Leonie Towers case

Leonie Towers case: Condo owners want to take cooling towers spat to court

The central cooling tower on one of the blocks at Leonie Towers. A majority of residents want to dismantle the condo's cooling system
The central cooling tower on one of the blocks at Leonie Towers. A majority of residents want to dismantle the condo's cooling system.. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The spat between Leonie Towers residents and a lone dissenter over the bid to tear down the condominium's cooling towers is set to be taken to the High Court for a final decision.

At an extraordinary general meeting held last Friday, owners voted by a 80.9 per cent majority to appeal against the Strata Titles Board's decision earlier this month.

Leonie Towers' management corporation (MC) wanted to dismantle the cooling system, which has outlived its estimated service life of 20 years. The MC was backed by 82 per cent of unit owners at a meeting last year.

The owners then enacted a by-law under the Building Maintenance and Strata Management (BMSM) Act to allow the MC to proceed.

But dissenting unit owner Yap Choo Moi, 67, successfully applied to the Strata Titles Board (STB) to invalidate the by-law last year.

The three-member STB, in a novel ruling, blocked the MC's bid. It said the relevant laws do not allow the MC to dispose of common property like the air-conditioning system.

Leonie Towers, in the River Valley Road area, has 92 units in two tower blocks, each 25 storeys high.

Among other things, consulting engineers hired to study the system reported that there was corrosion in the steel piping, which required expensive replacements. Major repairs would cost $520,000, a replacement system would cost $750,000, while removing the cooling towers would cost only $85,000.

Madam Yap told the STB that removing the cooling towers would require her to install a new system, which would "lower her quality of life".

In its decision, the STB said there is no provision in the BMSM Act or the Land Titles (Strata) Act that allows for a MC to dispose of common property. And even if this could be done, it could be done only by way of a unanimous resolution, the STB said.

Leonie Towers MC chairman Pearl Lim told The Straits Times that the decision to seek the High Court's permission to appeal against the STB's decision was necessary.

"We are paying about $4,500 monthly in servicing and maintaining the cooling towers excluding the electricity bill. The cooling towers also pose safety hazards for the guards who go up there daily."

Mrs Lim said the MC will carry out mediation talks with Madam Yap to resolve the issue, with two other residents acting as mediators.

Mrs Lim credited the MC's lawyer Toh Kok Seng, who had raised the mediation option and advised that "it is always good to come to an amicable conclusion", she said.

"Our role is to serve for the general good."

Madam Yap, speaking through her lawyer Valerie Ang, said last night that she would not be in a position to comment until after the appeal has been filed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2017, with the headline 'Condo owners want to take cooling towers spat to court'. Print Edition | Subscribe