Condo MC gets nod from court to remove cooling towers

The central cooling system at Leonie Towers off Grange Road. Consulting engineers hired to study the cooling system reported corrosion in the steel piping, which required expensive replacements. The system was also operating at a below-average level
The central cooling system at Leonie Towers off Grange Road. Consulting engineers hired to study the cooling system reported corrosion in the steel piping, which required expensive replacements. The system was also operating at a below-average level because 60 per cent of residents were using their own air-conditioning units.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The management corporation (MC) for Leonie Towers off Grange Road can go ahead and remove the central cooling towers servicing its 35-year- old air-conditioning system, over the objections of a resident.

In the High Court, Justice Lee Seiu Kin ruled in the MC's favour after hearing the arguments of both parties yesterday.

In doing so, he set aside the Strata Titles Board decision in March that was in favour of dissenting unit owner Yap Choo Moi.

The court held that the MC had the power to remove common property such as the cooling towers by way of a special resolution under Section 29 of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, but found it had been passed as a by-law under Section 32, which was not the correct section to enact the by-law.

The MC's proposal had been backed by 84 per cent of unit owners at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) last year, at which the by-law under the Act was enacted to empower the MC to proceed.

But Madam Yap successfully applied to the Strata Titles Board to invalidate the by-law and stop the move by the MC. Represented by lawyer Valerie Ang, she argued that the Act provided for the making of by-laws that performed a regulatory role but not for the disposal of common property.

 

The MC's lawyers Toh Kok Seng and Daniel Chen conceded that the special resolution presented at the EGM to make a by-law under Section 32 might not have been appropriate and that it should instead have been presented under Section 29(1)(d), which empowers the MC to proceed with removal of common property if it constitutes an improvement to the estate.

  • $520k

    Cost of major repairs to central cooling system.

    $750k

    Cost of a replacement system.

    $85k

    Cost of removing the system.

The judge agreed that the issue was a technicality and the special resolution would have been cleared if it had been presented to the Strata Titles Board under the appropriate section of the Act.

He held that the resolution to remove the towers was validly passed.Madam Yap was ordered to pay $3,000 in costs.

Leonie Towers comprises 92 units in two tower blocks of 25 storeys each. Consulting engineers hired to study the cooling system reported corrosion in the steel piping, which required expensive replacements. The system was also operating at a below-average level as 60 per cent of residents were using their own air-conditioning units.

The general body that voted to remove the system last year was told that major repairs would cost $520,000, a replacement system would cost $750,000, while removing it would cost only $85,000.

MC chairman Pearl Lim said removal would save about $50,000 in maintenance costs a year.

Correction note: This story has been edited to provide the correct spelling of the name of Justice Lee Seiu Kin. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'Condo MC gets nod from court to remove cooling towers'. Print Edition | Subscribe