Monday 17 Jun 2024
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This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on July 17, 2023 - July 23, 2023

The strong partnership between the property manager and the Joint Management Body (JMB) is key to the management and maintenance of Sunway Emerald Residence in Iskandar Puteri.

Sunway Property & Facility Management Sdn Bhd (SPFM) assistant general manager of property management and customer services Chong Hoc Mun and JMB chairman Ramond Yeoh came across as a passionate and fiery duo.

“The JMB and property manager are actually like a corporation. We check and balance each other and we also challenge each other on whether it is the right decision,” says Chong.

“Definitely, we have mutual respect for each other. We are very clear with our roles as property manager hired by the committee to carry out our duty. So, due diligence is needed to make sure our recommendation or the decision the JMB takes is in accordance with the Strata Management Act. Sometimes, the JMB challenges us and questions whether the recommendation is the best outcome for the development.

“We have a WhatsApp group that buzzes every day and a monthly meeting. There are constantly things to discuss. That’s how we work together very closely and achieve this very strong partnership.”

The 20-acre Emerald Lake fronts Sunway Emerald Residence. (Photo by SPFM)

The strong partnership between the two parties is the recipe for Emerald Residence’s success. It is the Gold winner in the Below 10 Years — Multiple-owned Strata Residential category at The Edge Malaysia Best Managed & Sustainable Property Awards 2023.

The 20-acre Emerald Lake fronts the 22.06-acre Emerald Residence. Residents enjoy unobstructed views of the lake as it is a hilltop development that offers exclusivity and low density, with only 222 units of two-storey link houses, two-storey link courtyard homes and three-storey semi-detached houses, as well as a private clubhouse at the heart of the development.

Located in the Sunway City Iskandar Puteri township in Johor, Emerald Residence was developed by Sunway Iskandar Sdn Bhd and completed in 2018. It is located in the Lakeview precinct.

The first JMB was formed in 2019. Yeoh was elected chairman in 2021 and is currently serving his second term.

Yeoh and Sunway Iskandar Sdn Bhd CEO Gerard Soosay (third and fourth from left) with (from left) The Edge Malaysia editor-in-chief Kathy Fong, The Edge Malaysia editor emeritus and the awards’ chief judge Au Foong Yee, Minister of Local Government Development Nga Kor Ming, The Edge Media Group publisher and group CEO Datuk Ho Kay Tat and City & Country editor E Jacqui Chan. (Photo by Mohd Izwan Mohd Nazam/The Edge)

Great details in problem-solving

Yeoh shares that in his first term as chairman, keeping track of the finances was a challenge given the pandemic.

Emerald Residence has a mix of nationalities among its residents, from Malaysians to foreigners from Singapore, China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, among others. Inevitably, it became a challenge for SPFM to collect maintenance fees when foreign buyers were not able to enter the country during the MCO.

“Our finances were not in the best situation at the time. It was harder to collect the maintenance fee from the residents as they were going through hardships. But that also meant we had less funds to maintain some of the common areas and the community itself,” says Yeoh.

To ensure financial sustainability, SPFM and the JMB came up with an action plan to resolve this issue. Chong says the team created a list with the residents’ profiles, with clear details on where they were from and whether they were living in Malaysia or in another country.

The three-storey semi-detached houses. (Photo by SPFM)
Outdoor gymnasium at the clubhouse. (Photo by SPFM)

“From the list, we could analyse just how much we could actually collect from those living in Malaysia and those living overseas but were able to remit money to Malaysia. We had a separate list for those who were not contactable,” he adds.

SPFM also helped the residents find tenants for the rental of their units by arranging meetings with property agents. “When they were able to get tenants [to rent their units], they were also willing to pay [the charges],” says Chong.

“At the time, our collection rate was around 70% and now, we are close to 90%. So, there has been a progression from where we were to where we are right now. For the last two years, the results have been pretty outstanding,” says Yeoh.

The occupancy rate currently stands at 60%, with 30% to 40% foreigners.

The gateless feature of Sunway Emerald Residence is aimed at fostering a close-knit community. (Photo by SPFM)
The private clubhouse for residents includes facilities such as a swimming pool and gym. (Photo by SPFM)

Another challenge was the water ponding issue at the clubhouse. Emerald Residence has a private clubhouse for residents, with facilities such as a swimming pool and gymnasium.

During the Defects Liability Period, there was a water ponding issue around the clubhouse, especially near the swimming pool, which they initially suspected was leaking, says Chong.

“We worked closely with the developer and contractor to identify the root cause of the issue. We had to close the pool. During that time, we needed to diagnose the problem and rectify it. The JMB members were also there to witness the root cause analysis.”

Eventually, they found out that it was because the groundwater was unable to be discharged to the drainage.

“We also needed to prove with a chemical test that the water was not coming from the swimming pool. This process took many months, which required us to have a lot of communication with our residents. Even during the annual general meeting, we had to explain the issue and action plan to them,” says Chong.

“When we had the result, we published the findings and let everyone know the root cause and how we managed to identify it. So, we really go all out in terms of investigating major issues.”

Cost-saving initiatives

With a collection rate of about 90%, there have been discussions on enhancing the surrounding neighbourhood.

In October 2022, solar panels were installed at Emerald Residence. These are estimated to save RM20,000 in electricity bills annually, says Chong.

He adds that the team is currently in discussions to finalise the installation of the solar panel for street lights in the gated-and-guarded community.

“We wanted to install the solar panel for street lights as we realised there are certain spots in the development that are a bit too dim for people to walk around. We wanted to light up a certain junction for safety purposes. But rather than use conventional street lighting, we decided to install solar street lights instead for maintenance and cost purposes.”

Yeoh: For the last two years, the collection has been pretty outstanding. (Photo by Low Yen Yeing/The Edge)
Chong: The JMB and property manager like to challenge each other to ensure we are making the right decision. (Photo by Low Yen Yeing/The Edge)

The team is also planning to add electric vehicle (EV) chargers. “It is something that we are currently studying to see whether we have sufficient demand for it,” says Chong.

He explains that the reason behind this is to facilitate the future demands of residents, especially now that EVs are becoming popular.

“Especially with Singapore going for EV chargers and EVs, and we have a lot of residents from Singapore or those working in Singapore. Eventually, a fast-charging EV charger could be a requirement by our residents.”

That kampung feeling

Emerald Residence is a gateless development and SPFM takes advantage of this feature to promote a strong community spirit.

“We have a lot of discussions on house rules. The house rules are designed to help people learn the dos and don’ts,” says Chong.

“We also communicate and educate to raise awareness. Our communication is not only with the owners but also the tenants. They need to know our rules, our standard operating procedures and what is happening in the residence.”

At the end of the day, the goal is to create a close-knit community like the ones you find in the kampung and emulate that spirit in the residence.

The indoor gymnasium at the clubhouse
The lounge in the private clubhouse

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