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Sinking Fund vs Maintenance Fee

Management Fees and Sinking Funds are both familiar terms for those residing in condos and apartments, and they serve distinct purposes in the proper functioning and maintenance of high-rise buildings. However, what distinguishes Management Fees from Sinking Funds, and how are they determined? Why is it imperative for high-rise property owners to contribute, and what are the repercussions of non-compliance?

Every high-rise building is equipped with shared amenities that are accessible to all residents, such as elevators, sidewalks, swimming pools, gyms, and community halls. All of these amenities require meticulous maintenance and efficient management to ensure their smooth operation and functionality. Therefore, high-rise unit owners are obligated to make monthly payments for management fees and sinking funds. These funds are allocated specifically for the upkeep and preservation of common facilities, public assets, and essential services.

These funds are collected and overseen by the Joint Management Body (JMB) before strata titles are issued, and responsibility for their management transfers to the Management Corporation (MC) after the issuance of strata titles.

What is a Maintenance Fee?

Maintenance fees serve as a financial resource that covers various foreseeable daily expenses, including cleaning, security, utility bills for the building, and the salaries of management and administrative staff. The management of a property entails substantial costs, and your monthly management fee is strategically structured to encompass these ongoing expenditures, as well as the costs associated with maintaining shared facilities and addressing minor repair needs.

Maintenance fees play an essential role in directly contributing to the maintenance and upkeep of common areas and facilities within a high-rise building. This diligent maintenance not only ensures the property’s visual appeal and operational efficiency but also acts to either sustain or boost property values. On the contrary, neglecting the maintenance of common areas can lead to a depreciation in property values.

Moreover, the routine maintenance funded through the collection of maintenance fees is instrumental in safeguarding the safety and security of residents. Timely repairs and maintenance of critical systems, such as fire alarms and elevators, substantially mitigate the risk of accidents and emergencies, thereby promoting a secure living environment.

How Management Fee calculated?

The maintenance fee is shared among unit owners, and fee varies by development projects. Some of the factors that determine the management fee are:

  • Unit size: The larger unit, the more you will have to pay.
  • Type of usage: Retail units cost higher than residential units
  • Type of service: Typically includes security, cleaning, elevator maintenance, etc.
  • Facilities: The more facilities, the more you will have to pay.
  • Size and type of common area: The larger the common area, the more expensive it will be to clean and maintain. 
  • Number of units: Owners who own units in a high-density development cost lower, or vice versa.

What is a Sinking Fund?

Sinking funds accumulate over time to provide financial resources for significant future maintenance and repairs. High-rise buildings require periodic updates and major repairs, such as repainting, roof replacement, or elevator modernization. Without a sinking fund, the cost of these projects may need to be covered by special assessments, which can be financially burdensome for residents.  Recurring expenses such as security services, cleaning services, utilities and elevators maintenance are required, monthly.

Sinking fund is important because it provides a financial support for future maintenance and repairs, promotes stable financial planning, preserves property values, prevents emergency situations, ensures compliance with regulations, and smooths fair cost allocation. It is a sensible financial tool that benefits both individual property owners and the overall health of the high-rise building or condominium.

How Sinking Fund Calculated?

The sinking fund cost is typically assessed at 10% of the total maintenance fees. Changes to this percentage can only be made during the Annual General Meeting. Even after a review, the minimum amount required must remain at least 10% of the management fee.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Maintenance Fees?

It’s crucial to understand that when you contribute, everyone else is also fulfilling their financial obligations. If you are a unit owner in a strata property, you are obligated to pay both management fees and the sinking fund. According to The Strata Management Act 2013, the respective management body has the authority to determine, invoice, and ensure the collection of these fees. As you are legally required to pay maintenance fees, the management has the option to initiate legal action against you if you do not comply.

If you don’t pay it however, you might get stuck with the following penalties:

  • Interest charges: The management can legally charge interest for any common charges outstanding.
  • Lose voting rights: As an owner, you have certain voting rights under the JMB, but you lose those rights if you fail to pay the bills.
  • Criminal charges: In the most extreme circumstances, you can be charged for failure to pay maintenance charges. 
  • Seizure of assets: The Act lays out the right to seize movable assets in order to recoup moneys owed for overdue fees.