The following article by Seah Sin Tong appeared in the "voices" page of the TODAY paper today:
Buying a condo or a penthouse with 'open balcony'?Potential buyers should be aware of the issues involved when buying condominium units and penthouses with an open balcony design, to avoid a situation where what they see in the showroom may not be what they get.
I moved last year into a new penthouse near
Upper Bukit Timah Roadand soon found a few problems with the open balcony.
No awning can be built over the balconies, as the developer has used up the allotted Gross Floor Area (GFA). Adding new awnings mean additional GFA, for which levies borne by the owners must be paid to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Another issue is developers' use of a trellis for balconies. Due to GFA limit, our trellis was not covered with material such as polycarbonate, causing water to spill in when it rains.
After appealing to the URA, it kindly agreed to give an exemption for the trellis to be covered with no GFA implication.
One would expect the developer to help cover the trellis, but it did not, citing that the condo was built according to the plan submitted to the authority and that there was thus no design defect.
Potential buyers should be prepared to ask questions and do research on the developer's track record before taking the plunge, particularly if an open balcony design is used, to avoid additional bills which could crop up after they take over the units.
The wife and I reckon that unless the developer has deliberately misrepresented themselves by displaying the awning or "covered" trellis in their showflats or their marketing representatives have indicated that these can be installed during their sales pitch, when in fact such structures are actually not allowed, it is primarily a case of caveat emptor.
The same goes with those "lofts" that are supposedly allowed for apartments with "double-volume" ceiling - we have been to new projects in the past whereby such loft was actually displayed in the showflat and we were told that owners can freely erect these in their units. But in actual fact, the erection of such loft are subjected to approvals from the condo management and Building Construction Authority (BCA).
So when in doubt, ASK!