Residents' group takes over the helm at The Sail

Residents' group takes over the helm at The Sail
Save Our Sail task force members (clockwise from top left) Robert Ting, Richard Phua, Augustine Cheah, Victor Ng, Chong Yoke Chye, Chang Choong Kong, Wang Cheng Foon, Lian Sui Sim and Annabelle Guan.

The Sail is one of Singapore's most prestigious residential addresses, and at 70 storeys high, its tallest condominium.

Yet, behind the gleaming skyscraper that marks the Marina Bay skyline, a spat was taking place between a group of residents and the management committee it has since ousted.

Save Our Sail task force, or SOS, was formed by a group of 15 resident-owners of the 1,111-unit condo in March this year. Their unhappiness stemmed from what they claimed was the incompetency of the management committee, which comprised property agents who had supposedly collected proxies, or voting authority, from owners who had outsourced their units to them for leasing purposes.

Residents said that short-term leases were taking place, security access card systems were not upgraded to safer ones and a shattered glass panel was left unfixed. Motions that were passed during the annual general meeting in 2012, such as installing air-conditioning in the lobby, were not carried out.

Former council member Auyong Chuan, 56, who had served on the past four committees, puts the unhappiness down to a misunderstanding. He was chairman of the committee between 2011 and July last year.

Mr Auyong, a property agent, said when the first council took over in July 2010, operations were running at a deficit of S$176,000. That would mean The Sail would have to increase the residents' maintenance fees, he said. But that did not happen as he said he managed to make over S$3 million by February last year from the sale of carpark space.

He had struck down the motion to upgrade the security cards because it was a "massive exercise" that would cause disruption to residents. Besides, the new security cards could still be duplicated, he added.

SOS was adamant about raising awareness of its cause and took to knocking on doors late at night, and even had a Hong Kong representative speak to owners based there. It also went to its MP, Dr Lily Neo, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) and the Building and Construction Authority to complain.

A URA spokesman said it had launched investigations at seven units that allegedly had been used for short-term accommodation in September last year but found "no strong evidence".

If found guilty, the person responsible may be fined up to S$200,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both. URA is now working with the condo management to investigate other units.

CEA, too, said that there was insufficient evidence of a breach in the case of a particular agent who had advertised for short-term lets.

SOS member Victor Ng, 42, who is in the education industry, said that between March and June, the team managed to get 450 owners to transfer their voting rights to them, placing them in the majority.

Things came to a head on June 21 when they held the fifth AGM whichlasted 11 hours.

Mr Ng said: "We had a lot of resolutions to go through such as ... finding other ways to increase our revenue." He added: "We also needed to understand the different views that owners, lessees and commercial owners had."

The new management council now has 10 members from the SOS task force.


This article was first published on JULY 7, 2014.
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