Govt bans property company owned by ex-PRC soldier from selling its condo units

Property Developer Cui Zhengfeng

It was reported in the media today (29 Dec) that a Chinese developer, Kingsford Huray, has been banned from selling condo units by Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The Government imposed a “no-sale licence” in January this year for its project on the old Normanton Park site. Construction has actually started late last year and the Chinese developer was hoping to start selling the planned 1,890 units as soon as possible.

The ban came after multiple owners complained about shoddy workmanship and poor amenities at its other projects, including the new Kingsford Waterbay in Upper Serangoon and Kingsford Hillview Peak in Bukit Panjang.

URA told the media that the ban was imposed on the Chinese developer because it failed to meet requirements for certain building works at the Waterbay, such as its windows, barriers and common storey shelter. Feedback about shoddy workmanship from owners of its other development, the 99-year leasehold Kingsford Hillview Peak, was also taken into consideration, URA added.

At Hillview Peak, a resident who bought a 527 sq ft, one-bedroom apartment, for S$735,000 described the furnishing as sub-par: the parquet flooring was low grade, the marble in his bathroom was cracked, the kitchen counter was stained, a glass window pane was broken and the quality of his bedroom and bathroom doors left much to be desired.

“The whole unit was dusty and dirty,” he said. “I don’t even invite my family and friends over because it’s so embarrassing.”

Another Hillview Peak resident had it worse. He bought a 829 sq ft, two-bedroom unit for S$1.2 million. His complaints ranged from discolored, cracked marble flooring, to fixed window panes that seeped every time it rained. Although he got his keys in February 2017, rectification took until August before he could move in. The resident complained to the authorities and had to pay S$1,800 for a report by a chartered building surveyor who certified that the seepage was indeed due to design flaws in the building’s external facade.

Trying to win back Govt’s confidence

Soon after residents began moving into Waterbay in Upper Serangoon late last year, residents also started noticing and complaining about the developer’s shoddy work.

An owner complained that its marketing brochure showed a lot of outdoor furniture but only a few were installed. Signages were bad at the carpark. Other owners complained about scratches on doors. One resident, Mr S. Chan, in his 40s, said there was a leak in the air-conditioning unit in the master bedroom but it was eventually resolved after he complained.

The Chinese firm has been trying to improve its record. Over the past 1 year, it has been working to keep owners at Waterbay condo happy. For example, it shut and drained the 300m swimming pool for a month so it could line the edge of the stairs with tiles of a different color to make them more visible.

Waterbay owners told the media that the Chinese developer has been trying to salvage and win back buyers’ and the Government’s confidence. The developer had assigned a manager to each block to attend to residents’ complaints. Since August, residents could also inform the developer directly of any problems in their unit via an app called iPlus.

It even bent over backwards to build a fence around the condominium at its own cost after residents voiced safety and privacy concerns, even though the fence was not in the original plan of the condo.

And during the Mid-Autumn Festival this year, the developer contributed a giant cake and 40 boxes of moon cakes to a residents’ party in the Waterbay clubhouse to show its goodwill, hoping to keep the residents and the government happy.

In response to media queries, a Kingsford Huray spokesman said, “Occupancy rate of the 1,165-unit (Waterbay) project is close to 90 per cent. Defect rectification works for almost all units have already been completed. Currently, the project is awaiting legal completion.”

Certainly, the present government’s ban on Kingsford Huray to sell their condo units would undoubtedly affect the all important cash flow to the company. Urban development expert Dr Harvey Neo said it was uncommon for the authorities to impose sale restrictions on developers as this would impact their cash flow and may even impair their ability to complete projects in a timely manner.

Industry sources said they have not come across cases similar to Kingsford Huray’s. It looks like the Chinese developer has become the first one to receive a “no-sale licence” ban in Singapore in recent times.

Kingsford Huray owned by ex-PRC soldier tuned new citizen

According to a SCMP report, Kingsford group is owned by former PRC Cui Zhengfeng who lives in a 18,794 square-foot property at Sentosa Cove. The purchase made news in 2014, when he paid S$33 million for it. He was said to have joined the army at the age of 18, before taking a job as a tax officer at age 30. Not long after, he decided to use his pension fund to invest in factories, venturing into property development in 2000. He eventually came to Singapore and decided to start developing property here. He is now a Singapore new citizen.

Since arriving on the Singapore scene in 2011, his group has gained a reputation for splashing out on land for condominium projects, paying property agents more than the market rate, and hosting parties where guests go home with expensive watches won in lucky draws. In fact, his company Kingsford Huray has paid a hefty S$830 million to buy the old Normanton Park estate at well above the asking price in a collective sale, and that was before paying over S$500 million more in redevelopment fees and to top up its lease to 99 years.

MOM fines Kingsford

In July 2017, Cui’s other company, Kingsford Construction Pte Ltd, was fined S$130,000 by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) for repeated safety lapses at its then Hillview Peak worksite. The ministry said the firm had shown a “recalcitrant attitude towards workplace safety and health” and had failed to fix issues flagged by inspectors on two occasions. A MOM spokesperson said Kingsford was slapped with a stiff penalty because of its “blatant disregard for safety and its repeated failures to comply with our regulatory requirements”.

Then, in December 2017, the company was ordered to stop work at its Kingsford Waterbay project after the Building and Construction Authority received feedback about “suspected construction safety issues”. The order was lifted only after rectification works were completed.

Chi himself is believed to have acquired three Sentosa properties over the years, and relocated to Singapore with his wife Gao Xiuhua and three of their four children. Their eldest daughter, in her 20s, remained in Shenyang to oversee their mainland interests.

Today, Cui’s Sentosa Cove home is the registered office for Kingsford Huray Development and Kingsford Construction. When SCMP visited his Sentosa home earlier this year, a domestic helper said Cui was out of town. The door opened to reveal a first level filled with construction material and bundled up furniture, which others have said is a regular sight. Despite efforts to reach him, Cui was not available for comment.

With regard to the government current sales ban on Cui’s company, one angry owner of Hillview Peak said, “My first thought was, ‘It’s karma’.”

Despite all the brickbats thrown at Kingsford, the company’s website continues to insist:

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