State can take over abandoned buildings, says expert

By May Robertson

KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — Local councils are allowed to take over pre-war buildings if they have been left in an uninhabitable state.

Under Section 127 of the National Land Code, a property or building that has been left in an uninhabitable or alienated state can be forfeited to the authority of the state government.

Responding to Malay Mail’s report on abandoned pre-war buildings in Taiping on Monday, local government and planning law expert Derek Fernandez said the state should exercise its right to reclaim the land, if necessary. 

The abandoned buildings include some 100 old houses, shoplots and the 132-year-old Perak Railways building located at the junction of Jalan Stesen and Jalan Lim Tee Hooi.

Before such an action can be taken, he said, a listing of pre-war buildings had to be made based on their heritage as well as historical and cultural value.

“We must first know the value of these buildings ... it is also important to determine if they are on private or government-owned land,” he said.

“The state must identify which buildings come under the Heritage Act, and if they don’t, it may still be protected under the Town and Country Act 1976 via the urban design guidelines in the local plan.

“If some buildings are not worth saving, then the state can proceed to carry out development, especially if the land is not kept in good condition.” 

Fernandez said through the list created by the state on pre-war buildings, local councils would be able to determine the funding required for the repurposing and development of such land. 

“In areas like Taiping, it wouldn’t cost too much to forfeit the land for repurposing, hence it should be a part of the yearly budget,” he said. 

Fernandez also said it was a shame many old buildings in Malaysia were left in ruins because of lack of care. 

“Pre-war architecture is beautiful and should be kept alive, if possible,” he said.

“Designers and architects can repurpose buildings in their original fashion. It costs money but it’s worth it.” 

* Editor's note: An error was made in the print version of this story which has since been corrected here.