Maintenance Fee — Who Should Pay?
Nowadays, there are more and more tenants who are renting units in high-rise buildings which have a lot of commodities. In order to make sure all of them are in good condition, every unit owner must chip in and pay their condo maintenance fees. A question lingers in a lot of minds: who should pay for the maintenance fee once the unit is rented out?
Condominiums are considered as strata properties. Under the Strata Management Act (SMA), the management committee must provide proper maintenance and management. This is so all common facilities such as the swimming pool, gym and security services are kept in good condition. There are typically two types of property maintenance fees which are the service charge and the sinking fund.
Each unit owner has to make monthly service charge for the maintenance of common facilities. Whereas, the sinking fund is a reserve fund which is collected from the unit owner for future expenditure.
The problem lays when landlord don’t pay these maintenance fees when they start renting out their properties to tenants. If you are a new tenant and in need of tenant guidebook, look no further. There are many ways to know whether the maintenance fee must be paid by the tenant or landlord. Below are some of the ways to know and solve the problem:
Read back your tenancy agreement
One of the ways to know who should pay the property maintenance fee is to read back the tenancy agreement.
When discussing about your right as a tenant, it is always advised to look back at your contract that you have signed with your landlord. If it is stated in the tenancy agreement that the landlord has to pay the condo maintenance fees, then wa-lah! You may have an enforceable right against your landlord. This means that you can take legal action against your landlord to pay the maintenance fees.
However, sometimes the tenancy agreement may not mention about this matter. This is why it is very important to look at your tenancy agreement before becoming a tenant to a certain landlord. But don’t worry, the next point will tell you what to do if the contract is silent on this matter.
The law says that the landlord must pay
Some of you may already know that all high-rise houses would have a management committee to sustain the building. They are able to maintain the premises because of the existence of condo maintenance fees and sinking funds. These property maintenance fees are not charged to the tenant but charged to the house owner, which in this case is the landlord. If the landlord does not pay the property maintenance fees, then the management body has the rights to take legal action against the landlord. In Section 25 (1) of the Strata Management Act 2013, it states that:
“Each purchaser shall pay the Charges, and contribution to the sinking fund, in respect of his parcel to the joint management body for the maintenance and management of the buildings or lands intended for subdivisions into parcels and the common property in a development area”
This means that all you, as a tenant, have to do is inform the building management if your landlord is not paying the maintenance fees. If they are nice enough, they won’t punish you by blocking your access card for the building. What will happen next is that the management will take legal action against the owner of the house which in this case is your landlord.
Landlord Is Responsible To Maintenance Fee But What If They Don’t?
Take matters onto your own hands
If you have tried talking to your landlord about it but you cannot see any difference, you should consider taking matters into your own hands. This means that before you take any extreme measure, you should consider actually stop paying your rent until your landlord has paid the condominium maintenance fee. But please be aware that this method might cause your relationship to go sour.
One other method that you could take before taking legal action against your landlord or souring your relationship with your landlord is to pay the management fees yourself but deduct the payment from your rental once mutual consent is achieved.
Take a legal action against your landlord for breach of contract
Legal action might be inconvenient for many people. This could be the last resort that they want to take if everything else fails. Tenants have the right to sue landlords because there is a chance that your landlord may not be abiding or breaching the tenancy agreement.
So, if you decide to sue your landlord, you may be able to sue for money or the other option is to sue so that you can cancel the contract and also get money at the same time.
Before you go and celebrate, the court or more specifically, the judge must first decide whether the payment of maintenance fees by the landlord is an important term or a less important term in the tenancy agreement. If the decision is made that it is an important term, you as a tenant will have the option of moving out, cancelling the agreement, and also be able to claim the damages that you have suffered.
Well, there you have it. Now that you know who should pay for the maintenance fee, always be alert and ask your landlord if they have paid the property maintenance fee or not to save you all the hassle that you have to go through.