Proprietor Convicted for Failure to Pay Maintenance Fees Under the Strata Management Act

It has recently been reported1 that the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (“MPSJ”) has successfully secured a conviction against the owner of a stratified property who had failed to comply with an award handed down by the Strata Management Tribunal (“SMT”) requiring the proprietor to pay outstanding maintenance fees. The proprietor was fined RM5,500 (or in default, one-month imprisonment) and ordered to pay the arrears in maintenance fee.
It was also reported that MPSJ is the first local authority to prosecute proprietors of stratified properties who failed to pay maintenance fees after an award has been issued by the SMT under the Strata Management Act 2013 (“SMA”). 
Section 123 of the SMA provides that an award made by the SMT is deemed to be an order of a court and that non-compliance with such award constitutes an offence which, upon conviction, is punishable with a fine not exceeding RM250,000.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both, and in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding RM5,000.00 per day. 
The above ruling by the Subang Jaya Magistrate’s Court and the action taken by MPSJ will be welcomed by joint management bodies and management corporations of stratified properties as they serve as a deterrent for proprietors of stratified properties to wilfully default in paying maintenance fees and sinking fund. It is also a warning for proprietors not to take the decisions of the SMT lightly. 
In addition to the above, it should be noted that the Commissioner of Buildings has the power under sections 35 and 79 of the SMA to issue a warrant of attachment authorising the attachment and sale by public auction of any movable property belonging to a defaulting proprietor which is located in the building or the State.  
Alert by Oon Hooi Lin (Partner) and Melody Ngai (Associate) of the Real Estate Practice Group of Skrine.

1 ‘Landmark ruling on failure to pay maintenance fees’, StarMetro, 3 July 2020.