KUALA Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is looking at the possibility of allowing all houseowners to maximise available space within their boundary for renovation.
At present, only houses with 5.5m width and below are given this leeway.
DBKL Building Control Department director Alias Marjoh said the escalating property prices had made many unable to upgrade to bigger houses in tandem with their growing families.
“Some houses were built with only 3.7m width and were meant for small families.
“The owners may not be able to afford to buy another house but may be able to renovate their present unit to accommodate their bigger families.
“We recognise that land in the city is scarce and properties have become very expensive.
“Many have renovated their houses to add floor space without our approval.
“There were too many complications to enforce by the book. We have a set of building guidelines but it is not the law.
“Although we have the right to demolish structures that do not comply with the guidelines, that is not what we want to do.
“As of now, we are lenient with houses that are of 5.5m width and below.
“Such houses only require 4.6m setback at the porch area compared to the usual 6m, from the front boundary to the first wall, just enough to fit one car.
“Such houses are also allowed to build an extra storey from the original design, which means a single-storey can become double-storey and a double-storey can become triple-storey.
“The house can be extended fully to the back on all floors.
“Meanwhile, the extension on the front and the roof of the first and second floor must have a minimum 0.9m setback from the boundaries.
“These houses can more than double their floor space and increase in value,” he said.
Alias explained that those with a common boundary at the back of the house are required to build a party wall (boundary wall) for safety.
“Ever since we gave the leeway for small houses, those who have houses with width of above 5.5m feel short-changed.
“I understand their situation. So we are looking at ways to help them too,” he said.
“Some may argue that it will make the township ugly and lack uniformity, but we already have a policy to allow the change of facade after 10 years and many residential areas have lost their identity,” said Alias.
“How much worse can it get?
“Another common complaint is from immediate neighbours who claim that their view is obstructed because of the extensions.
“Terrace house owners are only entitled to unobstructed frontal view from their property.
“Complaints about side and back views being blocked are not considered,” he said.
DBKL launched a campaign last year to legalise home renovations without approval by giving houseowners a chance to submit their new building plan by June 30 last year to avoid getting fined.
Alias said 90% of the submissions were approved by DBKL.
“As expected, those who knew their renovations will not be approved, did not submit.
“So, we are now trying to accommodate their needs – not because we have no choice but because the houseowners do not have a choice.
“It is not as easy as it seems. Many houseowners are victims themselves.
“Many take the shortcut of hiring contractors who claim to know the DBKL guidelines in regards to home renovations but in actual fact, they do not.
“That is why we want to educate the public on the right procedures,” he said.
Alias said all house renovation applications could only be submitted by an engineer, architect or registered draughtsman.
“It is a good investment to hire these professionals to design and oversee the renovation as they will also be liable if any mishap happens in the future.
“It will give a sense of safety for the house occupants.
“Appointing a contractor to do everything may be easy and cheap but it may not necessarily be the wisest decision.
“We have had people come crying to our office telling us how their were cheated by contractors who assured them the renovations were done according to DBKL’s building guidelines.
“They have invested so much of money and having us demolish the newly built extension would be very depressing to the owner.
“So we are trying to accommodate them,” he said.
However, Alias said they do not empathise with houseowners whose renovations jeopardised the safety of the building and the surrounding areas, as well as those whose extension was beyond their boundary.
“We cannot accept such renovations and will carry out enforcement soon,” he said.
Bangsar Baru resident Tony Lee, who shares a common boundary with the neighbour behind his house, said he was unhappy when one of them decided to almost fully extend his backyard in 2014.
“Several residents have filed complaints with DBKL but not much action was taken.
“Despite going against the guidelines, the house is now complete and the occupants moved in April last year.
“Personally, I would like to have a backyard to hang clothes to dry and improve the overall ventilation.
“If my neighbour decides to extend until the boundary and build a party wall to separate our houses, I cannot imagine how it would look like.
“We are already sharing our side walls.
“Some residents and I lodged complaints with DBKL.
“The last I heard from them was at the end of last year and I was informed that they were gathering documents to bring them to court,” he said.
National House Buyers Association secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said DBKL must come up with a pre-approved plan to avoid extreme renovations and prevent houseowners from turning houses into hostels.
“For example, a regular house with nine rooms and toilets is too much even if it may be within their boundary. This aspect needs to be looked into.
“DBKL should also make the process affordable for houseowners.
“The present law states that offenders will be penalised 10 times the fee if found to have illegal extension.
“Since DBKL has the intention to legalise these extension, DBKL should impose a flat fine that can be compounded to about RM500 for their wrongdoing and link them to a panel of draughtsmen registered with DBKL to help them submit their extension plans for a fee of not more than RM1,000.
“Also, an amnesty period should be given to the houseowners to do the necessary rectifications,” he said.