Fri | Aug 18, 2017

‘Gate crash’ - Gated communities have long wait for legislation to force residents to pay maintenance fees

Published:Sunday | May 21, 2017 | 5:00 AMCorey Robinson
A motorist entering the New Harbour Housing Scheme, one of the many gated communities in St Catherine.
Chang
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Property managers and others tasked with managing gated communities will have to wait a bit longer before the promised legislation to regulate the use of these schemes is in place.

More than four years after Robert Pickersgill, then minister of land, environment and climate change, promised plans to draft what was dubbed the 'Common Areas Act' - to deal with unruly residents and other gated-community woes - specialists are still hammering out the nuances of the proposed legislation.

Last week, Dr Horace Chang, the Cabinet member with responsibility for water, environment and housing, said it will take several more months before the legislation reaches Parliament.

"That's what we are doing now but it will take a little while to come to Parliament. That's the next session of Parliament because we have to do the research," Chang told The Sunday Gleaner.

"The research has to be done, and since we have been elected we have put the money in place.

"The money was put in place this year so the work is ongoing and would not be completed until the end of the year. We have taken it quite seriously," Chang said, offering reassurance to property managers reeling from the uncollected funds.

RESEARCH PROCESS

According to Chang, the Government has already hired real estate consultants to assist with the process, and there is no truth to claims that the Government is not serious about the legislation.

"It is a new piece of legislation so it requires the level of research and analysis that takes some time," said Chang, as he added that dedicated persons have been appointed to speed up the research.

Recently, The Sunday Gleaner revealed that some management agencies and citizens' associations were removing critical services and even waylaying residents at the entrance to some gated communities in a bid to force them to pay overdue maintenance fees.

Communities that are not covered by the Registration (Strata Titles) Act, and are not legally enabled to take residents to court, are the ones suffering the most.

Paying residents of these communities told our news team that they have been made to suffer as their garbage collection and gardening services were disconnected due to non-payment by other residents.

Despite the legislation not being in place, some property managers have opted to take the unruly residents to court.

"Once I call you and send you a letter, then I send you another letter and you don't reply, its straight to the lawyer," said Raam Naraysingh, property manager at the St Catherine-based Caymanas Estate.

"You want to ensure that people have a price to pay."

But some residents of these communities have argued that they are not paying because the property managers do not properly account for the money they collect.

"Most people, I believe, are willing to pay in these communities; however, there are some questions about accountability and mistrust affecting these communities," argued Marc Harvey, who lives in a gated community.

Other residents claimed that the owners of some of the houses have rented them, and the tenants believe the maintenance fees are included in rent and not an obligation for them to pay.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com