The double standards followed by the Condominium Management Authority (CMA) has now come to light following the demolition of a flower trough at Trillium Residencies recently.
The CMA is the regulator to all apartment complexes in the country. Since it is the regulator, it is bound to address the issues faced by apartment owners. However, according to some residents of Chelsea Manor Apartments at Col. T.G. Jayawardene Mawatha, Colombo 3, the CMA looks after the interest of only the affluent owners instead of the not so affluent. These residents allege that the CMA management, which failed to resolve a major issue faced by the less affluent owners during the past decade, was quick to take action on a complaint they received from a celebrity, recently.
“Does the CMA take action only if it receives a complaint from a public figure, but not by any ordinary resident?” queried residents of Chelsea Manor Apartments.
- Jayasuriya had been given a slot earlier, but later the developer had used it to install the fire and water pump stations
- residents at Chelsea Manor Apartments have raised questions as to why the CMA could attend to a complaint lodged recently
- The rooftop in the apartment has been allocated for the exclusive use of all residents
- As per the condominium plan three rooftop gardens out of the four have been allocated for exclusive use by unit owners
- Therefore, CMA is in a difficulty to approve the said condominium plan
Former Sri Lankan Cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya had lodged a complaint with the CMA seeking its intervention to obtain a parking slot for him as per his rights as an owner of an apartment at Trillium Residencies (TR) Borella. According to Jayasuriya, he had been denied of a parking slot within the same wing since the very inception. Upon receiving the complaint, it is alleged that the CMA had taken immediate action to address Jayasuriya’s issue and got him a parking slot by demolishing a flower trough at the apartment complex recently.
However, according to the TR Property Manager Wayne Joseph, it was the Trillium Management Corporation that had first lodged the complaint with the CMA seeking their interference in the issue, as they could not find a place to allocate Jayasuriya a parking area as all parking slots had been assigned to the owners. According to Joseph, Jayasuriya had been given a slot earlier, but later the developer had used it to install the fire and water pump stations. Later he had been given a visitors’ car park at the Golf Wing 8 though his apartment is at Golf Wing 6.
The title deed mentions that the roof top is a common area for all 22 apartment owners. As a result of the illegal constructions, nearly 75% of the roof top has been taken over by these three parties and the rest of the residents don’t have adequate space for recreation activities over there
“The developer had allocated a car park to Jayasuriya and since it was not used by the owner, as the apartment had been rented out to Japanese till recently, the developer had used this slot to house the fire and water pump stations. Later on he had been given the visitors’ car park at Golf Wing 8. At that instance, Jayasuriya had not objected. The developer handed over the apartment complex to Trillium Management Corporation in 2010. Once Jayasuriya moved into his apartment recently he wanted us to give a parking slot at Golf Wing 6 claiming that the allocated park at Golf Wing 8 is far away from where he resides. As there was no place to be given, I wanted him to contact the developer who failed to reserve him a parking space. This issue dragged on for a few months and the CMA without prior notice came with the police and demolished the flower trough without prior notice,” Joseph told the Daily Mirror.
Following this incident, several residents at Chelsea Manor Apartments at Col. T.G. Jayawardene Mawatha, Colombo 3 have raised questions as to why the CMA could attend to a complaint lodged recently and solve the issue, but failed to take action against their repeated appeals made over the past decade regarding three illegal constructions on their roof tops.
“We are an authority which should take action against every complaint we receive from owners of condominiums after a thorough evaluation, irrespective of the complainants’ status. Ignoring the longstanding complaints lodged with this authority by the residents of a condominium in Kollupitiya, and taking swift action against the complaint recently received by cricketer Jayasuriya shows how bias the CMA is,” a very senior CMA officer told the Daily Mirror on conditions of anonymity.
However, CMA General Manager told this newspaper that the demolished flower trough had not been depicted in the original building plan hence it was an illegal structure.
“We cannot allow any illegal structure to come up according to the provisions of the Apartment Ownership Law. As the regulator of all condominiums in the country, when receiving a complaint, we attend to it immediately and solve the issues. After carrying out the inquiry into respective complaints received from Trillium Management Corporation and Sanath Jayasuriya, we found out that there was a particular wall of the flower trough which was an illegal structure which has not been depicted in the building plan. So we got it demolished and gave that space to Jayasuriya to park his vehicle,” CMA General Manager R.K. Jayaweera told the Daily Mirror.
Jayaweera further said that although Trillium Management had asked whether a court order was obtained for the demolition, there wasn’t any requirement to get a court order or an order from the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) as this was an illegal construction.
“If we have to remove a legal construction which denies an owner’s right, then we have to obtain the necessary approvals before it is removed. In this case there wasn’t any such requirement as it was an illegal construction,” Jayaweera added.
No action taken
Be that as it may, questions are now being raised as to why the CMA has failed to take action regarding three illegal constructions at the roof top of the Chelsea Manor Apartments during the past decade.
“Despite of these illegal constructions, the CMA still approved the Condominium plan although the former General Manager G.U. Upawansa in 2009 wrote to the Developer to remove the unauthorised constructions on the roof garden and make it a common area for residents,” owner of one of the apartments Samuel Thambiah told this newspaper.
According to Thambiah, it was Surveyor P. Pararasasegaram who drew the initial condominium plan no: 2735 dated November 21, 2007. According to the said plan, Roof Garden RG1, RG 2 and RG 3 have been included for the exclusive use of Units F3UB, F3UD and F3UE instead of serving as a common area for all residents.
