Step By Step Guide After You Pick Up Your Keys
Who should be held responsible if there are defects after you’ve purchased a primary residential property?
So, you see this new housing development and you fall in love with it. It falls right in your budget and after years of waiting for the project to be completed, you receive your keys.
You are filled with glee and walk in the space taking in the views, the rooms – it’s finally yours! You are making plans to move in, the type of furniture you want to get, where you want to place them and how you want to arrange your furniture and fixtures. But hold your horses!
I understand all the excitement of owning a house, which you are more than stoked to turn it into your home. It’s a new building; there aren’t supposed to be any defects. Well, that’s what it should ideally be. But, defects are what you need to look out for.
Many home buyers rush into the renovations and refurbishments that they do not take the time to look at the possible defects that may have happened whilst the house or space was being constructed.
Your house comes with a ‘warranty’. Some issues that may arise during filing of claims include mistaken interpretation of sales and purchase agreement (SPA), renovations, sale of the property, the significance of defects, and timeline of repairs. In addition, commercial and sub-sale properties aren’t covered, only brand new.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN YOU RECEIVE YOUR KEYS FOR THE FIRST TIME?
You can claim for any defects from the developer during the Defect Liability Period (DLP). The DLP falls under the Housing Development Act Malaysia (HDA) 1966. Here’s all you need to know about the DLP, including the recently amended law for latent (hidden) defects.
Under HDA, the DLP is 24 months (individual title) or 36 months (strata title) starting from the date you receive your keys.
During this period, the homeowner needs to check for any damages, defects or poor workmanship.
When you receive the keys to your new home, the first time you walk into the space, these are what you need to take along with you apart from your family and friends:
- Your new house keys [all of them]
- Your Sales & Purchase Agreement (SPA) containing the original Floor plan
- Measuring tape (that can measure the entire floor space of a room; not those flimsy paper IKEA ones!]
- Masking tape/label stickers
- Marker pen
- A footstool or small ladder to inspect high-up places (optional)
First things first, inspect all the given appliances and count each and every connection point to make sure that the make and the model are exactly as per the SPA. Make note of every variance so that you are able to bring it up with the developer.
- Sinks, taps and toilet bowls are the correct brand
- Airconditioning, fan units, and compressors are the correct brand and model
- Fridge, oven, stovetop, and cooker hood are the correct brand and model • Showerheads are installed
- Kitchen cabinets and countertop are the correct material
Once you’ve checked all these, inspect if all the fixtures installed are working properly. Turn on all the faucets and showers, and flush all the toilets to check for water pressure and drainage.
Make sure all drainage systems and water holes in the bathroom floor and sink, as well as kitchen floor and sinks, are not blocked.
Next, ensure all the bathroom fixtures are complete. For example, do the toilets all have seat covers? Do the shower heads have all the nozzles in place? Turn on all the appliances and run them for a little while.
Some homeowners turn on the bathtub and sink taps and let them flood the floor to see if the water seeps through the floor.
CHECKING FOR WORKMANSHIP DEFECTS
- Check for any traces of dried cement, varnish or paint on any portion of the house.
- Knock each tile, and if you hear a hollow noise, put it on the repair list.
- Check all doors, door frames, hinges and knobs to ensure that there is no dent, scratches or misalignment, that they can be correctly shut and matched to their keys. Try it a few times. Do the same for the windows as well.
- Make sure the glass pieces on the sliding doors and windows are correctly installed and not cracked.
- Make sure that the vanity mirrors in the bathroom are correctly fitted and have no cracks.
- Check the roof and wall for holes, water damage or bad painting.
- Check your floor tiles, bathroom wall tiles, and kitchen backsplash for any misalignment.
- Shake the railing on your balcony to make sure it’s properly installed and firm.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN YOU FIND A DEFECT?
When a defect is found, put a strip of masking tape or label sticker near it and write the problem on it and take a picture of it. (Like the picture below
Give that defect a number. In the image above, I used a bright label as it makes it easier for the contractor to find later. You can also use masking tape.
Then. write the same number in your notebook or report form, along with the location. For example: “Kitchen pillar, near the floor, 09, cracking”.
So, now that you’ve identified the defects, how are you supposed to submit your report?
Ideally, the developer would provide a form for you to fill in the defects list. Make a copy for yourself before you hand it over to the developer.
Use the same sequence number that you wrote on the label stickers earlier so it is consistent throughout. This will also make it easier for the contractor to find the defect and for you to check again in the future.
When you’re done, submit the defect report to the developer. If it is a high-rise home, you can typically send it to the management office. They will acknowledge receipt of your list. In some cases, the developer’s representative may wish to revisit the site and ask you to point out the defects.
The developer has 30 days from the day you submit the form, to make the repairs. Once done, they will contact you to make another inspection.
According to the House Buyers Association (HBA), in cases where the developer is unresponsive, you can hire your own contractor to make the repairs, and recover the cost from the developer’s lawyer.
And you’re ready for renovations!
But what happens if you were to find (latent) defects after the DLP expires?
In accordance with the old Limitation Act 1953, buyers have a time limit of six years from the date of the first failure to bring legal action against the developer. The problem with this time limit is that most of the time, buyers are not even aware that the defects have occurred and that the six-year period would have expired by the time it was discovered. And the six-year period applies regardless of when the owner discovers such damage.
With the recent Limitation (Amendment) Bill 2018 passed in April 2018, buyers will now have a time limit of three years from the date on which the defects were discovered to bring an action against the developer.
However, buyers would not be able to bring an action against the developer if more than 15 years had lapsed since the first defects had occurred. This means that if the defects first appeared in 2010 but were discovered only in 2026, no action can be brought against the developer as the limitation period of 15 years would have expired in 2025.
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