SINGAPORE: Dairy Farm Residences Condo owners are upset as the advertised maintenance fees have more than doubled. The newly developed condominium by United Engineers’ issue came to light on Oct 9 when a resident shared a Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) letter from the developer’s lawyers, requesting an upfront payment of six months’ maintenance fees. This unexpected financial burden has left many condo owners grappling with fees double their initially anticipated amount.

An anonymous resident in his 30s revealed, “We were under the impression that the maintenance cost for our three-bedroom flat would be between S$260 and S$280. However, we ended up paying close to S$4,300 for six months, equating to more than £700 a month.” This sentiment was echoed by five other residents, as reported by Channel News Asia.

Dairy Farm Residences, described as the first integrated development in the Dairy Farm area, is located at the junction of Petir Road and Dairy Farm Road, accessible via Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) and the MRT Downtown Line 2. The unexpected spike in maintenance fees has prompted residents to take various actions, including initiating a petition on Change.org that has garnered nearly 600 signatures since Oct 10.

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Residents Seek Clarification from United Engineers

A group of approximately 20 residents has engaged with United Engineers to seek clarification on the fee hike. One resident in his 40s remarked that he felt he had ‘no other choice’ when he received a legal letter and a notification of added charges if he ever delayed the payment. Others highlighted the stress caused by the situation, especially for those currently renting while awaiting the completion of their flats.

Ms Soon, a 36-year-old resident working in media and advertising, emphasised the collective urgency among residents to collect their keys. She stated, “Everyone’s just very anxious to collect keys and don’t want to delay any further … because we don’t want the developers to use this (maintenance) fee dispute as an excuse to stall the key collection process.”

Notably, the lack of communication from the developer to the community has raised concerns among residents. A resident in his 30s remarked, “Up to date, we have not received any official communication from the developer regarding this whole maintenance issue that is currently being blown out of proportion.”

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Legal experts weigh in on the situation, clarifying that maintenance and sinking fees collected by unit owners are essential for the upkeep of strata title developments like Dairy Farm Residences. Dr. Edward Ti, an associate professor of law from Singapore Management University (SMU), noted that while developers provide estimates during the marketing phase, actual costs may exceed initial projections.

Huttons Asia’s senior director for data analytics, Lee Sze Teck, highlighted the challenges developers face in obtaining binding quotes for various services, especially considering the escalated costs post-COVID-19, stating, “(It) is impossible for the developer to get a contract binding quote from the various service providers from security, cleaning, landscaping, maintenance, pest control and so on”.

Dr Ti emphasised that developers are obligated to establish maintenance funds according to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act 2004, and unit owners have avenues to address excessive fees through the Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST).

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As the situation unfolds, residents await further communication from the developer and hope for a resolution that addresses their concerns and ensures transparency in future fee assessments. /TISG