• Will HLURB listen to condo unit buyers?

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    Emeterio Sd. Perez

    DO the officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) deserve to be called regulators? It seems some, if not all of them, end up only as observers of companies that have listed either a few or all of their outstanding common shares on the Philippine Stock Exchange

    That question is posed in today’s Due Diligencer because public investors may have already been confused over the functions of the SEC as a regulatory body. As a matter of fact, for a reason or reasons not publicly known, only the majority stockholders of listed companies may be more familiar than the public with the SEC and its officials.

    Will somebody from among the public investors explain why to Due Diligencer and the readers of The Manila Times?

    If SEC officials really deserve to be labelled as securities regulators, then they should be able to well explain why the public ownership reports (POR) attribute much of a listed company’s outstanding common shares to public investors, making them either significant stockholders or majority owners, and yet such public investors have never been enabled to elect their nominee/s to the board.

    Perhaps, these public investors – legitimate owners of listed common shares as they are – would want to hear an explanation from the SEC officials.

    SMDC again

    A number of readers of The Manila Times have been emailing Due Diligencer since the piece “Buying SMDC condo unit is not always fun” appeared in this space on Aug. 23, 2015.

    The latest email sender had similar complaints like those earlier received by Due Diligencer:

    Aleris Salonga, who owns a unit at SMDC Sea Residence, wrote on Jan. 27 this year to ask if Due Diligencer could help “bring to the attention of the public” her sad experience with SMDC. She probably meant to warn prospective unit buyers of the SMDC condominium project against what she described as “condo admins malpractice.”

    The four-letter acronym stands for SM Development Corp., from the original SM (Shoe Mart) business owned by businessman Henry Sy Sr. and his family.

    Changing the rules

    Why should a condo unit buyer complain against SMDC?

    The answers are in one of the email attachments suggesting that SMDC has perfected the practice of enticing condo buyers into investing in their project only to disappoint them later on by coming out with new rules.
    Unluckily for those who bit into the company’s sales talk, they found a sudden change in policies disadvantageous to SMDC “investors.”

    Have these unit owners been cheated? If they had been victims of sales talk, they can always go to the HLURB, which is short for Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. Hopefully, the agency’s officials would care to listen. Will they?

    To those who have been victimized by condominium developers into investing in a unit, you are not alone in your predicament. Others have emailed Due Diligencer; some posted their comments when I wrote about the complaints of an SMDC unit buyer in the company’s Tagaytay City Wind Residence.

    Undelivered title

    A reader who identified himself as Banjo Suarez commented on Aug. 27, 2015. “We have fully paid our unit since more than two years ago but to this day our unit in Sea Residence in Mall of Asia has not been delivered to us…. I do not know why SMDC cannot deliver the Condominium Certificate of Title.”

    “We have a corner unit and it’s also affected by two big posts, which SMDC included as part of the size of the unit in the contract – a clear violation, because under the Condominium Act, the posts of a condo building are considered included in the group of common areas, which should not form part of the unit. The effect of this misrepresentation is a double whammy to the buyer who will have to suffer the cost of an overpayment for the unit and bloated association dues.”

    A certain “Juancho” wrote: “Buying a condominium unit is really not fun. I am also a victim of sweet-talking ‘sales representatives’ as they call themselves. I bought a unit in one of Villar’s condominiums and they let me sign documents, but did not show them to me.”

    Juancho wrote that his agony began from the time he secured documents for a Pag-Ibig Housing loan. “The bank did not prepare documents needed by Pag-Ibig Fund. The worst thing I found out, even the CAR (Certificate of Assignment for Registration) with the BIR was not yet paid or settled with the partner developer Polar Mines, now Vista Residence.

    “It took me one year following up all by myself to get all those documents, even though I have already secured a Loan Guaranty from the Pag-Ibig Fund.”

    Finally, Juancho asked: Where is HLURB action in this particular case in which the victim is an OFW?

    Sorry to disappoint Juancho and others who posted their reactions to Due Diligencer’s piece, I don’t have the answer. My response would be another poser: If HLURB is unable to and will not help Aleris, Banjo and Juancho, who will?

    esdperez@gmail.com

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