April 25, 2014 00:00 By Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn
At the time of rapid expansion and booming property sector, many housing estates in Pattaya ended up being poorly maintained, which created problems between project owners and residents.
Since many developers had several housing and condominium projects at hand, they often chose to shift their focus from older developments to pay attention to new ones in order to cash in on target buyers.
The 64-unit Pattaya Thanee is one such example, where homebuyers, mostly foreigners, have been suffering serious problems from poor maintenance, lack of utilities, security and hygiene issues – leading to a major dispute between the two sides, with the case now being brought to court.
Kevin Fisher, managing director of CEA Project Logistics and a homeowner at Pattaya Thanee, said he had bought a second-hand unit at the project in December 2009. He said he bought the unit because he did not just want a home, but also wanted to enjoy the "community spirit" at the estate.
"I have been in Pattaya for 22 years and bought this house in 2009 as it is in a good location and the house is designed well. However, the project needs to be managed correctly and properly," he said.
"The developer is greedy, has a bad attitude and does not care about the people living in the estate. The way they have been conducting business is wrong. They take your money but don’t deliver good service for that money. Everything about the Pattaya Thanee project was planned properly at the beginning, but now they have changed," Fisher added.
Developed by Land and House Natural View Co Ltd, with Pornthep Pothirangsithep as one of its top executives, the Pattaya Thanee project is located in Soi Tungkrom-Tarnman, Banglamung district, Chon Buri. The project was meant to be a luxury housing estate in Pattaya, with average price per house set at more than Bt10 million each.
However, even though it has been open for about a decade already, so far only less than 23 of the 64 units have been sold, and most of the buyers are foreigners with Thai wives who wish to live and do business in Pattaya.
Christian Veren, 37, one of buyers at Pattaya Thanee, said he bought his home in 2006 for Bt12 million because he wanted to live in Pattaya at some time in the future.
He said in the first year, the house looked really good and everything was fine. Then the project owner stopped taking care of the estate and began carting away nice plants and trees to put them in their new project – the Pattaya City Resort. Also, the street and the pool were not cleaned up.
"Security become worse, and even though there were a couple of intruders, the security staff did not catch a single one. The only thing they have been doing is stopping outside workers [hired by homeowners to fix their own homes] from coming in," Veren said.
"So the estate does not look good. It appears as if the project owner is not interested in selling any more houses and has left the estate the way it is. There is no maintenance, but they insist on charging full fees," he added.
Penkhae Hickinbottom, an associate professor at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Science and Technology, who also owns a house in the project, said Land and House Natural View Co Ltd had abandoned the project since 2009, and some houses were not even finished. People who bought houses at the project before 2009 had to pay maintenance fees for three years in advance before they could transfer ownership of the house.
"Since then, many buyers have had to suffer problems such as lack of security and hygiene. The project owner has done nothing so far," Penkhae said.
She said in August 2010, the homeowners held a meeting and decided to hire security guards and gardeners themselves. Then in mid 2011, the project owner returned and began managing the estate, before sending a bill to the homeowners. However, the residents refused to pay because the project owner did not show what the money was spent on.
"We [the homeowners] are willing to pay maintenance fees provided the project owner can show us the original receipts of what was spent on maintaining the estate," Penkhae said.
Other than ignoring the maintenance aspect, the project owner has started building semi-detached houses in the project, which was not included in the original plan. The project owner also plans to build a 15-unit commercial building in front of the estate, which was also not included in the original plan shown to the initial buyers.
"We as buyers have complained about these problems to several government agencies, including the Pattaya governor, the Pattaya Land Office and the Office of Consumer Protection. The project owner has not been good and is acting like our enemy," she said.
Jariya Tubphol, a first-hand buyer at Pattaya Thanee, said six months ago the project owner filed a lawsuit against the buyers for not paying maintenance fees, and the residents responded by joining up to counter sue.
"I have stopped paying maintenance fees because they abandoned the project. I paid three years’ maintenance fees in advance, which cost between Bt200,000 and Bt300,000, before the developer left the project completely," she said.
Sathienraphong Khumnon, a lawyer appointed by the Pattaya Thanee residents, said the homebuyers had submitted their statement to the Civil Court and were fighting the project owner’s lawsuit.
"We don’t want to break the contract by not paying the maintenance fees, but the project owner has not delivered the services as committed. We are collecting evidence to file a lawsuit against them by the end of this month for damages we suffered after they [the project owners] left the project," he said.
Thawat Thawatwong, who claims to be a partner of the project owner, said he tried to maintain the estate but the residents refused to pay the fees. "The problems the homeowners have been complaining about are not related to the evidence they have," he said.
Sakchai Tanghoh, Banglamung chief district officer, said he has been trying to resolve the conflict by hosting a meeting between the residents and the project owner. The first meeting was held on Tuesday, with the second meeting scheduled for May 7.