by Choo Dee Wei
Published December 4, 2017
Some of you may have read about the seizure of items from defaulters under the Strata Management Act 2013 (“SMA”) at an apartment in Bangi.
Is it legal to seize items?
Under the Strata Management Act 2013, i.e. sections 35 or 79, it is.
For instance, Section 35 (1) states:
The commissioner may, upon sworn application in writing made by the developer or any member of the joint management committee, issue a warrant of attachment in Form A of the Third schedule authorizing the attachment of any movable property belonging to the defaulting parcel owner which may be found in the building or elsewhere in the state.
In short, the Commissioner of Buildings may issue a Warrant of Attachment to authorize the ‘attachment’ (i.e. seizure) of any movable property belonging to the parcel owner who has defaulted.
Once a Warrant of Attachment is issued, it may be executed by any of several persons: e.g. the developer, a member of the joint management committee, a member of the management committee of the management corporation or by a person specially employed (generally by them), in the presence of Commissioner for Buildings or his officer.
In fact, if there are difficulties in executing the Warrant of Attachment, the Commissioner of Buildings may seek the assistance of a police officer.
The person executing the Warrant of Attachment:
(a) may, in the daytime, force entry so as to execute the warrant; and
(b) make an inventory of the items seized and give notice to the person who, at that time, is or appears to be in possession of the property.
The owner has to pay the outstanding fees if he does not want his/her items to be seized.
But if the property is occupied by tenants, they face the conundrum. Their recourse, to avoid seizure, is also under the SMA. They may:
in the absence of any written agreement to the contrary, deduct the amount paid by him/her from the rent; and
retain possession of the property until the amount paid by him/her has been fully reimbursed.
If the owner of the parcel disputes the legality of the seizure, he has 14 days to apply to the Magistrate’s Court for an order to release the property.
But if there is no dispute on the legality of the seizure, and if the owner does not pay the outstanding amount within 14 days, the items seized will be sold by auction under the supervision of the Commissioner of Buildings.
Before the Warrant of Attachment is issued, the developer, the joint management committee, or the management committee must first issue a written notice, which contains a demand for payment, and give at least 14 days to the defaulter.
So if ever you hear a knock at your door, you now know.