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Strata Titles Board rejects bid to replace condo's awnings

Strata Titles Board rejects bid to replace condo's awnings

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 12 Oct 2020
Author: K.C. Vijayan

In the case of [email protected] Tampines condominium, the question was whether the awnings should be allowed to remain.

In a split 2-1 decision, the Strata Titles Board has rejected the bid by the owner of an upper-floor condominium unit to replace the fixed awnings covering the private space of ground floor units with retractable awnings.

In past cases, the board had held that retractable awnings were a reasonable measure.

But in the case of [email protected] Tampines condominium, the question was whether the awnings should be allowed to remain, since they were installed without 90 per cent support from the owners for a by-law enacting their use to protect children from falling litter.

The board's president Alfonso Ang and member Tang Hang Wu - the duo who held the majority view - pointed to an exception in the law which states that protecting children from harm takes precedence over the need to get 90 per cent approval of the by-law for the awnings.

This exception is provided for in paragraph 5(3) of the Second Schedule of the Building Maintenance (Strata Management) Regulations, they noted in judgment grounds that the board issued last month.

The saga began in October last year, when Madam Lee Soh Geok, who owns a second-floor unit at the condo, applied to the board to remove and replace the awnings.

She cited the "slew of problems" that fixed awnings created for owners who lived on the upper floors in particular, according to the judgment grounds.

Madam Lee also referred to tensions that arose from the related conflicts, which stemmed from the time the fixed awnings were put up after people began moving into their homes from 2016.

Madam Lee, who represented herself, called for the installation of retractable awnings.

Such awnings, she argued, had been accepted by the board in earlier cases "as a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the killer litter problem".

The condo management corporation's (MC) lawyer, Mr Daniel Chen, countered that it is entitled to decide on awning design and had opted for fixed awnings.

The board accepted that the 90 per cent approval for the fixed awnings was never obtained at various annual general meetings. Still, it was "satisfied the MC has shown there was a killer litter problem before the fixed awnings were installed".

The lone dissenting panel member, Mr Ter Kim Cheu, held that the awnings should be removed as the law cited by the majority did not override the need to get authorisation through a by-law that is officially approved by 90 per cent of owners. He said removal would not be required if the 90 per cent approval is obtained within six months.

He also said the statutory framework does not provide any exception for safety measures. "If it is deemed desirable to do so, it is for Parliament, not the board or the MC, to provide for such exception."

Mr Chen, in a post on the case on the Lee & Lee law firm's website, said the dissenting opinion has cast some doubt on the majority's view and, therefore, also the board's previous decisions.

"In the absence of any amendments (by Parliament), it looks likely that there will be further litigation over awnings over (private enclosed spaces) in strata titled developments in Singapore," he added.

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


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