Property dispute in Batam leaves some Singaporeans anxious

A photo sent by a British expat living at Indah Puri Golf Resort, which shows recent demolition work done on Block 6. PHOTO: ST READER

SINGAPORE - A group of Singaporeans who had bought properties in Batam, hoping they would be able to extend the leases when they were up, are now embroiled in a dispute with Indonesian developers.

On Dec 13, the management of Indah Puri Golf Resort sent in heavy machinery to begin demolition work on Block 1 of the 10-block complex.

Online news site Tribun Batam reported on Dec 16 that residents had blocked the heavy equipment sent to start the demolition.

In Indonesia, foreigners are allowed to buy apartments, but not landed homes.

They get 30-year leasehold titles for these units, which may be extended by another 20 years upon application.

Buyers can also later apply for an additional 30-year extension on top of the 50-year lease.

In September 2018, the 30-year lease on Indah Puri ended.

Before that, residents such as Singaporean Cynthia Wee-Hoefer and other expatriates had begun engaging developer PT Guthrie Jaya Indah Island Resort to determine what was needed for the extension of the lease.

But both sides are at an impasse.

On Thursday, Madam Wee-Hoefer sent The Straits Times images of furnishings in her apartment - which faces the golf course and the sea - being taken away by unknown men.

A day earlier, Mr Mangara Manurung, a lawyer for the developer, was quoted by CNA, as saying: "We have been very lenient towards them. Out of compassion, we let them stay for three years without paying.

"We have tried to be persuasive. We have issued warnings and legal notices. We have been very generous towards people who no longer have the right to be there."

The furnishings and appliances from Madam Cynthia Wee-Hoefer's apartment are removed by unidentified people. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MADAM CYNTHIA WEE

On Tuesday, a retiree, who asked not to be named, told ST: "Right now, all I feel is pain from watching the photographs and videos of the demolition. It has been frustrating because nobody wrote to me about the demolition."

Singaporean apartment owner Masood Faizullah Khan said the residents' efforts at negotiation have been hampered by delays.

Madam Wee-Hoefer, 70, said Singaporeans own at least 14 units at Indah Puri, and travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic have made it difficult for home owners to go to Batam to resolve the situation.

The furnishings and appliances from Madam Cynthia Wee-Hoefer's apartment are removed by unidentified people. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MADAM CYNTHIA WEE

The Batam Development Authority, also known as BP Batam, confirmed there had been several meetings between the apartment owners and the developer.

BP Batam's spokesman, Madam Ariastuty Sirait, told ST: "The mediation process facilitated by BP Batam occurred over seven times since 2018. We hope the situation between PT Guthrie Jaya Indah Island Resort Batam and apartment owners can be completed amicably."

Dr Masood, 70, told ST that in 1993, he had spent money on two apartments, garden space and renovation work.

The businessman said: "I bought the apartments because we were given assurances the lease could be extended. Nobody would have invested in them without a long-term guarantee."

He showed ST a copy of the lease agreement with PT Guthrie Jaya Indah Island Resort.

It stated that the resort can, under applicable laws and regulations, renew the lease for a further period upon the expiry of the current lease period if home owners pay a premium.

But home owners are baulking at what the property management is now asking for.

Speaking on behalf of her brother, Singaporean Pat Kwok said the offer by the Indah Puri management in October 2019 for a lease extension was above $130,000 for her brother's unit.

Recent photos on Facebook showed some residents protesting the demolition on the resort grounds, and posing for photos in front of apartments with roofs being removed.

ST understands that there are still some residents living in Indah Puri amid the ongoing demolition.

A photo sent by a British expat living at Indah Puri Golf Resort, which shows recent demolition work done on Block 6. PHOTO: ST READER

Mr Robby Batubara, a lawyer representing 60 apartment owners, including Singaporeans, said the remaining residents are reluctant to leave their apartments for fear of being locked out by the resort's security.

He added that water and electricity have been cut off.

Mr Robby, who met with the developer and BP Batam on Wednesday, said: "As far as I know, there has been no court order for the demolition.

"We are worried because it could cause problems in the future - people who want to invest in mega companies or properties in Batam may think twice about doing so."

He is filing a stop-work order on the demolition work.

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