Wednesday, January 30, 2019

22 owners’ bid to keep fixed awnings at EC rejected

Faced with the prospect of killer litter falling into the private enclosed space of their ground-floor units, 22 owners applied to the Strata Titles Boards (STB) for an order to allow fixed metal awnings to be erected.

But the STB turned down their application, saying that retractable awnings would serve the purpose.

It ruled that the management corporation's (MC) approval for a retractable awning as a safety device is justified.

"The installation of a retractable awning is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the killer litter problem," said the STB tribunal presided by Mr Alfonso Ang, with members Dr Tang Hang Wu and Mr Chng Beng Guan in decision grounds last month.

The 11 ground-floor units are at the Belysa, an executive condominium development in Pasir Ris Drive 1.

All the applicants had installed fixed awnings within the enclosed space of their respective units, anchored to concrete ledges that protrude out of the external walls.

The STB accepted that the strata development faced a killer litter problem, noting that numerous items such as a knife blade, aluminium poles, glass shards and even a tennis racket had dropped into the ground-floor units.

The relevant by-laws of the Building Maintenance (Strata Management) Regulations 2005 allow the installation of safety devices but also provide that any "safety device" must still adhere to guidelines prescribed by the MC. The MC's guidelines permitted retractable awnings.

The applicants' lawyer, Mr Toh Kok Seng, argued that the issue for the STB was whether the shelters are in fact safety devices which improve safety within the applicants' lots. He added that the presence of alternatives does not change the answer to be decided.

The MC's lawyer, Ms Teh Ee-von, countered that the applicants should use retractable awnings instead as fixed awnings annoyed second-floor unit owners as "they reflect heat, block the view and are noisy when it rains".

"The fixed shelters trap dirt and are an eyesore especially because they are not regularly cleaned," she added.

The STB found, after reviewing the evidence, retractable and not fixed awnings were the right response to the problem. It said that the MC had, in opting for retractable awnings, to juggle competing demands from different unit owners who may have conflicting interests.

COMPELLING EVIDENCE
It cited the "compelling evidence" of one second-floor unit owner who said the presence of the fixed awnings has led him to not be able to enjoy his balcony, made him suffer from depression and feel helpless.

Expressing appreciation that the applicants had installed the fixed awnings "in the good faith belief that this was the best option to protect themselves and their families", the STB explained that they must balance their needs with those of the other unit owners.

"The Board urges all parties to repair and reconcile their relationship after this application because parties are in an 'enduring property relationship'."

It added: "People who live in condominiums must out of necessity work closely with each other to make a condominium association function", quoting leading property scholar Chen Lei.