What you need to know:
Property developers have recently been in the spotlight for not meeting their clients’ needs. One developer opined that without strict adherence to rules, the condominium system might not work in Uganda.
Uganda has witnessed a significant surge in the development of condominiums. Because condos offer modern amenities, they have become increasingly popular among urban residents seeking a comfortable and convenient lifestyle. However, a portion of the condominium owners have raised alarm over the quality of properties.
During a face-off between condominium owners and developers, developers insisted that the units were not poor quality, but were rather just badly maintained.
Another developer noted that whereas practically construction cannot be 100 percent accurate, they take it upon themselves to rectify any issues that may arise within the first year after handover. He reiterated that almost half the problems arise due to poor management while others arise when some owners do modifications without following the blue print of the apartment.
Isma Kibuuka a condominium owner at Pigeon Apartments, one of the properties built by Universal Multipurpose Enterprises Ltd, is modifying his newly purchased unit in Bukasa, Muyenga. When asked why he is redoing the finishing, he says he wanted a different finishing from what he found.
“I bought this condominium because of its location, the amenities and the cost. And of course because it has a view of the lake. But I did not like the tiles, I preferred a different kind of paint, I wanted a different ceiling design and better electrical fixtures than provided by the developer,” he explains.
A condo, Kibuuka says is like buying a previously owned house. More often than not, the buyer will not like what he finds and will end up making personal tweaks to feel at home.
“I have spent an extra Shs15m on the modifications. I believe condos are meant to be modified because, for instance, we are 120 owners in this property. It is not possible that 120 identical apartments can fit the preference of 120 owners,” he explains.
Price for prime locations
Cissy Namaganda, a property management expert and construction specialist says many of the condominium properties capitalise on the prime locations to sell their properties. High end finishes would mean that they are no longer as affordable.
“Most of these companies bill their properties as affordable condominiums and in keeping with that, they do not invest heavily in the finishing works. And this may be frustrating for someone who has paid Shs200m for a property. What they forget, sometimes, is that they paid for the prime location and the amenities provided almost more than anything else,” Namaganda opines.
Poor quality vs preference
Annet Babigamba, a marketing expert at Universal Multipurpose Enterprises Ltd, says what some homeowners call poor quality works can sometimes be what does not fit their preferences. She says this is one of the biggest causes of such complaints.
“The fact that someone would prefer a different type of tiles may cloud their perspective of what constitutes ‘quality’,” she says.
“Someone will call you after three years of using their condo complaining that their toilet handle is broken. I tell you many of these matters arise out of misunderstandings surrounding the whole idea of condominiums,” she adds.
Property experts say for finishing works to be satisfactory to a good portion of Uganda’s middle class, many of the materials would have to be imported, or the Ugandan manufacturers from whom they buy these materials would have to up their game.
The companies in the condominium industry tend to stick by the policy of Buy Uganda, Build Uganda (BUBU) not only to keep the prices attractive but also because they have been urged to do so by government.
“This is why it is important that minor modifications be made to the house to make the property more appealing to one’s tastes. If you do not like Ugandan made light switches or tiles, remove them and replace them with imported ones,” says Namaganda.
She notes that no property is perfect and issues may always arise. Issues to do with the quality of construction are expected to have shown themselves in the first year after handover. That is where the defects liability period (DLP) comes in. Whatever is found lacking on the property in the first year is rectified by the developer at no cost to the condominium owner.
Condominium management agents play a very big role in the smooth running of these shared properties according to condo owner, Kibuuka. He says he pays Shs220,000 per month in management fees at the Muyenga property even when he has not yet moved in. This money goes to a management company which caters for the day today management, maintenance and repair of the property.
Andrew Okwal, one of the landlords in one condominium properties in Naalya has realised much of the poor management in some condo properties arises from failure by owners to form strong condominium societies (association of owners) and not turning up for meetings to help and address issues in time. He adds that without vibrant leadership, accountability for the funds collected becomes impossible, which results in a dominoes effect without proper management.
Some of the roles of the management company include responding to owner complaints, collecting common expense fees, keeping records for the condominium corporation, hiring and monitoring service companies and enforcing the condo rules.
“We pay a monthly fee to have the building properly managed by proper a professional management and maintenance company, which can carry out repairs in a timely manner and respond adequately to any damage to the building. Condominiums are like a car, they must be serviced to prevent damage. There must be someone who takes ownership of this communal property to keep it pristine. Without a proper management system, all this is not possible,” Kibuuka says. One of the roles of a management company is to enforce condominium rules. Every condominium building is governed by a set of rules, usually created by the residents. These rules are usually recorded in a document titled ‘Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions’.
These rules are aimed at overseeing the maintenance and management of the common areas of the property, which include the building itself, the land on which the buildings stand on, parking spaces, electrical systems (except for the indoor outlets), elevators, gyms, staircases, the corridors and the façade of the building.
There are rules that govern where you can erect a TV dish, when to use the swimming pool and gym, places that are out of bounds for hanging laundry, and aspects of the building you aren’t allowed to tamper with. This, experts advise, is why one must first look at the rules before purchasing a condo because different condos have different rules.
The monthly fees are important because they pay for management services. However, according to the developers, some condominium owners do not want to pay for one reason or another. One of the reasons some people refuse to pay is because they are currently not living in their condominium. Others may feel that it is unfair and just refuse to pay. Without the money, maintenance stops and without maintenance, problems slowly creep up.
One developer narrated a story where a third floor condominium owner perforated a water pipe in the wall with a nail and left the country for months. Water started leaking out of the pipe and flooded the floor for months on end, damaging the ceiling of the condo below.
“We were called by a furious condo owner about a matter that was clearly not a developer’s fault. If these condo owners had employed the services of a management company, this issue would have been arrested in its infancy,” the developer said.
Most condos are sold without fixtures such as closets and kitchen cabinets. This means the owner must buy and fix them themselves. But as it turns out, many condo owners do not follow the standard procedure when fixing these additions. The standard procedure is that the owner must refer to the house plans (drawings including structural and architectural plans) during modifications so that water and electrical lines are not damaged.
Other than repairs on the interior, repairs on the outside such as rectifying problems with a water metre must be supervised in person by the property manager according to experts. Stories are told of how some unprofessional handymen hired by a condominium owner can connect your metre to another person’s apartment, causing your water bill to shoot up.
It appears that a lot of problems stem from misinformation and unmet expectations. Many condo owners, it is claimed, are surprised to hear that they have to pay a sizeable sum every month on top of their other bills. Others do not feel any obligation to follow to the condominium rules. One developer opined that without strict adherence to rules, the condominium system might not work in Uganda.