Trust condo | Inquirer Business

Trust condo | Inquirer Business

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By now, that 35-year-old presidential decree—issued during the Marcos dictatorship, entitled “The Subdivision and Condominium Buyer’s Protective Decree,” known as PD 957 in the real estate business—must be terribly outdated.

For one, its implementing rules and regulations are skewed toward subdivisions, and hardly anything in them pertains to the fast-rising sector in the real estate business—those high-rise buildings called “condo.”

Let us say that you bought a condo unit, and you have complaints against the developer, who do you call? Well, according to the present rules, you go to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, or the HLURB. I checked with the office. They hardly have any rules regarding condos.

At one time, of course, military rebel turned lawmaker Sen. Antonio Trillanes filed a bill seeking to amend PD 957, similar to a bill filed in the House of Representatives by the lawmaker from Tarlac, Rep. Susan Yap. That was it.

In the real estate business, as thousands of condo units are being sold even before the developers can dig the first hole in the ground, they are saying it is time for us to have a comprehensive law on condo development. Amen.

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Nowadays, we see the name of New York-based real estate magnate Donald Trump plastered all over the condo development project at the former site of an international school on Kalayaan Avenue in Makati.
It is called “Trump Tower Manila,” and Donald Trump has nothing to do with it except the use of his name. The owner is Century City Development Corp., under the umbrella of Century Properties Group. It seems that, based on news reports, Century Group uses the “Trump” name under license from Trump Marks Philippines. Perhaps the Trump name can help the Century group in selling the condo units. I guess it was a marketing coup of sorts for the Century group.

But what if, by some quirk of fate, Donald Trump decides to withdraw his name from the project, which the Trump group can very do. The agreement between them and Century, from what I heard, contains stringent terms and conditions. Failure by Century to meet them allows the Trump group to withdraw the use of the Trump name.

Now, the Internet teems with horror stories about certain condo projects, and a number of them involve projects of Century. I read one story about a bridge way that, as a solemn promise by the developer in the marketing stage, was supposed to connect one of the many Century condo projects to a commercial complex across the street. The bridge way is still missing up to now.

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Everywhere you find sales promos for condo units. We are also besieged by text messages, offering to sell lots in new “luxurious” subdivisions in Laguna or condo units in Metro Manila. You may also have received this message: “the best priced Rockwell Condo for as low as P16,000/mo. No down. 0 interest! Call Acqua Residences 09178880274.”

Now Rockwell is the posh real estate development project of Rockwell Land, which belongs to the Lopez group (Meralco, ABS-CBN etc.), at the former “Rockwell” power plant in Makati. That text message about the easy payment terms for a “Rockwell” condo could really grab your attention.

Now, if you check with Rockwell Land regarding such an offer, you may be in for a big-time disappointment. It did not come from the Lopez group. As it turned out, the “Rockwell Condo” referred in the text message is a project of Century Properties, the one named Acqua. It only happens that the Acqua project is located at Mandaluyong City, along Pasig River, right across from the posh Rockwell Center, which is in Makati.

From what I gathered from the promo people of Century Properties, the group has also started the “pre-selling” (i.e. even before the first hole was dug) of the third condo in the project. Again, that’s already the third building, meaning, the first two buildings must have been pre-sold already.

And what assurance can buyers of the pre-sold units hold on to, except perhaps the reputation of the Century group, which promised buyers that the Acqua model units would be ready by this month. There is not a single one ready as of last week.

If you check the Century group’s website, you may indeed get a good impression of the Acqua project. The site showed tall buildings surrounded by trees, bordered by road structures similar to the “Skyway” at the South Luzon tollway. It looks like an oasis. The only thing is this: It is not real. It is all computer generated graphics, an artist’s representation of the project, a cyber-table model.

In the promo materials for the project, the Century group has this disclaimer to offer: “The images and details shown herein are artist’s renditions and are intended for illustration purposes only. While the information are based on present plans, which have been created with great care and effort, the developers reserve the right to change the proposed project features, amenities, prices and terms without prior notice. It is then recommended that the client confirm their accuracy and subsequent changes, if any. Further, the client holds the developer free from any legal and financial claims resulting from the information contained herein.”

Look at that: Nobody can hold Century Properties liable for “legal or financial claims” whatever the Acqua project turns out to be.

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As part of its mandate under the 35-year-old PD 957, the HLURB issues licenses to both subdivision and condo developers. Thus HLURB acts a quasi-judicial body in cases filed by consumers against the developers.

Among the penalties that the HLURB can impose on cheating developers is the cancelation of their licenses.

Did the HLURB ever cancel the license of any condo developer, even just penalized the company with some stiff fines? Well, let us just say that, for their protection, after spending millions of pesos on a condo unit, the buyers must have innate trust enough to rely purely on the developer’s flowery marketing promise.

I just thought there ought to be law on that kind of thing."
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