Johor condo delays upset Singapore buyers

Complaints also include changes to the plans and completion date

A group of Singaporeans who bought units in a Johor Baru condominium have faced repeated construction delays, changes to the plans and confusing information about when the complex will be ready.

The developer says some of the delays stem from labour shortages and problems sourcing materials. It also says some buyers did not fully understand the terms of the contract.

Investors have asked about the completion date five times for the 602-unit KSL D'Esplanade Residence, only to be told it has been put back.

One told The Straits Times that when he bought his RM750,000 (S$298,800) unit two years ago, the developer told him that the project was already 80 per cent complete.

But in April this year, buyers were told that the development - it sits on top of KSL City Mall as part of a mixed-use development with a hotel - was still only 80 per cent complete and expected to be ready in July.

KSL Holdings, a Malaysian company listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, is still marketing the condominium, and the average price is RM950 per sq ft. Unit sizes range from 1,267 sq ft to 2,023 sq ft.

A spokesman for developer KSL Holdings told The Straits Times that the 80 per cent completion rate cited in 2011 referred to the lower floors and that "every floor has a different completion date".

She noted that just like in Singapore, projects are given a five-year grace period for completion.

"But projects first get three years unless you apply for an extension, which we did not plan for. If we had applied for the extension to five years, this year would have been the fifth year, and we'd be in time to complete the project."

The firm said the sales and purchase agreement begins only on the date of purchase, not the day which construction started. That means every buyer's three-year duration started at a different date. It also means if the project is completed within three years of the sales and purchase agreement, there is little disgruntled buyers can do.

The KSL spokesman noted that completing the project within three years would have been difficult given manpower issues over the past two years caused by government curbs on foreign labour. She said that the condo was completed last month, apart from glass installations that were affected by late supplies.

When The Straits Times visited the site earlier this month, workers were installing the last glass panel and said the development is expected to be completed next month.

But delays are not the only issue for the 10 or so Singaporean buyers who came together on an online forum. They claim they are being short-changed as the project now does not fully reflect the plans at time of purchase.

The brochures said the hotel would have amenities including an 18-hole mini-golf course but last October, buyers found out it had been replaced by a water theme park.

A Singaporean buyer who declined to be named said: "I did not buy the unit to stay next to a wonderland."

The KSL spokesman said: "That area is not part of the residential area; it belongs to the hotel, and the hotel management has the right to change anything."

The experience has left some fed-up buyers regretting they did not read the fine print more closely. The buyer warned: "Check the surveyor report and the clauses in the contract, and what is named in the brochure before you decide to purchase."

rachaelb@sph.com.sg