Residents Forced To Clean Common Areas, Query AHPETC Collection Of S&CC Charges

SINGAPORE — For more than seven months, the residents and the developer of a Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) project at Upper Serangoon Road had to clean and maintain the common areas themselves, because of an impasse involving the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) over maintenance documents.

Following discussions, the standstill at Parkland Residences was recently resolved and from next month, the town council will fulfil its duty to manage common property in public housing estates as stipulated under the Town Council Act.

However, as far as the residents and the developer are concerned, the matter is not fully resolved: Residents, several of whom had moved in as early as October last year, said that during that period, some of them continued to pay service and conservancy charges (S&CC), even though others had stopped paying as a matter of principle. Meanwhile, the developer, Kwan Hwee Investment, said it hopes to seek reimbursement for the expenses it had incurred for taking care of the common areas between November and this month.

The situation came to light after TODAY reader Julia Ng wrote to the newspaper last week about the problems she and her neighbours face at Parkland Residences.

Among other things, Ms Ng wrote about how residents were billed for the S&CC upon collecting their keys but “there were no subsequent reminders, and many of us have not been making payment”.

She added: “It did not seem required, since there was no maintenance as evidenced by the dirty corridors and surroundings, especially in the earlier months when many residents took it upon themselves to clean the corridors.”

Ms Ng said the residents understood that the development had not been handed over to the town council and that the S&CC “were collected on behalf of the HDB, which the latter denied”.

Replying to Ms Ng’s letter, HDB director (land administration) Koo-Lee Sook Chin clarified that the S&CC collected by AHPETC “are not collected on behalf of HDB”. She revealed that AHPETC had “refused to perform its duty until the developer handed over a list of documents and items specified by (the town council)”.

“HDB has clarified that these documents and items were not required for AHPETC to carry out its day-to-day cleaning and maintenance,” Mrs Koo-Lee said.

She added that as AHPETC had “refused to maintain the common areas”, the HDB asked the developer to clean the estate in the interim, “to ensure that the hygiene of residents’ living environment would not be compromised”. The developer has been cleaning the estate since Nov 12 last year, Mrs Koo-Lee said.

“Pending AHPETC’s execution of its duties to maintain the estate, HDB will work with the developer to ensure that the estate is maintained in the interim, for the benefit of all residents,” she said.

Speaking to TODAY, Mr Philip Tan, Kwan Hwee Investment’s project manager for Parkland Residences, confirmed that the AHPETC wanted HDB’s endorsement for maintenance documents — such as drawings of water supply and gas pipes and lift maintenance schedule — but the HDB disagreed.

Mr Tan said these documents are needed to assist a town council in taking over the maintenance of services. He added that the developer had deployed cleaners on a daily basis. “We hope to seek some form of reimbursements for the cleaning work that we have done since November,” he said.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, an AHPETC spokesman said the town council “agrees that there is room to improve the handover procedures between the developer, the HDB and the town council with regard to DBSS developments”. He added that the town council was “exercising its due diligence in the handover”. Nevertheless, the town council has since reviewed its internal process, he said.

The spokesman did not reply to questions on the S&CC, including which period was the AHPETC collecting the S&CC and what it intends to do with the S&CC collected. Residents at Parkland Residences said the situation has improved, but they recalled their frustrations in the initial months.

“There was a rat infestation at my block,” said resident Joyce Wong, 27. “The bins at the lift lobbies just started piling up because no one was clearing them. When residents complained, the developers took away the bins, but then we didn’t have anywhere to discard our rubbish at.”

Another resident, a homemaker who only wanted to be known as Mrs Chan, said: “We asked the HDB whether we should pay (S&CC), but they said they hadn’t handed over to the town council yet and were not collecting. When we approached the town council, they said they were collecting on behalf of HDB, but the HDB said they didn’t know anything.”

Human resource manager Sim Bee Lay, 39, said she has not paid the S&CC since she moved into her flat.

“We only received one letter and there were no reminders following that,” she added.



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