Residents vs management council in condo clash

Snippet from the New Paper :-

By Hedy Khoo
Thu, Dec 09, 2010

RESIDENTS flouting condo rules are a common occurrence.

But recent spats between condo residents and their management councils (MCs) have raised an important question: What can residents do if they disagree with their MCs or feel they are misusing their powers?

On Nov 27, The New Paper reported on a Sea View condo resident who parked his vehicle at the entrance of the condo to express frustration at the MC over new carpark rules.

Over at Mimosa Park, some residents were uncomfortable at how the MC had shamed fellow resident, former Singapore Idol Hady Mirza, after a children's party he hosted resulted in a mess at the poolside. Details of the misdemeanour, which happened in October, including the fact that Hady's family had been banned from using condo facilities for six months, were posted on notice boards at all blocks alongside details of other residents who have flouted rules.

And in March, it was reported that the MC at Castle Green, a 664-unit condo along Yio Chu Kang Road, put up lists all over the estate naming residents who were late in paying their maintenance fees.

Said a Castle Green resident, Mr Paul Naidu, 62, a retiree: "This is a very high-handed way of dealing with residents who don't pay on time. It is not necessary to shame fellow residents in this manner."

Mr Francis Zhan, 65, the chief executive of the Association of Management Corporations Singapore (AMCIS), said it is not uncommon to have cases where residents have made complaints about council members whom they perceive to be misusing their power.

He said on average, he receives about 20 condominium- related complaints a month via e-mail and phone. Of these, about 10 are from condo residents complaining about their MCs or council members.

In 2001, he used to get only about five or six similar complaints.

He related one case where the MC of a two-block condo near River Valley had approved of landscaping works only at the block where the council members lived.

The council members later sold their units at a higher price and moved away. Residents from the other block were unhappy no landscaping had been done at their block.

Mr Zhan said the current reality is that there is not much recourse for residents who want to take arrogant council members to task.

One way, he said, is through a civil suit, either as one unit owner or as a group, but "this is a long and exasperating process".

Legal cost

He said: "Who is going to act the hero and gather a group of unit owners to sue the MC? Also, who is going to bear the legal cost?"

He pointed out that even if the unit owners win the case, the money paid by the MC would still come out from the management fund which the unit owners have contributed to.

Said Mr Zhan: "It's almost like shooting yourself in the foot. When unit owners sue their MC, they are usually at the losing end as the council officials have to be sued as a collective under the MCST."

Mr Naidu, who had also served as a chairman of a condo for 10 years, said that while every condo has its own by-laws which residents must follow, MCs have a choice when it comes to their style of management.

Said Mr Naidu: "The MCs should aim to educate the residents, not shame them. It is important to communicate gently with the residents and be open to feedback.

"It's quite sad when council members start off on a wrong footing and everybody starts to get rude and confrontational.

"It all degenerates into a question of who wins instead of thinking of the common good of the residents."

Mr Naidu said ideally, MCs should try to create an atmosphere in which residents are engaged in the management of the estate and have a channel to communicate with the MC.

He said council members should make an effort to know their neighbours.

He suggested one way for bigger estates to achieve this is to have an estate newsletter to help residents get to know each other and keep up to date with the estate's happenings and decisions made by the MC.

Mr Zhan added that the association plans to set up courses to train council members on how to manage estates and to issue accreditation to members who meet the necessary requirements.

Currently, the association has started drawing up the curriculum, which includes modules teaching council members about their duties and responsibilities, the legal aspects of their job, and how to prepare the MCST's accounts.

Said Mr Zhan: "It's early days yet (but) this is one way to address the the problems faced by MCs who lack the knowledge and experience in running estates." He said the ideal is to have councils organised in a way similar to a board of directors in a company.

Mr Zhan also suggested: "In future, it may be useful to have a system in which a council can employ, for a nominal fee, accredited 'independent' council members who can provide an unbiased opinion on council matters."

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