Dispute Resolution with MCST Condo Management

Dispute Resolution with MCST Condo Management

Introduction

The official name of your condominium’s management is Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST). MCST, in short, is known as the Management Corporation (MC). The main function of an MC is to manage and control the common property of the condominium (condo). MC is formed once the strata title application is registered. All Subsidiary Proprietors (unit owners) of the condo are in the MC. A Management Council will be elected by the unit owners at the Annual General Meeting. This Council represents the MC and it is responsible for the daily management of the condo.

The MC is a corporate entity and thus it can sue or be sued for the matters as follows:

  • A contract entered into by the MC;
  • Matters relating to the common property (which includes parts of the land or building that can be enjoyed by more than one unit owner. For instance, a central air conditioning system or parking area);
  • Loss or damage suffered by the MC from contracts or other matters; or
  • A matter relating to its land where it’s unit owners are jointly liable.

What are the duties of an MC?

These are a few important duties of an MC:

  • Control, manage and administer the common property for the benefit of all unit owners;
  • Maintain the common property, and the insurance for the property as required by law; and
  • Act on any special resolutions passed for the purpose of improving the common property. For instance, by installing, removing or replacing a facility on the common property.

What are the duties of unit owners?

Paying maintenance contributions

Unit owners are required to pay maintenance contributions for the matters as follows:

  1. Management fund: daily expenses of the condo; and
  2. Sinking fund: for future expenses, for instance, repair or renewal of common property.

The amount of maintenance contributions is decided by the MC and they can serve a written demand to a unit owner who failed to pay the maintenance contributions for more than 30 days. The written demand aims to recover the unpaid maintenance contributions as debt with interest.

If the said unit owner does not repay the debt within 14 days from the date the written demand was served, they are liable for an offence amounting to a fine up to S$10,000. The MC can recover the debt through the Small Claims Tribunal or the courts. Otherwise, the MC may register the unpaid maintenance contributions as a charge against the unit. The MC may sell the unit once:

  • It has passed a special resolution;
  • It published a notice of intended sale in approved newspapers;
  • There is still no payment for the unpaid contribution and interest for 6 weeks after the date of the publication; and
  • There are no legal proceedings pending in court prohibiting the MC from selling the unit.

Maintaining their units’ external features

Unit owners are responsible to make sure the exterior features of their units are properly fixed to the building and do not collapse. The exterior features are as follows:

  • Air-conditioners;
  • Windows, grilles or shutters;
  • Tiles, claddings, curtain walls, sidings, plasters, brackets, cornices;
  • Gutters, rainwater down-pipes;
  • Sun-shading devices, and
  • Other permanent features installed on the roof of the exterior of the building.

A unit owner, without valid justification, failing to maintain their unit’s exterior features, shall be fined up to $10,000 and/or imprisoned up to 12 months.

Complying with the authorities’ maintenance notices

Unit owners are required to comply with the public authorities’ maintenance notices and conduct maintenance work of their units. If the unit owners failed to comply with the notices, the MC may conduct the maintenance work and recover the costs from the unit owners.

Miscellaneous Duties

The unit owners are also responsible for the matters as follows:

  • Not to do anything with their unit that affects the support, shelter, water, sewage or utility supply for other units in the development;
  • Not to cause a nuisance or hazard to other unit occupiers;
  • Not to unreasonably interfere with other unit owners or occupiers from enjoying their own unit or common property; and
  • For inter-floor leaks, it is presumed that the leak came from the upper floor unit unless proven otherwise. The upper floor unit owner is responsible to fix the leak.

The Governing Laws for Unit Owners (Compulsory by-laws)

There are governing laws set out by the Minister for National Development in order to ensure all unit owners can stay in a clean, safe and peaceful environment. The government laws are in following various categories:

  • The behaviour of owners and residents
  • Children playing on common property
  • Behaviour of visitors
  • Parking of vehicles
  • Noise
  • Obstruction of common property
  • Alteration or damage to common property
  • Damage to lawn, trees, shrubs and other plants
  • Dumping of rubbish and refused items on the common property
  • Garbage disposal
  • Drying of laundry
  • Cleaning windows
  • Storage of flammable liquids
  • Keeping of pets
  • Proper maintenance of lot
  • Proper use of lot
  • Change of use of lot
  • Prevention of fire and other hazards
  • Control of use of facilities
  • Provision of amenities and services

Additional by-laws by MC

MC has the power to make additional laws for the following categories:

  • Safety and security measures
  • Garbage disposal
  • Floor coverings
  • Keeping of pets
  • Behaviour
  • Parking
  • Details of any common property of which use is restricted
  • Architectural and landscaping guidelines to be observed by all Unit Owners
  • Any other matters relevant to the type of strata scheme concerned

When there are conflicting or contradicting laws between the compulsory governing laws and the additional laws by an MC, the compulsory governing law shall prevail.

