PETALING JAYA: It is “inhumane” for landlords to build and rent out tiny rooms resembling pigeonholes, the National House Buyers Association (HBA) said.
HBA secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said these “grave-like” rooms are illegal, and do not comply with fire safety rules or health regulations.
“We certainly disapprove of such an unhygienic and unhealthy atmosphere for people to stay in,” he told FMT.
Recently, a media outlet reported that a shophouse in the Klang Valley had renovated its top floor by building 38 capsule-like rooms, with each one measuring just 3.25 sq m. The rooms, with a starting rent of RM300, were said to emit an unpleasant odour.
Local government development minister Nga Kor Ming has promised to act against property owners who turn their premises into cubicle rooms for rent.
Nga said landlords could be prosecuted for erecting a partition, compartment, gallery, loft, roof, ceiling or other structure without the local authority’s written permission under Section 79 of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974, and under Section 8 of the Fire Services Act 1988 for creating a fire hazard.
According to the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984 (UBBL), a “habitable room” shall be not less than six square metres in area. In residential buildings, the first habitable room must each have dimensions of not less than 11 sq m, while the second must be at least 9.3 sq m in area.
Any habitable room in a non-residential building must have a minimum headroom of 2 metres.
Lawyer Bastion Pius Vendargon said owners who wish to renovate their commercial buildings are required to get planning permission from the local authorities.
“If the premises are found to have breached the UBBL, the authorities have the power to enter the building and even demolish the structure; and they are entitled to claim all expenses,” he told FMT.
Adding to mental stress
Center for Market Education fellow Consilz Tan expressed her disapproval of such poor living conditions.
She said coming home to these tiny, partitioned rooms may exacerbate mental health issues, especially if tenants suffer stress at work or school.
“There are no living rooms. The cramped space and feeling of being trapped will increase stress levels and anxiety. Worst-case scenario, it may lead to depression,” she said.
Tan sympathised with those from the B40 group who may have no choice but to rent these rooms.
“The root cause is the income disparity. Living costs in big cities can be suffocating, and it is understandable why they have to live in these tiny rooms to juggle heavy living expenses,” she said.
Chang and Vendargon called on local councils to take action against those who flout existing regulations by renting out these illegal rooms.
“Our biggest weakness in Malaysia is enforcement of the law,” Chang said.
“All local councils have a responsibility to crack down on those renting out such rooms. They should look into ensuring that everybody toes the line.”