Claims of flaws at Sentosa villa

Developer says owner of Sandy Island unit has rejected offer to do repairs

Published on Sep 13, 2013

By Anita Gabriel Senior Correspondent

THE serenity of Sentosa Cove, a playground for Singapore's super rich, has been broken again by a claim of shoddy building work at a second property.

Earlier this week, the management corporation of The Coast at Sentosa Cove sued developer Ho Bee Investment and three contractors, alleging defects such as termite infestations and staircase flooding. Ho Bee denies the claim.

The corporation is representing 108 owners of the 249-unit upscale property.

Now, the owner of a unit of another Sentosa Cove property, YTL Group's award-winning luxury waterfront villas Sandy Island, has come forward to offer details of his allegations of poor workmanship. The villas were pitched as one-of-a-kind homes with impeccable finishings and unique layout when launched in late 2008.

But Mr Thio Keng Thay, who paid about $14 million for his unit, is decidedly underwhelmed. He is a property investor and former deputy managing director of Malaysia Dairy Industries.

Mr Thio, who took possession of the five-bedroom two-storey villa with an attic and basement spanning some 8,000 sq ft in March 2012, has been making his complaints since then. He alleged that the bungalow had some "serious" flaws.

They include water leakage in the living area, "gourmet kitchen", most of the rooms and basement garage, defects on bathroom doors, patchy wall paintwork, and scratches on the timber floor and glass panes, he said.

Mr Thio said he received a quotation to fix the defects for $1.8 million earlier this year.

"I bought the house as I was told by the salesman that it was of top quality and it was a nice development. What I discovered is that it was not so," he alleged in an interview with The Straits Times. "I was surprised and have never seen anything like this in terms of the scale and extent of the defects. I'm more aggrieved by the substantial defects such as the water ingress and bathroom doors," said Mr Thio, who has invested in several properties in Singapore and abroad.

YTL and Mr Thio have been in talks on rectifying the flaws in the house for over a year.

In December, YTL offered to pay $130,000 - $110,000 for enhancement works and $20,000 for fixing defects. But Mr Thio has rejected the offer, saying it is not enough. "YTL wants to do the repairs but if they use the same people, same materials and same methods, the problems will reappear," he said.

YTL Land said it is willing to do the necessary repairs on the "genuine defects" but has been unable to do so. "We have not been given access to rectify the alleged defects by the homeowner," said a YTL Land spokesman. "We have been unable to reach an agreement on how to proceed."

A 12-month warranty applies to all new properties in Singapore and that is no different for Sandy Island's 18 villas by YTL.

This is also known as the defects liability period (DLP) when buyers can identify and submit a list of defects to allow developers to rectify them.

Mr Thio had submitted the defects within this period, which YTL said it had promptly responded to and had offered to rectify.

"To the fullest extent possible, we have sought to accommodate Mr Thio's requests even though we considered many, if not all to be non-contractual," YTL said. "However, Mr Thio had imposed various conditions on us before he would allow us to access the premises," the spokesman said. "We stress that we have always remained ready, willing and able to resolve all genuine defects."

YTL Group, a sprawling business empire controlled by Malaysian tycoon Francis Yeoh, has carved a reputable niche in the high-end property, retail and hospitality space amid rising Asian affluence.

In Singapore, YTL Land has completed two residential property projects in Sentosa Cove - Sandy Island and Kasara, another high-end project with 13 waterfront bungalows launched in 2010 and fully snapped up not too long after.

"Home owners' satisfaction is our topmost priority and we stand by our commitment to delivering quality homes to residents," said YTL. "The case with Mr Thio remains an isolated issue."

Sentosa Cove is an exclusive "lifestyle" enclave in Singapore, nestled in tropical rainforest and pitched to the uber rich, with homes that come with individual private berths at the backyard for yachts to dock.

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