Angry buyers clash with developer Wing Tai over alleged defects

AN UGLY spat that has already resulted in a police report lodged against a homeowner is brewing between listed property giant Wing Tai and some foreign investors of its three-year-old luxury condo near Orchard Road.

The development, which briefly set a record price of more than $2,000 per square foot when it was launched, has more than 130 units in all.

At least 15 unit owners most of them foreigners who were buying their first Singapore properties have come forward with a series of complaints claiming that poor workmanship has led to problems including cracked parquet flooring, chipped marble tiles, watermarks on walls and shattered glass panels on the balconies.

Some of these owners spoke to Today on condition of anonymity. They said they did not even want their condo to be named, for fear that it would drive down resale values.

The complainants said that the average cost of a two-bedroom unit had been more than $2 million; one investor had bought six such units for a total of $15 million, and one couple paid $7 million for a single four-bedroom apartment.

The latest incident on Monday morning which happened as contractors were called in to rectify problems after similar incidents saw a glass panel fall more than nine storeys from an unoccupied unit on to the swimming pool area. The impact shattered the panel and flung broken glass shards into the pool and as far as 20 metres away. No one was hurt.

According to residents, it is the fifth time a glass panel on a balcony had either shattered or fallen from a height.

When contacted, spokesman Clement Augustine from the property developer Winworth Investment a subsidiary of Wing Tai Land said the company takes a “serious view on safety on all our developments”.

Mr Augustine added that the glass panels used had met all industrial safety standards. In addition, each panel had been laminated with safety film to prevent them from shattering.

Winworth has lodged a police report over the latest incident, with Mr Augustine suggesting that the glass panel could have been tampered with.

Mr Augustine said that the owner of the affected unit had refused entry to Winworth’s representatives to investigate the latest incident. “From the pieces recovered (on the ground), we noticed that the safety film was broken. We cannot rule out the possibility that there may be wilful damage to the glass,” Mr Augustine said.

In response, the unit owner brushed off the fact that a police report has been lodged against him. He told TODAY that the condo’s management council – made up of some of the homeowners – that decided to ask an independent surveyor to assess the damage in his unit before the developer was allowed access.

The owner said he had told Winworth’s representatives they could enter his unit the next day. “It’s like when you have a car accident, you let the police do its investigation first, then you call the insurance before you go and repair the car,” he said.

The face-off was a development in a saga – already involving a lengthy exchange of emails and letters – simmering in the quiet and exclusive neighbourhood.

Disputing Winworth’s assertion that the defects were due to “wear and tear”, a handful of frustrated homeowners claimed they had spent thousands of dollars out of their own pocket on interior repair works.

One resident described the situation as “frustrating and insulting”. She said: “Most of the people living here are CEOs or managing directors. They can easily afford the repairs. The issue is having to take time off from running their companies to stay at home and supervise the repair and enhancement works.”

Conceding that some unit owners may not have inspected the apartments thoroughly before buying, she added: “When you pay that sort of money, you would assume the unit would be of the highest quality or at least a minimum standard. You don’t go into a Gucci or Hermes shop and check on every stitch in the bag that you have just bought.”

Mr Augustine said that the development had been granted its TOP (temporary occupation permit) in mid-2005. He denied that there had been shoddy workmanship and said that in any case defects which had been highlighted within the one-year liability period “have long since been addressed”.

Homeowners should channel their current grouses to the condo’s management corporation, which is responsible for its maintenance, he said.

The condo is now managed by Knight Frank Estate Management, which residents say took over at the beginning of last month from PSF.

Mr Augustine insisted that the units had been handed over their buyers only after each buyer had been given the opportunity of inspecting their homes and declaring themselves satisfied with the quality.

Even so, the developer had provided complimentary repair service for “genuine” complaints, Mr Augustine said.

He said: “There remain isolated incidences where a few owners may not have carried out diligent maintenance works, or have suffered willful damage to property, or whose property is the subject of wear-and-tear. Obviously, we are unable to address these matters because these owners should be responsible for their own repairs.”

Source : Today – 2 Jan 2009

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