Snippet from The Straits Times
By Tan Hui Yee
SUPPOSE you buy a luxury car one day, which comes with a one-year warranty and a paid chauffeur for that period.
There's not much to complain about, as you zip around town in the cool comfort of the passenger seat.
After one year, when you finally get the keys, you realise something is wrong. The brakes are not working, the acceleration is not so smooth.
You head back to the car distributor, but he says: 'Sorry, your warranty period is over.'
Condominium owners are faced with this conundrum when they move into their new home.
Under the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, the developer acts as the management council for the estate in its first year of existence. The developer has to run the estate, manage its fund – including paying maintenance fees for any unsold apartments – and keep proper accounts to hand over to the homeowners when that period is up.
The idea is that the homeowners need some time to settle in and get to know each other, before they can take over the running of the estate. They have the option of calling for a general meeting to elect a council earlier if at least 10 per cent of them request for it. Most choose to wait till the 12 months is up.
The problem here is that the developer's guarantee also lasts 12 months. Within this standard defects liability period (DLP), developers are obliged to fix – at their own cost – any defects that arise within the apartments, as well as other parts of the estate.
Any defect identified after that period risks being classified as a case of 'natural wear and tear'. The homeowners would have to dig into their own pockets to get it fixed.
Far East Organization – one of the largest developers in Singapore – states in response to queries from The Straits Times: 'Our legal obligation in respect of defects rectification ends upon the expiry of the DLP. Calls from purchasers after the expiry of the DLP, are reviewed on a goodwill basis.'
Established developers usually hand over to the condos' management corporations a set of warranties from specialist contractors that would last beyond one year. The rooftop waterproofing, for example, usually comes with a 10-year warranty from its contractor.
But getting other defects fixed depends on the owners' luck.
Honest developers own up to latent defects which surface a good two or three years down the road, and either rectify them or compensate the condo owners.
Bean-counting developers will go by the letter of the law and refuse to budge. They know – just as much as the owners – that if any party goes public about these defects, it could lower the reputation of the condo just as much the developers'.
Getting the defects fixed becomes a game of 'who blinks first'.
When it comes to owning condos, it is better to take the drivers' seat early – than live the next few years in regret.