Condo Living: Beware of the Terrible MCST

Everyone who lives in a condo in Singapore knows how important their MCST and/or management is. Since the voting to elect the MCST is done at the AGM based on the principle of “one-unit-one-vote”, and normally only a fraction of the owners tends to attend the AGM, a minority well-organized group can “seize control” of the MCST by collecting the required number of proxy votes. In Singapore, this has given rise to some horror stories of out-of-control MCSTs. So retirees beware – if you are planning to enjoy your retirement in a condo, make sure you do due diligence of the type of MCST that is controlling your condo!

  • Neptune Court management spent the condo’s money to the tune of $427,000 in legal fees to sue 26 of it own residents when the committee took offence for two proposed resolutions submitted for consideration at an AGM. The committee claimed to have decided to sue to “protect the committee’s integrity”. To make matters worse, the committed parked the expense under “privatisation expense” and never seeked further approval before spending that massive amount on behalf of the owners. The court ruled that it was an abuse of power by the committee and ordered them to pay back to the owner’s association. The horror story that began in 2012 ended in May 2017 when the residents voted in a new committee at an AGM attended by over 200 residents. This effectively ended the term of outgoing president, Tommy Wong, who held the post from 2008! The outgoing committee then had to appeal for 12-months to repay almost a quarter of a million dollars!
  • If you live in a HDB, you may have seen this spray painted on doors: “O$P$” — which means “owe money pay money”. This is a well used method by “ah longs” to collect money owed by harassing and shaming the defaulter. However some condo management have taken a leaf from the old “ah long” playbook. Reported in 2010 by the New Paper (original link is removed but a copy of the article can be found here), the condo committee would paste the names of residents and the amount they owe next to letterboxes and lifts as way of exposing these “bad” residents. Some residents were upset and felt that such tactics belong only to “ah longs” — and certainly not in condo management. Even if fees were not paid, the residents should clearly have the right to not have their privacy violated.
  • There is nothing wrong with condo owners trying to preserve the aesthetics of their condo. In this case, the committee repeatedly turned down the application by one resident on the 13th floor to place child safety grills citing that it would affect the aesthetics of the condo. In a win for child safety over aesthetics, the Strata Title Board(STB) made clear in a 2015 ruling against 7 One North Residences (ONR) in Buona Vista citing “that children’s safety must be the overriding concern and the MC should support other such applications.” Good for the STB and a relieve for families in high floors with balconies living with small children. This is clearly an important landmark ruling.
  • Nothing creates chaos in a condo living faster than an ensuing en bloc war between the proponents and those who oppose it. It is reported recently that en bloc wars are heating up again and things can get real ugly. Many seniors who do not need the money and love where the live will typically oppose en bloc sales. But things are not that simple — they have to be prepared for many months of in-fighting between the two groups. A common complain is the side that has control of the management committee is seen to have the upper hand. In the case of Cashew Height en bloc fight, this is what a frustrated resident said: “They have the cooperation of the Management Council. And they have the law on their side – all they need to do is to hold the requisite EGMs… It’s a completely one-sided battle.” In another case involving Pine Grove, law suits have been filed pitting the former head of the management council against the chairman of the en bloc sale committee. Word of advice to all seniors looking to retire in peace and tranquility – stay clear of any condos with en bloc potential. Any en bloc attempt would clearly create dysfunction in the committee or worse – a committee that is used at a tool to support or oppose such a bitter fight!

Experienced condo owners already know this – to seniors who are buying in to a condo for the first time to enjoy their retirement, a well functioning and caring MCST and/or management should be on top of your checklist. No matter how nice the unit is or how prestigious the address, do your homework before taking the plunge. Or regret later.

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