All additional laws shall be passed through a special resolution by the MC. A special resolution needs a minimum of 21 days’ notice of the motion to be passed and support from unit owners that have 75% of the share value of the condo.

The additional laws passed by an MC will come into effect only after a copy of it is certified as a true copy by the MC’s seal and the Commissioner of Buildings shall receive it within 45 days of the passing of the resolution.

Violation of the by-laws

The MC or a Subsidiary Proprietor (unit owner) may commence legal action against the unit owner who had violated the by-laws.

The court may grant:

  • An order to the unit owner to remedy the breach;
  • An order to stop the unit owner from continuing his breach; or
  • Recovery of damages for any loss or injury to a person or property arising out of the breach.

MC’s Power against breaches of by-laws

  • An MC has no power to impose a fine upon a resident or forfeit resident’s deposits for booking the facilities.
  • An MC is entitled to the administrative fees if there are expenses incurred due to violation of the by-laws by a resident.  For instance, if a resident damages the common gym equipment while using the gym, the MC may claim the repair expenses from them.
  • An MC is also empowered to impose wheel clamp release fees upon those who parked their cars at the wrong places.
  • An MC, if without a court order, is not authorised to blacklist or ban the residents from using the condo facilities or common property, although the residents have breached the by-laws frequently.

Settlement of disputes between MC & Unit Owners

Negotiation

This is the most cost-saving method to settle any disputes between the parties informally. No professional assistance is required. Both parties shall meet up and negotiate in order to reach an amicable settlement.

Mediation

If the parties are unable to reach a settlement through negotiation, they may opt for mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party will act as a facilitator to facilitate a settlement between the parties. The mediator’s role is just to facilitate but not to decide for the parties. Mediation aims for a win-win settlement. The mediator is coming from the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) and the Community Mediation Centre (CMC).

Commencement of Proceedings with the Strata Titles Board (STB)

If the parties cannot reach a settlement through negotiation and mediation, then the last resort is to refer their dispute to the Strata Titles Board. Only certain disputes can be referred to the STB. STB can decide the disputes as follows:

  • Organising a general meeting where the MC has defaulted.
  • Quashing a purported by-law that the MC has no authority to make.
  • Dispute on costs or repairs, or resolving a complaint in respect of a defect in a lot, a subdivided building and the common property.
  • Dispute on the interest rate fixed by the MC for late payment of contribution.
  • Dispute on the contributions charged or the mode of payment.
  • Giving consent to unit owners to alter the common property.
  • Appointing a managing agent.

It is advisable to first consult a lawyer before initiating a case in the STB.

To commence an action with the STB, a party has to pay a filing fee of $500 and submit all relevant documentary evidence. A letter of acceptance of the case will be sent by STB and the party shall serve the application and all relevant documents to the opposing party. A mediation date is set and both parties are required to attend the mediation. Unlike the mediation facilitated by SMC or CMC, parties can request the Board / STB to make a decision for them.

If the mediation is successful, parties are required to sign and acknowledge the terms of a settlement agreement. The parties are then bound by the terms of the settlement agreement.

However, if the mediation fails to resolve the dispute, the Board may refer the dispute for arbitration. Arbitration is slightly less formal than the court trial. A panel is appointed in the arbitration and it decides the dispute for the parties. An appeal against the decision of the arbitration panel shall be made to the Singapore High Court, however, only appeals regarding legal issues are allowed.

If a person wins a case against the MC in the STB proceedings and the MC fails to comply with the decision of the STB, the person can engage a lawyer to make an application to the District Court for enforcement of the STB’s orders. Failing to comply with the STB’s orders is an offence where it can impose a maximum fine of up to $10,000 and/or to imprisonment for a term up to 5 years.

For more details, please visit STB website.

Initiate a Civil Action

For disputes that are not within the STB’s power to decide, parties can opt for initiating a civil action at the Singapore courts. Parties are advised to engage a lawyer to initiate a civil action as civil action involves high formality and complex procedures.W

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