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Thread: GRANGEFORD CONDO EVICTION: URA grants last-minute extension

  1. #1
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    Default GRANGEFORD CONDO EVICTION: URA grants last-minute extension

    June 2, 2009 Tuesday

    Condo tenants told to vacate in 3 days

    Landlord told a month ago to tear down partitions by June 3 as planning rules breached, but it kept mum

    By Tan Weizhen

    TWO hundred tenants living in 140 apartments in a condominium off Orchard Road were caught off-guard after being told on Sunday night that they have to clear out by tomorrow.

    Their landlord, Ideal Accommodation, had known for at least a month that the tenants - a mix of mostly young expatriate and local professionals and college students - would have to leave, but kept the news from them. As a result, many of the tenants are now livid.

    Ideal, which had leased The Grangeford condo from Overseas United Enterprise (OUE), had converted 140 apartments into 600 self-contained rooms. It began sub-letting them this year.

    Doing so, however, breached planning rules, and on April 29, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) told Ideal that it would have to tear down the partitions by June 3.

    However, the company kept mum, and began telling tenants that they had to move out only last week. Even then, not all residents were told. Most found out only on Sunday, when they happened to walk past the property office, or got wind of it from their neighbours.

    The affected residents - from places such as the United States, Hong Kong, South Korea, India and Vietnam - had signed tenancy agreements of between six months and a year.

    British citizen Bernard Johnson, 23, had a rude shock yesterday when friends living in the same block told him they would have to move out.

    'I didn't know what was happening. No notices pasted in the lobby, nothing. If I had not found out from friends, would my belongings have been rudely thrown out?' asked the hotel designer, who is looking for temporary accommodation and has contacted his embassy for help.

    The condo building was sold en-bloc to OUE in 2007. However, the company decided to sub-let the building, rather than redevelop the site, because of the deteriorating economic climate.

    Ideal spent $3 million to divide up the apartments into smaller units, and rented each out for between $900 and $1,400.

    The partitioned units each came equipped with a washing machine, LCD television set and Internet connection.

    According to calculations by residents and property agents, dividing an apartment into several units this way can fetch rentals of up to $8,000, compared to about $4,600 if a flat is leased to just one tenant.

    The Straits Times has learnt that Ideal's managing director, Mr Tang Yong, appealed to the Ministry of National Development last week for more time to vacate the condo.

    He claimed he had been given just seven days to do so, despite being told more than a month ago by the URA.

    In a letter obtained by The Straits Times, he said: 'This feat is impossible to achieve within the given seven-day period as we have yet to notify 200 tenants and properly relocate them.'

    He said they would need two to three more months.

    Calls and text messages to the management of Ideal Accommodation went unanswered. URA would only say it was looking into the appeal.

    Meanwhile, about 100 infuriated residents gathered at the lobby on Sunday night to debate their options.

    One said he feared that his deposit and upfront rental money, which are with Ideal, would be lost.

    Another resident, Hong Konger Dave Chan, 24, who works at the Marina Bay Sands resort, said he found out that he had to leave from a notice thrust under his door.

    'Ideal should grant us a meeting to explain what we should do now or give us some options,' he said.

    Another angry resident, Singaporean Danny Wong, 38, said: 'Why tell us only now? It's totally insane to find another place within three days.

    'We didn't create this room problem in the first place, the people who rented it out did. We're the victims here.'

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  2. #2
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    Default URA grants last-minute extension

    June 4, 2009


    URA grants last-minute extension

    Property owner ends landlord's lease and plans talks with tenants

    By Tan Weizhen

    Hotel designer Bernard Johnson, 23, packing in his room at The Grangeford. Tenants at the condo had earlier been told to move out by yesterday, the deadline for tearing down the illegal partitions put up in the apartments by Ideal Accommodation to collect more in rent. -- ST PHOTO: SAMUEL HE

    SOME 200 tenants of an Orchard Road condominium who were to have moved out by yesterday have been given a last-minute reprieve.
    But in a twist, their landlord, Ideal Accommodation, has been given the boot.

    The situation arose after the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) discovered that Ideal had illegally partitioned apartments - thus creating 600 sub-units from 140 units - at The Grangeford condominium.

    This tactic allowed Ideal to collect more in rent. It could collect up to $8,000 by leasing one apartment to eight tenants, instead of about $4,600 by renting it out to one.

    URA told Ideal in late April that the partitions had to be torn down by yesterday, but it did not let the tenants know. Most were told only on Sunday, giving them a scant three days to clear out.

    Yesterday, the official owner of the condo, Cove Development, a unit of Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE), took action.

    It terminated Ideal's two-year lease after just five months, and gained a deadline extension from the URA.

    Cove now has till July 27 to tear down the partitions and restore the apartments.

