Purchasing Residential Properties In Sarawak: A Foreigner’s Guide

Sarawak, or more fondly referred to as the ‘Land of the Hornbills’, is a melting pot comprising some 27 ethnic groups, each with its own language, culture, heritage, and way of life. It is a land of colours and unique experiences; an ideal destination for retirement, recreation, and relaxation.

In Sarawak, ownership in multilevel or multi-storey buildings such as apartments or condominiums is known as the strata title. The strata title ownership is governed by the Strata Title Ordinance 1995, the main piece of legislation in this area.


Generally, you not only own your unit, but you also co-own the common properties such as lifts, staircases, foyers, gardens, car parks etc – the size of your ownership on the common properties depends on the built-up size of your unit.


Strata title can only be issued upon approval of application for subdivision of the building, approval of strata title survey, payment of necessary fees and formation of a Management Corporation (MC). The time frame given for compulsory application for strata title is upon expiry of six months after the sale of the first parcel in the building or six months from the date of completion of the building approved for subdivision.

As such, the issuance of the strata titles for the owners may take some time, in view of the various processes involved with the relevant authorities.


Before strata title is issued and the formation of the Management Corporation (MC), the developer is responsible to manage the building and its common property. After issuance of the strata title, this responsibility falls under the MC.


All unit owners are in fact, members of the MC and have a say in how the building is managed. The MC will also elect a Council to run the daily affairs of the building for the MC.


These include:

  • • To formulate and enforce the rules and regulations so that all residents can enjoy a peaceful and uninterrupted stay
  • • To manage and maintain the common properties for the benefit of all unit owners
  • • To pay for all rates imposed by authorities
  • • To ensure that the building is fully insured in accordance with its needs
  • • To comply with laws and policies imposed by the local council and relevant regulatory bodies
  • • To determine the amount Management Fee to be paid by unit owners, and to collect such payments
  • • To take action against unit owners who contravene the rules and regulations in relation to the apartment/condo

As the Council elected by the MC performs the property management function, it is important for the Council members to be competent and vigilant. Alternatively, MCs can appoint a professional property manager to provide property management services to the development.


There are 4 main differences – for landed properties, you would need to spend more time in maintaining the areas surrounding your property such as your garden etc, while for the latter, the common areas such as gardens, walkways, lifts/stairways are maintained by the MC. You are only responsible for your own unit.

Another important difference is that for apartments/condominiums, there is a dedicated team of security personnel overseeing safety and security of residents – access to all areas are normally via key cards which are given only to its residents. As such, residents can enjoy a greater peace of mind.

Thirdly, apartment and condominium developments generally come with various facilities for their residents, such as parks, swimming pool, gym, car parks etc.

Lastly, all residents would need to abide by a set of rules and regulations to facilitate harmonious community living. These rules and regulations, normally called the House Rules or the Residents’ Manual contain the do’s and don’t’s while residing within the development – the rules and regulations cover aspects such as payment of management fees, renovation hours, car park usage and many more.


When you buy a strata title property, you need to execute a document called the Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC). A DMC contains the rules and regulations in relation to the rights and liabilities of all unit owners and the MC.


  • • To make use of the common property and common facilities
  • • To sell or rent out my unit
  • • To vote at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and extraordinary general meeting conducted by the MC
  • • To be provided with service such as provision of water, sewage, drainage, electricity, garbage collection and other related services
  • • To inspect the records and accounts of the MC

The management fee paid is to be used for maintenance of the building and common properties, a portion of which would also be saved for long term capital expenses as the building ages, such as for painting the building, plumbing etc. The amount of fees to be paid depends on the built-up area of your unit and various other factors relating to usage of the development.

It is important to pay this fee to ensure that the building and its common property/common facilities are properly maintained.