Owner of $14m Sentosa Cove villa sues developer over alleged defects

SINGAPORE - A $14 million Sentosa Cove dream home turned into an "uninhabitable" nightmare for the owner of the four-storey waterfront villa, who has taken the developer to court to hold it responsible for some 492 alleged defects.

Businessman Thio Keng Thay, who is in his 70s, is claiming damages of at least $2 million from developer Sandy Island, which is part of the YTL Group.

He claimed the house was so badly built when he took possession of it in March 2012 that he decided to engage a building surveyor to inspect the defects.

Mr Thio said there were visible defects on every floor and in almost every room. The main problem was the lack of proper waterproofing, he contended.

When it rained, water pooled in the courtyard and seeped into the various rooms of the house, said Mr Thio, who submitted photographs and videos showing the ingress of rainwater.

Besides the leaks, the overall quality of the workmanship was also poor and unacceptable, he said. For instance, the built-in dishwasher was not even connected to electrical power or the water supply.

In 2014, Mr Thio took out a tender to appoint a contractor to carry out rectification works.

He is now seeking about $900,000 for the cost of the works, about $135,000 for the costs of investigating the defects and about $868,000 for the loss of use of the property between March 2012 and May 2015.

Mr Thio, who is represented by Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull, is also seeking unspecified damages over the passenger lift and the car lift on the property, which he alleged were unsafe.

In opening his case in the High Court on Tuesday (Oct 16), his lawyer had a short video played which showed puddles and dripping rainwater in various parts of the house.

The video also included demonstrations of the narrow layout in two bathrooms.

"This is not a case of the plaintiff being fussy and expecting perfection... these are serious defects which go directly towards the habitability of the house," said Mr Bull in his opening statement.

Mr Bull argued that under the sale and purchase agreement, if the developer fails to carry out rectification works to make good the defect within a specified period, the home owner is entitled to carry out his own works and recover the cost from the developer.

Sandy Island, however, argued that it is not liable to pay for the works. The developer, which is represented by Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming, said Mr Thio's claims are "undeserving of sympathy".

The developer contended it had been willing and ready to rectify genuine defects, but Mr Thio had prevented it from doing so.

Sandy Island said Mr Thio made "unreasonable" demands for the developer to provide the methodology of any rectification work, before it even had a chance to inspect the house.

It said it was denied access to the property unless it met "onerous" conditions imposed by Mr Thio, including that the rectification works be approved by and supervised by his appointed experts.

Mr Thio had also threatened the possibility of "raising the decibels" to reach a wider audience. This threat was carried out in September 2013 in an article featuring Mr Thio's claims of defects published in The Straits Times.

Sandy Island has counter-sued Mr Thio for defamation over the allegations he raised in the article.

The trial is scheduled for eight days, and each side has lined up expert witnesses to testify.

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