Tuesday, June 2, 2009

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

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.'

Source: Straits Times, 2 June 2009

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