Row over running of Pine Grove condo ends

But battle not over as previous management council seeks to start legal challenge

A stand-off at Pine Grove's management office on Monday saw police being called to the scene.
A stand-off at Pine Grove's management office on Monday saw police being called to the scene. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

A six-month impasse over who should run the Pine Grove condominium has ended with the outgoing management council (MC) handing over to the group elected last November.

The keys to the management office were given to the new managing agent on Monday, after an all-day affair which saw the police called in for assistance.

The tussle between the two MCs arose when the 22nd MC refused to recognise the outcome of the annual general meeting, during which a fresh team was elected to form the 23rd MC. The 22nd MC, which had tried to postpone the AGM at the last minute, insisted on the status quo pending a fresh election.

Its appointed managing agent continued operations despite being notified several months ago that its services had been terminated by the 23rd MC, which had appointed a new managing agent.

It relented only after the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) stepped in and issued compliance notices to the 22nd MC and its managing agent, said MC23 chairman Cheryn Chan.

"Now that the impasse has finally been resolved, we will focus our attention on the pressing issues in the estate," she said yesterday.

On Monday, Mr Chan Yuen, a condo resident tasked to hold the keys to the management office, handed them over to MC23 members, after he was cleared to do so.

Madam Chan said Mr Chan was an independent resident at the scene last Friday when an intended handover fell through. She added the management office was then locked up and the keys handed to him with the issue to be settled on Monday with a fresh BCA directive.

Representatives of MC22's managing agent led by Mr Sebastian Chua arrived at about noon to properly hand over the Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST) office and retrieve personal items.

The 22nd MC chairman, Mrs Kogi Murthi, said on Monday: "We have handed over the MCST office between managing agent to managing agent. The 22nd management council does not keep any MCST documents or records; everything is in the MCST office."

But she made clear MC22's legal challenge is just beginning, saying: "We will be applying to the Strata Titles Board to seek clarity..."

Looking ahead, Madam Chan said MC23 will focus on the pressing issues in the estate with the welfare and interest of residents as the paramount concern.

"In particular, the spectre of Covid-19 is still hanging over us. This is a matter of prime concern as there is a significant number of senior citizens who are particularly vulnerable in the event of an infection. Another matter of immediate concern is the support we intend to give to the Ulu Pandan Community Centre to finalise the process of accommodating the foreign workers at the ex-Nexus International School next to the estate."

Lawyers say the case is unusual as the gap of some six months between the handover of office has raised uncharted issues over who is actually authorised to use estate funds or approve payments such as for estate services in the interim.

Mr Terence Fernandez, a consultant negotiator from the Good Negotiation Company speaking as an observer, said anyone who volunteers for an MC position should understand they represent and serve the residents' interests and objectives must be clearly defined.

'Surprisingly, many constitutions are outdated and may need to be updated, to address ambiguity and clearly address potential disputes such as this."

He said there should be a clear plan for handing or taking over for all MC members, one month prior to the elections. "This way, regardless of the outcome, processes are already set in place to welcome a new committee," said Mr Fernandez, who is also president of Serangoon Gardens Country Club.

Pine Grove, located near Mount Sinai and Holland Road, comprises 660 units on land of some 893,000 sq ft, one of the most spacious condo sites in Singapore.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2020, with the headline Row over running of Pine Grove condo ends. Subscribe