For one thing, it’s to ensure that the entire building doesn’t suddenly collapse one night as you and your family are sleeping! Read on to find out more about this really important process, and why it keeps the inhabitants safe.
Owning a property is great. You get this amazing place that’s all your own. You can nail up pictures without worrying what the landlord might say about the holes.
You can even paint the walls and decorate with whatever, whenever! It’s up to you to maintain the insides exactly how you want it. So what do you do about the outside?
If you’ve got a single-storey bungalow, you might be able to fix it up yourself. But if you’re one of millions of Malaysians living in a stratified or high-rise property, then it’s a little more challenging to check the gutters.
That’s why a periodical inspection of buildings is such an important part of Malaysian building safety.
Let’s strap on our climbing gear and ascend the heights of Malaysia’s building regulations! It’s time to get to grips with the laws around periodic inspection of buildings.
What Is Periodic Inspection Of Buildings?
The periodic inspection of buildings is a provision (read: condition or requirement) under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 (Act 133).
It states the need to undertake periodic inspections of high-rise buildings, with a height greater than five storeys, at least once every 10 years.
That means at least once a decade, some brave engineer has to undertake a comprehensive survey of the safety and maintenance of relevant buildings.
The inspection must be carried out by a professional engineer registered under the Registration of Engineers Act 1967 [Act 138].
In Sarawak, this building inspection regulation is covered by Section 27B of the Building Ordinance 1994. This also covers buildings over five storeys in height, with periodic inspections every 10 years.
This important element of building maintenance was thrust into the public spotlight in recent years, with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) restating this obligation in guidelines published in 2017.
While DBKL’s commitment highlighted this intention, the legal responsibility to assess the safety of high-rise buildings every 10 years has been set out in law since the 1967 Act.
It’s easy to see why such a measure might be needed. Stratified high-rise properties are extremely large and complex elements of construction, with the largest developments home to thousands of residents.
It’s going to be reallyyyy hard to check the outside windows yourself. But of course, it’s more than just windows that are important to these stratified properties.
Everything from foundations to internal support structures require a comprehensive and professional review, to ensure that the building remains safe, secure, and habitable.
The quicker a problem is identified, the faster it can be fixed. That’s why a ten-year maximum inspection period is so important!
What Is The Process For Periodic Inspections?
The countdown to a periodic inspection of buildings begins from the date that the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC) is issued.
Within 10 years of that date, a comprehensive inspection MUST be carried out.
Once the initial inspection has been undertaken, further inspections will be required within 10 years of that inspection date, and then 10 years after that, and so on.
This entire process is laid out clearly in the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 (as below):
The local authority may, without prejudice to its powers under section 83, by a notice in writing served on the owner of a building, require the building to be inspected —
(a)after the tenth year commencing from the date the certificate of completion and compliance in respect of the building was issued;
And (b) thereafter at intervals of not more than ten years from the date of the completion of the last inspection of the building under this section.
Once the owner(s) of a building receive a notice of outstanding inspection, they must appoint a registered engineer to undertake the survey within the time specified.
This is particularly important for management organisations in stratified properties such as the Joint Management Board (JMB), Management Corporation (MC), or Joint Management Corporation (JMC), as they have the responsibility to arrange for this inspection.
If this notice is not followed and actioned by the management organisation, then the local authority has it within their power to inspect the building on their own, or designate an engineer to carry it out.
In this case, the authority has the power to get payment for all reasonable expenses incurred from the building owner(s).
How Is A Periodic Inspection Carried Out?
You might be wondering how a periodic inspection of a sixty-storey building is to be carried out? The answer is: With great difficulty!
This is a complex (and possibly, somewhat dangerous) process, which is why only accredited professional engineers can carry out the survey.
There is a guidance set out in the relevant Act, which advises of the process for undertaking these surveys:
a) a visual inspection of the building, including a visual survey of the condition of the building and its structural elements and any addition or alteration to the building and its structural elements;
b) the preparation and submission to the local authority of a report of the result of the visual inspection;
c) if, after having considered the results of the visual inspection, the engineer reasonably suspects or is of the opinion that there is a defect, deformation or deterioration in the building or its structural elements as will or will likely endanger or reduce the structural stability or integrity of any part of the building he shall request for permission from the local authority to carry out a full structural investigation on the building including investigation in respect of its structural elements;
Whoa! Much technical legal speak… let’s break that down a bit more. Engineers have a look at the parts of the building they can see with the naked eye. If all looks ok, then it’s good!
