By Sophia Sim (guest contributor)
The Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST), otherwise known as the managing body for your condominium, manages private properties in Singapore. For new condominiums, the property developer has to find a condo management company within two months of the Temporary Occupancy Permit (TOP). After the first Annual General Meeting (AGM), the management committee will form a management corporation (MC) through an election. Therefore, do not go after your developer should you have any issues with the maintenance of the condominium development – it is the MC or the managing agent that you need to go after.
What Is The Role of The MCST?
Why do we need the MCST? Within a private property development, there is a need for someone to provide maintenance and manage the public facilities. Think about who you should approach if the lights along the corridors are out, the benches in the common area are damaged, or if one of your neighbour’s shoe racks is blocking the stairwell.
Doing all this maintenance work obviously requires money, so that’s where the MCST also holds another important responsibility – taking care of the management fund. When you buy a condominium, you need to pay a monthly maintenance fee. This fee is paid to the MCST, who will split the funds into a management fund and a sinking fund.
The management fund is used for the day-to-day expenses of maintaining the development and other expenses such as payment of insurance premiums. The sinking fund is collected for future capital needs, such as painting or the replacement of common property.
Other than this, the MCST also manages the staff who helps to maintain the facilities – technicians, cleaners and security. Those that are more pro-active also take it upon themselves to build a community spirit through the organisation of events and parties such as New Year parties and other celebrations.
As you can see, the MCST plays quite an important role and can affect the living environment for the unit owners. A good MCST can enhance the asset value of the property through the upgrading of facilities or landscaping.
What is a Managing Agent?
It is common for the MC to appoint a managing agent (MA) to handle the daily operations of the condominium development. The appointed MA has the right to exercise the powers assigned to them by the MC. These include the smooth functioning of the estate’s cleanliness, security and scheduled maintenance, administrative matters such as the booking of facilities, car park matters, contractual agreements, council meetings, as well as financial matters.
A good MA is extremely important, as he/she will probably be the one you deal with when you run into certain maintenance issues or when doing renovation work at your place. Here’s what you can do to look for a good MA:
- Before You Buy A Condominium Unit
As with buying a property unit itself, you should do a check of the public area of your condominium. Observe whether the common area is well maintained – are there any spoilt facilities that are not replaced? Is the place generally clean?
You can also talk to some of the existing tenants to gather feedback. This is a good way because you have real opinions from the ground.
Look out for the bulletin board of the condominium – are there any organised activities, any updates on renovations being done around the apartments? Do the clubhouse and public facilities look sad or popular among the residents? This can give you an insight to the quality of life in this condominium development.
- After You Have Bought A Condominium Unit
The nightmare comes when you’ve just moved into your new home and you find that the MA isn’t the easiest person to deal with. One of the first encounters you have with him/her is usually when you apply for your renovation permit. Take note what you can and cannot do when you are renovating your unit.
If you face problems with your MA during this period, what can you do?
First, check with your neighbours about their interaction with the MA. Do they share your sentiments? If not, perhaps you did cross some boundaries that required the MA to issue some strict warning.
A good MA is pro-active – they should be inspecting the premises and do not need to wait for residents to complain about facility issues before they take action.
Being proactive when dealing with the MA
Be active and attend the AGMs yourself to have an idea of what the general state of the MC is like. Through these interactions, you might be able to see who dominates the council. There have been stories of MAs manipulating the council to get their way with choosing certain contractors in order to get some incentive. If you think this is happening, you should request for the submissions of at least three quotations as well as justification from the MA on their choice.
As an owner of a unit in the development, you can request for a motion to be included in the agenda of the AGM through a written notice to the secretary of the council. If you have a pressing issue that you would like to resolve or bring up and the AGM is too far away, you can also gather some support from your neighbours (at least 20% of share-value) to convene an extraordinary general meeting.
It is important to know the role of the MCST before you buy a condominium unit as it can impact your property value in the long run. Stay in the know of the activities of the MC, so that you can have a say in your living environment. They can also become extremely important if an en-bloc comes your way!