49 stay on despite higher rates

THE past week has been, in a word, “stressful” for the 27-year-old advertising agency executive who has been busy juggling work with “running around looking at apartments”.

“Even my lunch breaks are spent meeting agents to check out places to rent,” Jenny (not her real name) told Today.

Making things even more difficult, rental rates, she claims, have “shot up”, leading her to conclude that “some agents are taking advantage of our situation by jacking up prices”.

Jenny is one of more than 200 sub-tenants at The Grangeford at Leonie Hill who have till the end of the month to move out or sign a new and costlier lease – all because their former landlord Ideal Accommodation did not seek approval to turn the original apartments into rooms for sub-letting.

Building owner Cove Development has since terminated the landlord’s contract, and been given until July 27 by the authorities to restore the apartments’ layout – turning the lives of tenants like Jenny topsy-turvy.

It had taken her three months of searching for an apartment before she got a unit at The Grangeford, a “gem” thanks to its Orchard belt location and proximity to her office. “It was hard securing a place like this, I paid my agent $450,” she said.

But two weeks after moving in, she received a move-out notice on May 31. “The news broke just after I finally finished unpacking my stuff,” she sighed.

Cove Development had given tenants three choices then. In an update on Friday, the company said 49 former tenants had indicated interest in signing new leases, at rates ranging from $2,600 to $3,500. Three more chose to leave the condo for discounted lodgings at the Copthorne Hotel and Meritus Mandarin.

Sixteen have indicated they will be moving out. Cove will meanwhile not charge rent from June 3 to June 30.

Mr Jaison James opted to pay $3,500 a month for a three-room apartment. The 26-year-old researcher said it is “more” than what he originally signed up for, “but I decided to stay because I didn’t want the hassle of moving and I was wanted to live near my office in the Orchard area”.

Issue of advance deposits

Jenny, however, has decided to move out this weekend – even before she has inked a deal for a new apartment. “Given the amount of problems we’ve had since this episode started, I might as well leave,” she said.

There was a fair share of drama during negotiations with Cove, for instance. On June 5, some tenants went to Ideal’s office demanding a staff accompany them back to The Grangeford to ensure the presence of a spokesperson, reported Channel NewsAsia.

One issue some tenants still have got no closure on, is their security deposit. Today understands some residents have put down amounts ranging from $1,200 to $1,800 for leases of between three months and a year.

Some are reportedly considering action to get the money from former landlords Ideal Accommodation. Said Mr James: “There are people who paid six months deposit in advance, so they are really in trouble.”

In its statement on Friday, Cove Development said it is not in a position to comment on the issue of deposits and advance payments because it is not privy to the tenancy agreements.

For now, Jenny said she finds comfort in the company of her neighbours – all of whom have become closer as a result of the unexpected eviction.

“Everyone is really stressed out, some just paid the rent and haven’t moved in and now, find they cannot stay here.

“But we help each other out, and meet to go and look at places together. That kind of support definitely helps at a time like this,” she said.

Source : Today – 13 Jun 2009

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