Tempers fray over bid to sell Pine Grove en bloc

The 660-unit Pine Grove near Ulu Pandan Road, a 99-year lease former HUDC estate, is in the midst of collecting signatures for the 80 per cent mandate needed for the sale to go ahead.

Nov 30, 2017

Heated meetings, threats, a lawsuit beset condo owners' third attempt to sell estate

Rachel Au-Yong

An ongoing attempt to sell Pine Grove condominium en bloc has turned ugly with residents reporting heated meetings, residents forming factions and a lawsuit pitting the chairman of the management committee against the chairman of the committee set up to manage the sale.

The Straits Times understands that Ms Singaram Kogilambal, the chairman of the collective sale committee (CSC), was recently served a writ of summons by Ms Cheryn Chan, 59, the management committee chairman, for alleged defamation.

Ms Chan claims that comments made about her have led to people questioning her conduct. Asked about the suit, Ms Kogilambal would only say that this was "a personal matter for Pine Grove".

The 12 residents interviewed by The Straits Times said the current collective sale process - the estate's third attempt - is the most contentious to date.

They said a WhatsApp chat group started by residents to discuss the sale has since splintered into three because of disagreements. Meetings on the plans for the sale have also become increasingly heated.

And police confirmed that a Pine Grove resident has filed a report over alleged threatening messages.

Said one resident in his 60s, who asked not to be named over fears of being harassed: "The process has become quite ugly, with some groups ostracising those who raise questions and others raising their voices.

"I wish to stay out of this, but I cannot as this involves the sale of my home."

Another complaint circulating in some of the chat groups is about an alleged conflict of interest involving sales committee member and lawyer Gary Teo, 68, whose firm had bid to conduct legal services for the sales process.

Some residents felt that Mr Teo, a long-time resident, had not made this clear.

But Mr Teo said he had declared upfront before he was elected as a collective sales committee member that he was a lawyer and that a conflict of interest may arise if his firm be engaged in any legal services.

In any case, he added, the bid eventually went to another firm that quoted a lower fee than his.

"There's nothing tense about the situation, only a difference of opinion. The CSC has tried its best for all the owners in Pine Grove," he said.

While tension in the collective sale process is not unusual, such fault lines typically emerge between those who are for and against the sale.

The 660-unit Pine Grove near Ulu Pandan Road, a 99-year lease former HUDC estate, is in the midst of collecting signatures for the 80 per cent mandate.

The Straits Times understands that over 60 per cent of the owners have agreed to date.

Ms Chan said she is supportive of a sale: "I'm for en bloc, as long as the price is right and the process transparent and in accordance with the law."

Pine Grove is among several estates hoping to cash in on the ongoing collective sale frenzy, which has seen 18 residential estates sold en bloc in the last seven months.

The tension at Pine Grove highlights the often fraught nature of collective sales, and it is the latest example of such disputes.

Laguna Park in East Coast is among the most prominent cases, with a spate of vandalism incidents during its collective sale process in 2008.

There have also been bitter fights in court to halt such sales - Horizon Towers and Tampines Court made headlines when minority owners who refused to sell their homes won their cases after protracted lawsuits and hefty costs.