Proposed changes to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act are meant to strike a balance between protecting subsidiary proprietors' interests and preserving the self-governing nature of community-based property ownership.
The aims of the legislative tweaks were outlined by the Second Minister for National Development and newly minted Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee in Parliament yesterday.
Differences among strata-titled developments make it "very difficult to have one-size-fits-all legislation that can satisfy all stakeholders in all developments", said Mr Lee at the amendment Bill's second reading.
He added that health and safety take top priority, with a new section proposed that will allow the Commissioner of Buildings to place a management corporation under official management should issues of mismanagement come to a head.
Mr Lee clarified that such powers would be exercised only "sparingly" and as "an interim solution", if the welfare of residents is at risk.
He was responding to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who asked why such a provision is needed if motions can be passed at general meetings to resolve disputes.
The commissioner may decide to appoint an official manager if he deems that the disputes have resulted in a lack of maintenance and threatened the health or safety of people living in the development.
MR DESMOND LEE on how proposed legislative changes will protect residents in strata-titled property. He clarified that such powers would be exercised only "sparingly" and as "an interim solution", if the welfare of residents is at risk.
"The commissioner may decide to appoint an official manager if he deems the disputes have resulted in a lack of maintenance and threatened the health or safety of people living in the development," said Mr Lee. This could include situations where rubbish is left uncollected or poor maintenance has caused a building to fall into disrepair.
He said that "the bar is set high" for subsidiary proprietors to ask the commissioner to step in.
The threshold - 20 per cent of aggregate share value - is pegged to existing criteria for calling an extraordinary general meeting.
Some relief may also be in sight for those who want to install safety equipment such as window grilles or balcony balustrades. One proposed change would make clear that management corporations cannot ban such modifications.
However, the unit owners will still have the responsibility of making sure these installations "maintain a certain uniformity of appearance", said Mr Lee.
In that vein, Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked whether the needs of small but vulnerable groups - such as seniors or those with disabilities - would be taken into account, as they "may have a hard time gaining approval for certain installations in their estates".
Issues such as barrier-free access are already covered by regulatory requirements, Mr Lee replied, so management corporations can always turn to government agencies for help in complying with those rules.