    The tenants, mostly expatriate professionals and students from places like the United States, Hong Kong and Indonesia, will have to move out earlier than that, although the date is uncertain, said Mr Steven Ngai, OUE's company secretary.

    He said there were several options before the tenants, and that Cove would meet them soon to discuss these.

    In a statement yesterday, OUE said it decided to terminate Ideal's lease because the company sub-let illegally partitioned rooms and did not comply with URA's enforcement notice.

    URA, meanwhile, said it acted because of the unauthorised use of the Grangeford. It said it did so in response to public complaints.

    It revealed that Ideal had already been given one chance to comply with its enforcement order: The company was first told to tear down the partitions on April29, and was given a month to do so.

    Ideal then appealed, and was given a few days more, till June 3, to comply. However, it failed to do so and made another appeal for more time, which URA rejected.

    Yesterday, residents - some of whom said they were prepared to stay put even if told to go yesterday - were visibly relieved.

    Operations manager Lam Nguyen Van Ann, a Vietnamese who shares a room with her husband, said: 'I'm really happy about the new deadline. Just a few days ago, I didn't even know where I was going to stay.'

    The residents added, however, that though the immediate crisis had passed, Ideal has many more questions to answer.

    They said substantial amounts of money - agents' fees, deposits and rent that was paid upfront - are still with the company, and they want to get these back.

    Said Mrs Lam, who has been in Singapore for three years: 'What about compensation from Ideal, all our deposits and agent fees?'

    Added the 32-year-old: 'Are they going to take all our money and run away?'

    When The Straits Times visited the condo, an Ideal representative was seen discussing matters with residents.

    However, she refused to comment when approached, and instead physically attacked a photographer from this newspaper.

    Another tenant, Singaporean Kevin Chia, 27, wanted to know if the new landlord had answers.

    No, said Cove Development.

    Explained OUE's Mr Ngai: 'Their tenancy contracts are with Ideal, not us. Besides, we're victims ourselves.

    'Ideal still owes us about two months' rent, which we cannot get back despite repeated chasing. We're considering our options too.'

    He added that Cove also cannot help tenants who moved out abruptly and gave up their deposits when Ideal issued eviction notices.

    However, the company said it will move to meet tenants quickly.

    Said Mr Ngai: 'They could stay at Grangeford, or we could give them some new accommodation options.'

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    June 5, 2009


    Tenants torn between two 'landlords'

    Firms dispute property; residents await deposit returns, move-out date

    By Tan Weizhen

    THE owner and master tenant of an illegally refurbished condominium are now tussling over who the rightful landlord is of the property, leaving 200 residents wondering when they have to move out and what will become of their security deposits.

    At separate meetings with residents yesterday, both parties gave them different dates to move out of The Grangeford in Leonie Hill.

    The master tenant, Ideal Accommodation, which had carried out the renovations and rented out the rooms, said they could move out by the end of this month, while property owner Cove Development has given them till June 14.

    Tenants do not know who to believe, but noted that they have a legal contract with Ideal, and not with Cove.

    They were asked to go after the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) discovered that Ideal had illegally partitioned apartments in the condo - sold en bloc in 2007 - to create 600 sub-units from 140 units.

    URA told Ideal on April 29 to tear down the partitions by Wednesday, but most tenants were told only on Sunday, giving them three days to clear out.

    On Wednesday, Cove Development, a unit of Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE), terminated Ideal's two-year lease and gained an extension from the URA till July 27 to remove the partitions.

    But yesterday, in its first meeting with tenants in a week, Ideal said that its contracts with tenants still stand, and so does its lease agreement with Cove.

    A representative, who identified himself as Mr Lee, said to the crowd: 'We don't care what Cove says.'

    In response, Mr Steven Ngai, company secretary for OUE, told The Straits Times: 'If the tenants want to listen to Ideal and get cheated, don't blame Cove.'

    One tenant, Australian Mr Ken Williamson said: 'Both parties clearly have a communication problem. Just address our main concern - how to get our money back.'

    Ideal has told tenants, most of whom have about $1,800 deposited in security and agent fees, that the rent can be used to offset the deposits if they stayed till the end of the month. But tenants pay only $900 in rent per month, and many say they have already paid this month's.

    Mr Williamson, a computer games designer, said: 'Just let us stay till the value of our deposits runs out.'

    Some residents prefer Ideal's offer of end June to Cove's, which said residents can stay till the deadline of June 14, or it can arrange short-term accommodation with selected hotels.

    They found it hard to believe that Cove did not know Ideal had installed the illegal partitions.

    One asked at the meeting: 'You're the property owner, you have an office here, you approve Ideal's building plans, don't tell me you were not aware at all?'

