Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Rogue residents - Several not paying maintenance fees in gated communities

Published:Sunday | May 7, 2017 | 5:00 AMCorey Robinson
A motorist waiting to enter the New Harbour Housing Scheme in Old Harbour, St Catherine.

Visitors to some gated communities in the Corporate Area and St Catherine are being given the cold shoulder by security guards at the entrances to these schemes because the residents they are visiting are delinquent in the payment of maintenance fees.

This is one of the strategies some management agencies and citizens' associations have had to employ to in a bid to collect the money from homeowners who have not paid outstanding fees.

"Persons want to live there. They want the luxury and ability to say that they are living there, but when it comes to payment that is where the problem is. People don't feel they need to pay the money," said Laurence Peart, a former executive of the New Harbour Village Citizens' Association Phase I.

Peart quit the association disappointed and dejected after he concluded that many of his neighbours did not share his passion for community development, and were not paying the minimum $1,000 monthly fee for maintenance.

The maintenance fee is for the general upkeep of common spaces, including bushing the park, paying the electricity and telephone bills for the entrance booths, and paying the security guards - who have resorted to turning a blind eye in protest as visitors of non-paying residents honk and curse while waiting on their hosts.

"They don't feel that it is important to pay. That is basically it. Our fee is $1,000 and that is still a problem," said Peart, as he charged that less than five per cent of the residents are up-to-date with the payment of the monthly charge.

Peart said that the association has tried waylaying delinquent residents at the entrance of the community, threatening to publish the names of delinquent residents to embarrass them, and leaving the entrance open, putting all the homeowners at risk.'

 

'OPEN IT YOURSELF'

 

Yet, this has not worked and now the security guards take joy in watching residents sprint from their homes to open the gates for their waiting guests.

A security guard at the entrance to one of the New Harbour phases said his protest is simple.

"Them not paying us to open it for them so them have to come up and open it up themselves. There's nothing more to it," said the guard, shrugging his shoulder with indifference.

"It just goes to show how difficult some of them are."

Peart said that the association cannot force the residents to pay up as the community is not a part of a housing strata.

"In our scheme, it is not mandatory like in Caribbean Estates or at other places where they can carry the people to court because they are guided by the Strata [Act]. So for us, it is even worse," said Peart.

He charged that all phases of the New Harbour Village are affected by residents who do not pay their fees.

Other communities, including Caymanas Estates, Caribbean Estates, and Union Estates in St Catherine are also struggling with this issue, but last week, property managers for two of these schemes refused to speak with our news team.

But Raam Naraysingh, property manager at Caymanas Estate, said some homeowners are not paying the $4,700 maintenance fees and could be hit with legal action soon.

"You know, you came with the understanding that you had to pay a monthly fee (for) the upkeep of the security, for the common areas. You have to pay for the maintenance of the pool too," said Naraysingh.

He noted that residents who do not use these spaces or the pool are still required to pay the fee.

 

85 per cent compliance

 

According to Naraysingh, the community is about 85 per cent compliant with payments and preparations are being made to take at least 10 delinquent residents to court. He said the residents have been delinquent for a minimum of five months.

"Once I call you and send you a letter. Then after that, I send you another letter and you don't reply, then it's straight to the lawyer," said Naraysingh.

"Frankly, why it is taking so long for these (delinquent) persons is that we are currently engaging a lawyer to put on retainer. You want to ensure that people have a price to pay."

Craig Francis, a commissioned land surveyor and managing director of Precision Surveying Services Limited, confirmed that the problem is one facing many gated communities, and pointed out that taking residents to court will cost the agency or associations representing the communities much-needed funds.

"They will have to take you to court and we know how the legal system is in Jamaica. It may take you two or three years to recover your money," said Francis.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com