Can strata board charge lower fee?

Disputes are an inevitable occurrence over the course of strata living in Singapore (Condos, owners tussle over fixtures; June 13).

The dispute resolution mechanisms available to condominium residents, however, are decidedly inadequate.

Residents of HDB flats have the option to refer cases to their local town council before undertaking mediation by grassroots leaders or MPs, and at worst, the Small Claims Tribunal.

These amenities are available to them free of charge.

However, condominium dwellers are advised to direct their complaints to the management corporations (MC) that govern their estate.

In the event that the MC is unable or unwilling to resolve the situation - which unfortunately, happens more often than not, from experience - the only remaining option is the Strata Titles Board (STB).

This incurs a rather steep $500 application fee.

As a statutory body providing an essential public service, and funded by taxpayer dollars, the STB has a principle obligation to remove onerous barriers to mediation proceedings, especially for the most urgent or severe cases.

This would require the reduction or elimination of the surcharge.

Some might argue that the fee is necessary to weed out frivolous cases that would tie up public resources. However, a layer of screening to identify baseless complaints already exists in the form of the MCs, which serve as the first line of response.

Competent MCs must, therefore, shoulder their share of responsibility to undertake the role of effective mediators to recommend decisive action in line with STB standard prescriptions.

A common sense approach could amicably settle mostdisputes that are uncomplicated and do not strictly warrant external intervention.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'Can strata board charge lower fee?'. Print Edition | Subscribe