“The rooftop in the apartment has been allocated for the exclusive use of all residents, but three apartment owners on the top floor have got their ownership extended even to the rooftop by getting illegal stairways through their apartments and reserving it for their respective usage. Therefore, the entire rooftop area is not available to all owners as a common amenity. The title deed mentions that the roof top is a common area for all 22 apartment owners. As a result of the illegal constructions, nearly 75% of the roof top has been taken over by these three parties and the rest of the residents don’t have adequate space for recreation activities over there,” Thambiah said.
The then GM, G.U. Upawansa, by letter dated August 6, 2009 to Manager Technical, HRL Homes, stated that the CMA is experiencing a difficulty in approving the condominium plan due to the illegal structures. In the letter it had also been said that if all residents give in writing that they have no objection with the illegal structures on the roof garden, the plan could be approved.
The letter further states, ‘I wish to draw your kind attention to your Condominium Plan No: 2735 dated January 21, 2007 made by Licensed Surveyor Pararajasegaram. According to the said plan, RG 1, RG 2 and RG 3 have been shown as accessory units instead of common elements.
‘Therefore, CMA is in a difficulty to approve the said condominium plan. However, if all the prospective purchases of the condominium building inform the CMA in writing that they have no objection regarding the said roof garden (turfed area) as accessory units, your request along with the said no objection letter can be tabled at the next board meeting of the CMA for its approval’.
“Although the owners on the mezzanine floor made an attempt to get the signatures for the no objection letter on behalf of their friends on the top most floor, none of the other residents give their consent to the proposal,” Thambiah claimed.
Since the developer did not take any action to demolish the three structures on the roof garden, Upawansa once again by letter dated September 25, 2009 informed the Managing Director, HRL Homes that approvals cannot be given to the condominium plan unless all residents have free access to the roof garden and it is available for use by all unit owners.
The letter further states, ‘I wish to draw your kind attention to the application dated June 20, 2008 on the above subject.
‘According to the approved building plan submitted by you bearing number P/BA/294/05 dated October 9, 2006 in relation to Chelsea Manor Apartment complex, roof gardens are shown in five different locations as mentioned in the said Approved building plan. These roof gardens shall be turfed areas and shall be open to the sky.
‘As per the condominium plan bearing No: 2735 dated November 11, 2007 made by P.Pararasasegaram, licensed surveyor, three rooftop gardens out of the four have been allocated for exclusive use by unit owners F3UB, 3UD and 3UE in the 3rd floor. This Authority has observed, during an inspection visit that you have constructed exclusive office room and other structures on the said rooftop gardens which are supposed to be turfed areas and have closed to the sky which are violations of the said approved building plan.
According to the provisions of the Apartment Ownership Law, the rooftop of the condominium building is a common element which cannot be allocated to any units. Thus it should be free access area to all residents of the respective buildings and shall be used by all unit owners. Moreover rooftop areas are used for emergency exit in case of airlifting casualties
Apartment Ownership Law
‘According to the provisions of the Apartment Ownership Law, the rooftop of the condominium building is a common element which cannot be allocated to any units. Thus it should be free access area to all residents of the respective buildings and shall be used by all unit owners. Moreover rooftop areas are used for emergency exit in case of airlifting casualties.
‘Hence you are hereby instructed to remove the said unauthorised construction on the roof garden in accordance with the approved building plan. Also you are hereby instructed to mention the said roof garden as a common element in the condominium plan and accordingly said condominium plan should be amended.
‘Besides you are hereby directed to submit the title report recently obtained regarding the above condominium property.Unless the said requirements are adhered to, the CMA will find it difficult to process your application’.
Despite the flaws in the original plan, the second plan No: 3405 dated January 20, 2014 and prepared by S. Krishnapillai, Licensed Surveyor and Leveler, once again depicted that the roof garden on top of the building is for the common use of all residents but further states that the roof garden on top of apartment CPF3P5 with stairway is for the exclusive use of apartment CPF3P5. It was the same for apartments CPF3P1 and CPF3P2.
According to Thambiah, although most of the owners moved into their respective apartments in 2006, the title deeds were not given as the building plan was not approved by the CMA because of these three illegal structures. “Despite our repeated appeals and the then General Manager’s orders given to the developer HRL Homes to demolish the said structures, all given instructions were ignored by the developer.
After the former GM went on retirement he was replaced by the present GM. A new plan was then made (plan no 3405) on January 20, 2014 to which approval was granted despite of our agitation as there were many flaws including the three illegal structures. If the CMA could take immediate action against the Trillium illegal structure, why couldn’t they demolish the illegal structures at our apartment complex as well? Is it because these three belongs to influential parties?” Thambiah queried.
However, Jayaweera was not able to respond when asked why the condominium plan was approved by the CMA despite the former GM had clearly stated that the plan cannot be approved due to the illegal structures and why he took quick action to demolish the flower trough at TR.
“We slowly attend to these complaints. Jayasuriya made the complaint well before the residents of Chelsea Manor Apartments lodged the complaints,” Jayaweera said.
Although General Manager of CMA claims as such, this newspaper is in possession of all documents that show not only the complaints lodged by residents of Chelsea Manor with the CMA in 2009, but also the letters drafted by the former General Manager to the developer in 2009 that the approvals cannot be granted due to the illegal structures.