Fuming over condo fixtures

This article is more than 12 months old

When unit owners and management corporations don't agree, cases end up before Strata Titles Board for resolution

One condominium 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, it was about preventing killer litter.

In both estates, their respective management corporations (MCs) said no.

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 their MC to have their trellises covered, but this was rejected. The trellises are part of the original design.

During mediation talks before the 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.

Last month, the STB said the spat with the nine units was settled. However, it could not grant permission for the owners of the three units located on the 13th storey, the highest floor.

The question the 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 the owners.

The 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 floor 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, the STB in March ordered the MC of a Bukit Timah condo known as Nineteen Shelford Road to allow a unit owner to install "invisible" grilles at the balcony. This has 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 the 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 the STB last year to get the MC to agree to him installing "invisible" safety grilles.

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

Law firm Lee & Lee, which represented the unit owner, said the STB's decision "affirms the legal position that safety is paramount".