Rangoon Takes On Illegal Developers

By Moe Myint 15 June 2016

RANGOON — The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) has brought charges against the developers and landlords of more than 2,000 low-rise buildings who violated the city’s rules and regulations, said Mayor Maung Maung Soe on Tuesday at Rangoon divisional parliament.

National League for Democracy (NLD) regional lawmaker Kyaw Kyaw Htun of Hlaing Township said in his constituency many low-rise buildings—structures typically seven- to eight-stories high—are being built without official approval from YCDC. Some customers had reportedly already bought apartments in buildings which were unlawfully constructed. The YCDC has barred anyone from moving in to the apartments and have fined the developers 300,000 kyats (US$250) per month to YCDC until their case is resolved in the courts.

“This has become a big problem for the apartment buyers,” said Kyaw Kyaw Htun.

The mayor said the government has been regularly issuing construction permits, but some landowners have joined up with unlicensed contractors to exploit the consumers without following YCDC’s regulations.

“Some contractors and landowners submitted proposals for three-story buildings but later they built five or six stories,” said Maung Maung Soe.

Shorter buildings require less approval time, lower fees and are not subject to the regulation requiring installation of elevators for buildings over 62 feet high.

Maung Maung Soe said YCDC charged the contractors or landowners under Articles 68 and 69 of the building code. Violating Article 68, which applies to developers who do not abide by their own proposals, carries a maximum punishment of one year in prison or 500,000 kyats (nearly $420), or both.

Article 69 is for unlicensed landowners or contractors who illegally build houses or apartment buildings. If someone who was already punished in accordance with Article 68 commits a repeat offense, they will be charged under Article 69 and fined up to 50,000 kyats (about $42) per day. Most judges fine offenders 3 million kyats (more than $2,500) per month.

The mayor said that in the past, YCDC had been lax about enforcing these provisions—instead of fining offenders, they simply required owners to seek YCDC approval instead.

But those days are over, Maung Maung Soe added. He has tasked the engineering department of YCDC with reviewing and taking responsibility for illegal buildings.  A fine of 15,000 kyats (about $12) per square foot has been imposed on buildings which have more stories than permitted or were constructed without permission.

“We have rigorous regulations for the developers, but they are not paying the fines on time,” said the mayor Maung Maung Soe. “That is why their [re-application for] permits have been delayed.”

Thukha Yadana Construction Company Director Thaung Htike Min said while his company has not violated any laws, there are many unlicensed contractors operating in the country.

Some landowners who do not have the capital to construct buildings on their own often invite contractors to build the apartments for them, said Thaung Htike Min, adding that some of these contractors do not have the proper YCDC licenses.

“The fine payment system is reasonable for big construction firms,” he said. “But for the small private businesses it is a bit harsh.”

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