Addressing the issue of unsanctioned extensions to the kitchen, porch and upper rear floor
SCENARIO A: I bought my terrace house some 20 years ago and I didn’t know that I have to obtain building plans for my extended kitchen.
Scenario B: Waste of time to legalise the balcony that was created on-top of the car porch. After all, I am selling my house to migrate.
Scenario C: All my neighbours have the same illegal extension to their kitchen without the five feet setback. We just copied them. What should I do then?
Scenario D: We have obtained the approved building plans from the local council but didn’t procure the Certificate of Compliance and Completion (CCC) from our architects. We are not sure whether the contractors built according to the plans. But, our architects have not issued the CCC yet. What can I do?
These are the often-heard complaints and remarks from unwary home owners who have somehow or other made renovation to their main structure albeit illegally.
Unpermitted additions and renovation works
Amid rows of uniformed double-storey terrace houses in the Bandar Puteri Puchong and USJ areas which were constructed by their developers in the mid-1990s, the sight of extension to the ground floor until the tip of the boundary and the verge of the drain at the back lane (extent of the new kitchen space) and building an extra room above the extended kitchen have been rampant.
These extensions require local council approvals, i.e. Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ). One finds these illegal extensions protruding un-uniformly. Under the law, there is a required setback of five feet at the back end. Many disregarded the rules and enforcement was lax.
Extreme renovation and extension have become commonplace. Escalating prices have prevented households from upgrading to a bigger house in tandem with their growing families.
I was serving as a councillor in the Puchong area in 2013. The chairman of Bandar Puteri Puchong 8 Residents Association approached me with the view to explore the possibility of legalising these mushrooming illegal extensions and additions to the rear of those houses. We pondered on the possibilities and sought the intervention of the Member of Parliament and the local assemblyman.
Numerous technical meetings were held with MPSJ, law-makers and the relevant state departments.
Fast forward, the proactive initiatives are now made law and applicable to Selangor after the state planning committee on Dec 15, 2015 approved three crucial initiatives in the special “retrospective” approval process to the renovation guidelines. In the context of MPSJ – guidelines and building standards, 1999 the following are permitted, inter-alia:
1. The five feet setback from the rear boundary is not necessary
2. An additional floor can be constructed above the rear extended kitchen
3. A balcony can be constructed above the car porch provided that it has the minimum 10 feet from the front boundary ie the gate.
MPSJ website at www.mpsj.gov.my has the details of the special legalisation programme. These initiatives (for the time being) may be expanded and they served as the “stepping stone” to further expansion of the “other illegal renovations”.
More than 30,000 homeowners who have illegally extended or renovated their homes in Subang Jaya can escape heavy fines and possible demolition, if they submit their plans to the council and pay a flat rate of fine: RM500.
MPSJ has given homeowners one year’s grace period (amnesty period) from March 1, 2016 to submit their renovation plans. This means that those who have not submitted their renovations plans are exempted from the penalties which is 10 times the submission fee.
Nevertheless, homeowners will still have to pay the fees for the submission of their plans, which ranges from RM80 to RM800 depending on the extent of addition works.
Advantages of legalising illegal renovation
Buyers are now more wary and watchful of illegal renovation when they embark on buying a house in the secondary market. They should demand to see the Certificate of Fitness (to occupy) (CFO) and the current regime of CCC. This CCC was implemented on April 12, 2007 with the amendments to the Street, Drainage and Building Act, 1974 (Act 133) (amended 2007) as a self-regulatory model; the value of the house will be enhanced with the proper approvals from the local council.
Without proper approvals, potential buyers can seek a price reduction.
It’s worth the while to invest in the legalisation drive because the current value has far exceeded its original purchase price umpteen years ago.
Banks and financial institutions demand for the CFO/CCC when granting a housing loan, in the interest of record and when they seek valuations from their panel of valuers.
Insurance company will not pay on an illegal extension in the event of an insurance claim against fire.
Sometimes, uncompromising insurance companies will use that tool against the insured to disclaim liabilities. Local councils can neither threaten demolition nor harass owners. Owners will also not be vulnerable to complaints from revengeful and unneighbourly residents. It is our duty to legalise those illegal constructions and renovation works before we eventually transfer the property to our children. Don’t pass down the problems to future generations. It will solve inheritance matters. Legalising these renovations will result in an increase of assessment fee. It will be revalued with the permitted structure(s).
Streamlining the process
Local council should adopt a “one-piece flow” with a one-stop agency to expedite submission, processing, collection of fee/ fines and effectual issuance of CCC.
There should be sufficient manpower to undertake the influx of applications since a dateline has been imposed. Express lanes must be created for single applicant as compared to draughtsmen with multiple submissions.
Kiosks should be made available to draughtsmen making minor amendments to their drawings.
Flyers of this legalisation programme should be in four major languages. Finally, emulate those local councils that adopt a more expeditious process. I understand that DBKL does it within a week.
Architects are not needed for these undertakings, draughtsmen will do to reduce the cost element. There is no need to use the local council’s panel of draughtsmen as long as they are registered with the board of architects (www.lam.gov.my).
Smart homeowners should know how to bargain and pay progressively (by stages) for work performed.
Amnesty period to be extended?
MPSJ is giving homeowners until Feb 28, 2017 to submit their renovation plans. It is within the power of the councillors to lobby for a reasonable extension of the amnesty period from the local council and state government with subtle prompting by the elected assemblyman.
Chang Kim Loong is the secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA): www.hba.org.my, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) manned by volunteers. He is also the NGO Councillor at the Subang Jaya Municipal Council.