    Cove said that Ideal did not submit plans for renovation works despite repeated chasing, and that it found out only through the URA.

    Residents questioned if Cove had the right to make them move out by June 14.

    Asked about the dispute, one property lawyer, Mr Eben Ong, said: 'It depends on the terms of the contract. But most contracts would not allow illegal sub-letting. If so, Cove may have a case to terminate and take over.'

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    Default Grangeford tenants can stay till June 30

    June 7, 2009 Sunday

    Grangeford tenants can stay till June 30

    Property owner gives residents of illegally partitioned condo more time to find alternatives

    By Nur Dianah Suhaimi

    Some 200 tenants of an illegally refurbished condominium in Grange Road now have more time - they have until the end of this month to vacate the building.

    Also, they will stay rent-free till then.

    The 140 apartments at The Grangeford in Leonie Hill, sold en bloc in 2007, had been illegally partitioned into 600 smaller units by the master tenant, Ideal Accommodation, so as to fetch more rent.

    But the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) discovered what was happening in April and ordered the partitions to be torn down.

    But Ideal did not inform the tenants, many of whom are foreigners, of the URA order until three days before the June 3 eviction date.

    It is not known how many tenants have left. But the rest, about 200, have stayed put, with nowhere to go at such short notice.

    Yesterday, the property's owner, Cove Development, told The Sunday Times it has extended the deadline from next Sunday to June 30 so that the remaining tenants have more time to arrange alternative accommodation.

    Last Wednesday, Cove Development terminated Ideal's two-year lease after just five months, and gained a deadline extension from the URA. It now has till July 27 to tear down the partitions and restore the apartments.

    Cove Development, a unit of Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE), is already helping some tenants get discounted lodgings at two hotels here, the Copthorne Orchid and Meritus Mandarin.

    Tenants said they were offered hotel rates ranging from $75 to $100-plus per day for a room.

    Said Mr Steven Ngai, company secretary for OUE: 'We met some of the residents yesterday. They were very happy with the new deadline. They also don't have to pay any rent for this month.'

    When contacted by The Sunday Times yesterday, some tenants were still confused about what to do next.

    Said one tenant, IT officer Nelson Ku, 25, an expatriate from Macau: 'I know that sooner or later all of us will have to move out. But what happens to our contract with Ideal? Some of us have paid half a year's rent. Will that be forfeited? It's so confusing.'

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    June 12, 2009 Friday

    Firm has partitioned units at several sites

    IDEAL Accommodation, which was behind the unauthorised refurbishment of The Grangeford condominium, is renting out partitioned apartments in at least five other developments, checks by The Straits Times found.

    One is Holland Crest, a development which was sold in a collective sale in 2007 to BBR Group.

    Residents moved out last year, and Ideal moved in to lease the empty apartments to tenants.

    At least two blocks on the grounds - blocks 19 and 21 - have partitioned units on every floor.

    Residents, who are expatriates, students and long-term tourists, say they pay about $1,800 per partitioned unit per month.

    At Dalvey Court, off Stevens Road, a walk-up apartment complex which had nine units originally, each apartment has been partitioned into three or four units.

    One studio unit - with a master bedroom and balcony - was going for $1,300.

    Some partitioned units were also found at Moonstone Apartments near Serangoon Road, No. 8 Kim Keat Road and No. 144 Race Course Road.

    Ideal was the master tenant of The Grangeford condominium in Leonie Hill Road but was booted out by the owner of the property after it failed to comply with an order by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to remove and restore its 600 partitioned rooms.

    Tenants were told of the URA order very late, leaving them little time to clear out.

    A check on the company under the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority shows that the two directors in charge are Mr Tang Yong, a Singapore PR, and Ms Tang Xuemei, a Chinese national.

    The company, started in 2004, has $170,000 in capital.

    Mr Tang Yong was uncontactable for a response.

    URA would say only that it is 'already following up on the feedback received on residential properties managed by Ideal Accommodation'.


    When partitioning of apartments is illegal

    AN URBAN Redevelopment Authority (URA) spokesman said adding partitions inside homes for family use is not illegal but letting out the partitioned units to multiple tenants, so that it becomes a dormitory, hostel or boarding house, is.

    'Residences with such unauthorised uses cause disamenity and inconvenience to residents and pose public safety concerns,' said its spokesman. For instance, People's Park Centre resident Don Kok, 30, said some owners partition their kitchens to rent out, blocking off the common rubbish chute.

    URA said unauthorised additions and alterations to apartments must be demolished and its use reverted to being a single dwelling.

    The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) also acts against such illegal partitioning.

    It issued 527 notices last year and 264 notices between January and April for unauthorised conversions to workers' quarters. Partitioning a dorm could compromise fire safety and it requires SCDF approval.

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