Chinese developer working to address condo owners’ woes

In an effort to make owners of Kingsford Waterbay condominium in Upper Serangoon happy, Chinese developer Kingsford Huray built a fence around the condominium at its own cost after residents voiced safety and privacy concerns. It also contributed a giant cake and 40 boxes of mooncakes to a residents’ party during September’s Mid-Autumn Festival.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The ban that prevents Kingsford Huray from selling units at its upcoming project on the former Normanton Park site remains in force almost a year after it was imposed. ST FILE PHOTO

This comes after it was banned from selling new units due to complaints of shoddy work

A ban that prevents Chinese developer Kingsford Huray from selling units at its upcoming project on the former Normanton Park site remains in force almost a year after it was imposed.

The ban was applied after a raft of complaints from owners about shoddy workmanship and poor amenities at its other projects, including the new Kingsford Waterbay.

The firm has been trying to improve its record. Over the past 12 months, it has been working to keep owners at Kingsford Waterbay condominium in Upper Serangoon happy.

For example, it shut and drained the 300m swimming pool for a month so it could line the edge of the stairs with tiles of a different colour to make them more visible.

Its move to please Waterbay owners came after the Government imposed a “no-sale licence” in January this year for its project on the old Normanton Park site.

Kingsford Huray secured the plot next to Kent Ridge Park in a collective sale in October 2017 for $830.1 million.

The order means the firm can start construction but not sell any of its planned 1,890 units before obtaining a Quality Mark certificate for each one, and approval from the Controller of Housing.

These can only happen after it secures a Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP).

Construction at the Normanton site began in late 2018.

Developers must sell all units in any new project within five years of buying a site to qualify for upfront remission of additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) on the land purchase price.

If a developer fails to do so, it must pay the ABSD, with interest. The levy was 15 per cent for sites acquired from Jan 12, 2013, and it was raised to 25 per cent from July 6 last year.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the order was imposed on Kingsford Huray because it had failed to meet requirements for certain building works at the Waterbay, such as its windows, barriers and common storey shelter.

Feedback about shoddy workmanship from owners of its other development, Kingsford Hillview Peak in Bukit Panjang, was also taken into consideration.

The URA said it has issued such orders over the past five years to developers “who did not intend to sell or did not have the relevant track record”.

However, industry sources say they have not come across cases similar to Kingsford Huray’s.

ROUND-THE-CLOCK SUPPORT
Nearly a year on from the ban, some Waterbay residents say the developer has tried hard to salvage and win back buyers’ – and the Government’s – confidence.

Soon after residents began moving into the estate at the end of 2018, the developer assigned a manager to every block, who was on call around the clock to attend to any plumbing or electrical problems and other defects that owners found in their units.

Since August, residents have been able to inform the developer directly of any problems in their unit via an app called iPlus.

“At Waterbay, the (complaints) were mostly issues of aesthetics. Signage in the carpark also needed to be installed. The outdoor furniture took time to come but it’s much better now, ” said resident Arlianny, 34, a freelance educator with a young son.

“There were only a few pieces at first, (whereas) the marketing brochure had a lot more,” said Ms Arlianny, who goes by only one name.

She did not detect any major problems in her unit apart from a faulty lock on her balcony door, which workers repaired quickly after she complained. But she said some owners were more demanding, complaining about minor scratches on doors and centipedes in ground-floor units.

Another resident, Mr S. Chan, in his 40s, said a leak in the air-conditioning in the master bedroom of his unit was resolved in a few days.

A Kingsford Huray spokesman said: “Occupancy rate of the 1,165-unit project is close to 90 per cent. Defect rectification works for almost all units have already been completed. Currently, the project is awaiting legal completion.”

STRONG MESSAGE TO DEVELOPERS
The Government’s ban on Kingsford Huray selling units at the Normanton site carries huge financial implications.

Normally, developers begin selling units off the plan as early as 2½ years before obtaining the TOP, and buyers make progressive payments.

By the time the TOP is obtained, buyers would have paid as much as 85 per cent of the unit price – money that translates to important cash flow for builders.

Urban development expert Harvey Neo said it was uncommon for the authorities to impose sale restrictions on developers as this would impact their cash flow and may even impair their ability to complete projects in a timely manner.

However, he added that the URA order sent a strong message.

“Such a move fulfils multiple objectives: First it reminds developers that shoddy work will be penalised; second, it sends the message that consumer interest will be protected,” said Dr Neo, programme head of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Both Kingsford and the URA declined to comment on the Normanton site project.

The developer, meanwhile, appears to have bent over backwards to please residents at Waterbay.

Even though the original plan was for the condominium to be fence-free and have its perimeter marked instead by gentler barriers such as hedges, the developer later built a fence at its own cost after residents voiced safety and privacy concerns. It also installed air-conditioning and mirrors and tiled the walls of the basement carpark lobbies of all nine blocks.

During September’s Mid-Autumn Festival, it contributed a giant cake and 40 boxes of mooncakes to a residents’ party in the Waterbay clubhouse.

Marketing director Anna Yeo of property agency SLP added a cautionary note to residents: “All these added air-conditioning and mirrors come with higher maintenance costs later on. Mirrors crack easily and then the cost of repairs will have to come out of their own pockets.”

“Source:[Chinese developer working to address condo owners’ woes] © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction”

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