Court awards condo owners more than $200,000 after 6-year battle. But it’s not over…

·  Cracks forming

 

·  Water Seeping

 

·  Paint peeling

 

Court awards condo owners more than $200,000 after 6-year battle. But it’s not over…

 

WATER from the common roof had seeped into the walls of the two condominium units.

 

By Arul John

 

 

25 April 2008

 

WATER from the common roof had seeped into the walls of the two condominium units.

 

The paint was peeling, the walls were stained and cracks were appearing.

 

The damage in one unit was so bad that the tenant ended her rental agreement and moved out.

 

A married couple who own the two apartments at Harbour View Towers took the management corporation (MC) to court when the problem persisted after their complaints.

 

Mr Cheng Fu Zay and Madam Lai Foong Har sued for damages such as loss of rental income, surveyors and valuers’ fees and assessment costs.

 

After a six-year tug-of-war, the couple were awarded more than $200,000 in damages last week.

 

The couple’s units – one on the 29th storey and another on the 30th in the same block – were rented out.

 

The couple discovered that water had seeped into the walls of both apartments because the common roof was poorly waterproofed, court documents stated, but it is not known when they discovered them.

 

The waterproofing contractor, Scott Vickers Engineering (SV), had given a 10-year warranty on the common roof. The condo was built in 1994.

 

COUPLE FILED CLAIM

 

Mr Cheng and Madam Lai filed a claim against the MC in March 2002 – two years before the waterproofing warranty expired.

 

They wanted the MC to waterproof the roof again and claimed damages.

 

At first, both sides tried mediation. But after 1 1/2 years, they were still in a deadlock.

 

In July 2005, the case ended up in the Subordinate Courts, with the waterproofing contractor named as a third party.

 

Both the MC and the waterproofing contractor admitted that the couple were liable to claim.

 

The MC then sued SV to re-waterproof the roof, which the latter finally did in November that year.

 

In April last year, the court ordered the MC to pay the couple damages of more than $300,000, which included loss of rental income of more than $200,000.

 

MC APPEALED

 

But the MC felt it should not have to pay and appealed.

 

Mr Cheng and Madam Lai also appealed to the Subordinate Courts for a higher amount for their 29th-storey unit, for which they were originally awarded about $125,500.

 

The judge dismissed their appeal and ruled that they were not entitled to claim for loss of rental income.

 

The MC was ordered to pay them only about $16,000 for both units combined, excluding interest.

 

COUPLE APPEALED

 

The MC agreed to pay this amount, but the couple appealed to the High Court last September.

 

They wanted to reclaim the earlier award of close to $100,000 for the loss of rental income for their 30th-storey unit, where the tenant moved out because of its condition.

 

They also wanted an extra of some $430,000 for the loss of rental income for the other unit, repair costs to both units, surveyors’ and valuers’ fees and interest.

 

Last week, the High Court ruled that the couple’s claim for loss of rental income was reasonable.

 

Justice Woo Bih Li said that the damage made the 30-storey unit ‘uninhabitable’.

 

The leakage had caused the staining, peeling, cracking and discolouration of the walls in three bedrooms, the living and dining rooms and the common toilet.

 

So much so the tenant was forced to terminate her rental agreement in January 2003. She had earlier sent two letters of complaint to the MC.

 

For the 29th-storey unit, the water that leaked into it had stained and discoloured the ceiling board and walls in one bedroom, and also damaged its doorframe.

 

But, Justice Woo added, the damage in this unit was not as bad. It was still in liveable condition and the tenant ended his tenancy because he had been posted overseas.

 

Justice Woo also noted that since the MC had re-waterproofed the common roof in November 2005, the earlier award for loss of rental income should be reduced.

 

The owners had earlier claimed they did not know about the re-waterproofing work until April 2006. So they did not rent out the units until after August that year as a water-flooding test had to be conducted first before the units could be rented out.

 

Justice Woo eventually awarded the couple about $170,000 for loss of rental income, about $14,000 for repair costs and surveyors’ and valuers’ fees, and $70,000 in assessment costs and interests.

 

On the MC’s argument that the couple should not be compensated for loss of rental income, Justice Woo said the issue was whether the units could have been rented to paying tenants and if the owners could have got a rental sum at the full market rate.

 

He said: ‘The MC had only itself to blame. It knew about the water seepage problem and that its own expert(s)… had recommended that the common roof be re-waterproofed.’

 

Instead, the MC had relied on its contractor and the warranty conditions to take remedial action, but there were delays.

 

MC APPEALING

 

The MC is appealing against the decision.

 

Mr Cheng and Madam Lai declined comment when contacted by The NewPaper.

 

Source: The New Paper

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