If things look a bit shaky (that’s not the technical term…) then it’s time to pull out the big guns. Although, in this case, ‘big guns’ refers to structural tests and investigations that give a more accurate picture of what’s going on.
Obviously if there’s room for doubt when it comes to a high-rise building, the sensible thing to do is to carry out a more detailed survey to understand the risks.
The engineer’s building inspection survey will assess elements that include, but are not limited to:
- Foundations and structural support
- Unauthorised extension or alteration to structure
- Unauthorised change of purpose i.e. residential to commercial
- Pools, gutters, septic tank, drainage issues
- Areas of damp or decay
- Exterior facade and windows
- Internal walls and ceilings
- Basements and underground areas
- Additional buildings which may have been built on site
It’s established in the Act that the engineer should be assisted as much as possible, with whatever access is required to assess the building.
This means that the management organisation will need to ensure they provide clear access to all areas required.
Nobody wants the building falling down because someone refused to hand over the key to the basement!
If a more detailed survey is required, the building inspector will assess plans relating to the design and construction of the building.
They’ll then undertake relevant tests or analysis of structural elements, to ensure they’re safe and fit for purpose. Don’t worry, it’s also noted in the Act that the engineer shouldn’t damage the building!
Once the engineer has completed their assessment, they’ll write up a report and submit it to the relevant local authority.
What Happens If A Building Inspection Report Finds Problems?
Finding a fault with a complicated multi-storey building isn’t ideal, but it’s better to find them, than to NOT realise they’re there!
The completed inspection report will be submitted to the local authority, with recommendations noted for any repair work that’s required.
In the event such recommendations are included in the report, the local authority will assess and then decide whether to:
- Accept it in full;
- Reject the report;
- Accept part of it; or
- Obtain a second opinion.
The next step to be taken would actually really depend on the recommendations of the report.
If your foundations are cracked and the building is looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it’s possible that the local authority will issue an order under section 83 of the Act to close and demolish the building.
That’s an unlikely but worst-case scenario. More likely is that the local authority will provide a copy of the report to the building owner(s), and issue an order for necessary repairs.
This order will include details of defects to be addressed, and a timeline in which the work must be completed.
Once this order has been issued, it’s up to the owners or representative management board to engage a company to complete the required repairs.
In the event that you fail to comply with the clear orders you’ve been given, the potential punishments include:
- A fine of up to RM100,000
- Prison term up to 5 years
- Both a fine and prison term
- Additional RM500 fine for every day without remedial action after conviction
Given the obviously critical safety considerations of repairing high-rise buildings, the local authority has the power to take measures itself to secure, repair, or demolish a building as per the recommendations in the report.
That’s so a lengthy court case doesn’t result in blocks of concrete falling from the top of a tower, without anyone doing anything about it! The costs of such enforced repair measures will be reclaimed from the owner(s).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1) Can any engineer undertake the inspection?
You must engage an engineer qualified under the Registration of Engineers Act 1967 [Act 138].
However, as pointed out in guidelines covering periodic inspections in Sarawak, the engineer should have no existing professional or financial link to the building in order to ensure independence of the review.
2) Who appoints the engineer?
It’s up to the owners of the building to choose and appoint their own engineer, meeting the noted requirements highlighted above.
If no engineer has been appointed within the required time, and without a reasonable explanation, then the local authority is empowered to appoint an engineer and recover costs from the owners.
3) What if we can’t find an engineer in time?
If you are unable to appoint an engineer within the required timeframe, you must contact the local authority and request an extension.
This must include a valid and reasonable reason as to why no engineer has yet been appointed.
4) Can I refuse an engineer entry to inspect my home?
An engineer must be facilitated with ‘reasonable’ full and free access. That doesn’t mean you have to let an engineer in if they knock on your door while you’re in the shower, but the Act does provide a clear obligation to enable access as convenient as possible for required areas of inspection.
5) What happens if the local authority can’t locate the building owner?
In some rare cases, it may be the local authority is unable to locate the building owner. In such circumstances, the local authority is empowered to serve a repair notice to the current owner(s) or occupier(s) of the property.
6) What if the owner(s) don’t comply?
Owners who fail to arrange for remedial work within the noted time period are liable to potential fine or imprisonment of up to RM100,000 and five years respectively, with additional RM500 daily penalty for continued failure to comply after conviction.