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Strata Titles Boards to review mediation, arbitration processes

Strata Titles Boards to review mediation, arbitration processes

Source: Straits Times
Date Published: 11 Feb 2019
Author: K.C. Vijayan

The new rules should help avoid a repeat of a stand-off last September between a home owner and the condominium manager that held up vital repair works affecting the entire block.

Disputes among condo owners over issues ranging from collective sale bids to water seepage could be more speedily resolved, with the Strata Titles Boards looking to improve its mediation processes.

It said in its 2018 annual report released on Feb 1 it will review the entire process of how mediation and arbitration hearings are conducted.

This is meant to improve the way proceedings are conducted and make the processes more user-friendly for both applicants and respondents, it said.

It also plans to digitise the system for collective sale and other applications, so it can do away with people having to manually complete and submit applications in person.

The new rules should help avoid a repeat of a stand-off last September between a home owner and the condominium manager that held up vital repair works affecting the entire block.

This dispute arose when the condo management wanted to replace or remove a number of pipes and other plumbing items that passed through the owner's 49th-storey unit.

Some of the pipes were connected to a central chilled water air-conditioning system that supplied the block, including offices on lower levels.

The stand-off began when the owner refused access to her apartment for the work, and the dispute ended up in the lap of the Strata Titles Boards.

After hearing all parties, it overruled the unit owner's refusal and allowed the management to undertake the work, on the condition that any damage incurred was rectified.

Strata Titles Boards president Alfonso Ang said in the report: "We will pay greater emphasis on resolving water seepage disputes expeditiously so that the party who suffers from the seepage can seek redress without long-drawn-out mediation and arbitration hearings."

He added: "Improvement with the aid of technology is the easier part. The quality of the decision-making process is more important."

It has already made progress in this area with a fast-track system introduced last year.

This helped shorten the workflow for applications and resulted in savings of around a week, compared with the previous process.

Mr Ang said the fast-track initiative helped resolve applications "expeditiously", given the spike last year in collective sale applications, which soared to more than double the preceding three years put together, among other things.

There were 43 applications for collective sales lodged last year, a far cry from the three filed in 2015, according to Strata Titles Boards data.

Last year's applications included the eventual $728 million sale of Pearl Bank Apartments in Outram, a deal that drew keen notice from conservationists, given the estate's landmark design. Another headliner was the $980 million sale of Pacific Mansion in River Valley.

Industry players attributed the collective sale surge to several factors, including the long lead time in having to clinch owner consent, which could have occurred in the preceding year.

Consultant Ku Swee Yong, co-founder of online property information portal HugProperty, said: "There would also have been the cyclical consequence of greater cash flow from previous years available to developers, and the factor of residents seeking to optimise returns on 99-year-lease developments after having used up more than 30 years of the lease."

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

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