Bangkok is not only the gateway to Asia but a sizzling hotpot full of fun, culture and diversity. Unfortunately it is also a place known for bribery and underhand dealings, especially in the building world. Building works can be stalled and planning permission denied until the correct officials have been paid and the dishonesty doesn’t necessarily stop there.
Once the building is up and running, building management teams can be corrupted in any number of ways. It is, however, important to point out that not all building managers and management teams are dishonest but there are a few signs you can look out for to ensure you’re not being duped.
In order to know if your money is being mismanaged by your building manager or management team, it is first important to have a clear idea of what the building management team do and how they are funded. A building manager or building management team is responsible for looking after the communal areas of any condominium block. Communal areas can include outdoor areas, lifts, swimming pools, gyms, cafes, security systems, car parks or play areas. All of these areas have to be maintained, staffed and managed so looking after them can be a full time occupation.
Building managers are paid by the occupants of each condo. Every month occupants pay a maintenance fee, which goes towards paying the building management team in addition to helping to pay for the upkeep of communal areas. Building management teams are also provided extra cash from the sinking fund each condo owner will pay upon buying their brand new home. A sinking fund is a stash of cash provided to the building management team in case of emergency. The building management team is officially supposed to place the sinking fund into a bank account, where it will at very least accrue interest, but in reality it does not always stay there!
But, how exactly do dishonest building managers affect the average punter’s pocket? Building managers can misspend the maintenance fee and sinking fund to their own end. Use your imagination: gambling, bad investments, personal debt repayments, anything you can think to spend a wedge of cash on. So long as maintenance areas are kept clean and properly staffed, the residents of the building need not have any idea their money has been misspent.
When the time comes to give back the sinking fund, the building manager can always create an elaborate story as to where the money has gone, hiding the truth in terminology and property jargon that will confuse residents into submission.
Building managers have also been known to demand a fee, say 25% commission, if a condo owner tries to let his or her home out to somebody new. It can happen that they play the owner off against the letting agency, often forcing one, or both, parties into paying with absolutely no right to any money whatsoever.
With ex-pats having absolutely no political weight in this matter, with no right to vote, how do you protect yourself against dodgy building managers or management teams?
Firstly, you can arm yourself with intelligence. The more you know about property and the ins and outs of your own property agreement, the less you can be taken advantage of. In this instance, knowledge really is power. The second thing you can do is to stick to your guns. Buildings management teams have been known to harass people into giving them money.
It is important to stick to what you know is right and to not be swayed by other’s persistence. Also if you use an real estate agency service to rent out or sell your condo, don’t leave your key with the juristic office and don’t make the deal in the building. Lastly, if you do come across a backhanded building manager or management team, you can shop them to their superiors. Letting those higher up know that they are employing dishonest workers may help to reduce corruption in the building industry.