29 June 2017
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Condos, owners tussle over fixtures

Straits Times
13 Jun 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Strata Titles Board hears cases involving trellises, balcony grilles

One condo home owner wanted to install "invisible" grilles at his balcony as a safety precaution because he has young children.

A group of 22 home owners at another condo wanted the trellises in their balconies to be covered. For some owners there, it was about preventing killer litter.

In both estates, their respective management corporations (MCs) said no. And when mediation talks failed to resolve the matter, the owners took their cases to the Strata Titles Board (STB).

The owners had some success. But in one case, STB also pointed out that the relevant law does not allow it to force the MC to allow owners exclusive use of common property.

The 22 owners of 12 units at Sunglade condo in Serangoon had applied to have their trellises covered; their MC rejected this. The trellises are part of the original design.

During mediation talks before STB in February, the MC and the owners of nine of these units, all located on the ground floor, agreed that by covering the trellises, safety would be improved by preventing killer litter.

In its decision grounds last month, STB said the spat with the nine units was settled following the mediation talks. However, it could not grant permission for the owners of the three units located on the 13th storey, the highest level.

The question STB grappled with: Would anchoring the coverings for the trellises to building walls be deemed as use of common property?

Lawyers Toh Kok Seng and Daniel Chen, who represented the owners, argued that the wall to be used was within the owners' lot and was not common property. The trellis would not be used in the installation of the coverings, they added.

The MC's lawyers Subir Singh Grewal and Jacqueline Teo countered that the wall was maintained by the MC and was common property, not open to exclusive use by owners.

STB, comprising deputy president F.G. Remedios and two board members, Dr Lim Lan Yuan and Mr Lawrence Ang, found that there would be exclusive use of common property if the trellises on the three 13th-storey units were covered.

In rejecting the applications for these owners last month, STB explained that "an order granted by the Board would equate to the Board ordering the (MC) to permit the applicants to have right to exclusive use of the common property for an unlimited period of time".

Separately, STB in March ordered the MC of a condo known as 19 Shelford Road to allow a unit owner to install "invisible" grilles at the balcony. This had to be done in accordance with the MC's proposed design, based on the design of the building facade.

The unit, on the top floor of a four-storey building, has a balcony with railings that have gaps of 20cm between each of three horizontal bars. The owner was concerned his two children aged below five would go through or over the railings and fall. He applied to STB last year to get the MC to agree to him installing "invisible" safety grilles.

STB - comprising Mr Alfonso Ang, Professor Teo Keang Sood and Mr Lim Peng Hong - overruled the MC, finding it did not provide the owner with "practical and feasible alternatives" when it refused the applicant's proposal for invisible grilles.

Law firm Lee & Lee, which represented the unit owner, said in a case update on its website that the STB decision "affirms the legal position that safety is paramount".

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.