fixture facing the outer facade of your unit, such as externally-facing windows and pipes that run along common corridors. While these features may take up space within common areas, it is still your sole duty to maintain them as they are considered to belong to you.
According to Section 9 of the BMSMA, failure to maintain these features such that they cause harm or injury to another person can lead to severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment.
Request approval before making unit modifications
Most at-home renovation work is allowed with consent from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, but any unit modifications that increase the total gross floor area that you own can only proceed after you obtain a 90% resolution from your residential MC. Examples of these modifications include extending the balcony roof into common areas or installing a wall to close off a previously open space.
Historically, disputes have resulted when it comes to what unit modifications were allowed. To safeguard the interests of SPs, changes were made to the BMSMA on February 1, 2019 to allow SPs to install safety features such as window grilles at windows or balconies. The installation of locks or other safety devices to prevent intruders or animals from entering your property also falls under this new jurisdiction.
Abiding by compulsory by-laws and MC made by-laws
Residents living in strata-titled developments such as condos are governed under by-laws written within the BMSMA, as well as an additional set of by-laws created specifically by their MC. However, MC by-laws can only be enforced once they have been approved under a Special Resolution and do not contradict any of the existing BMSMA by-laws.
Some of the most common by-laws include:
|Parking of vehicles|
Vehicles cannot be left unattended in any common area or property without prior approval from the MC.
|Obstruction of common property|
Residents who interfere with or obstruct lawful use of the common property by other residents may be legally removed by authorities.
|Damage to lawn, trees, shrubs and other plants|
Greenery such as lawn, garden, trees, shrubs, plants or flowers are considered common property. Use or damage to common greenery is prohibited prior to approval of the MC.
|Drying of laundry and rubbish disposal within common property|
Rubbish and other unwanted items may only be disposed of in designated areas on the property. Similarly, laundry should not be hung in a manner that intrudes upon common spaces within the compound.
|Storage of flammable liquids & prevention of fire and other hazards|
Flammable chemicals, liquids, gases and other hazardous materials other than those for domestic use should not be stored in property or on common premises without the permission of the MC. Similarly, residents should not behave in a manner that increases the likelihood of fires and other phenomena that will likely bring damage to property or life.
Your rights as a share value holder
As a shared owner of the development, you have the right to request for information about the professional details of your estate’s MC and MA. This can be done for a fee, and is a way for residents to maintain checks and balances by bringing transparency to MC operations.
SPs are entitled to information such as the minutes of general meetings, account records, and other official documents relating to activities carried out or approved by the MC.
This article was originally published on Ohmyhome, your one-stop property solution.