By Marisa de Silva
What is needed for action to be taken on a building that is a public
hazard? A three-storey apartment building constructed less than
a decade ago has been a source of grave concern to the owners of
the apartments and residents of the Rajagiriya neighbourhood where
it is situated.
is now an eyesore in this picturesque suburb. Its construction is
visibly flawed. Many of the walls have deep cracks, making the entire
building unsafe for occupation and a threat to residents in the
some seven years ago, the six apartments in the building were sold
to different parties. Most of the apartments are no longer occupied
and the one on the top floor has been unoccupied for more than two
years. Recently a sunshade built on the third floor came crashing
down due to a severe infestation of white ants, said a neighbour.
The shade next to it, also on the third storey now looks in imminent
danger of collapse.
play in the neighbourhood and several vehicles are also parked below,
so parts of the building breaking off at random intervals could
cause severe injury to people or damage property, neighbours say.
complaints from residents, the UDA decided to take action. UDA Director
Enforcement Shirani Ariyathilaka said the UDA had written to Grayline
Homes (a defunct subsidiary of the main Grayline group) on numerous
occasions over the past six months.
Now, the Sri
Jayewardenepura Kotte Municipal Council (SJKMC) on the recommendation
of the Director Buildings, Department of Buildings, has acquired
the building and condemned it. Notices written on the walls state
that all walls showing signs of visual structural distress should
be demolished immediately. However, Grayline is now trying to remedy
the situation saying that they will attend to the repairs, but neighbours
remain fearful that unless action is taken immediately, homes adjoining
this building too could be in danger.
The saga of
this once-plush apartment block began over seven years ago and according
to some owners we spoke to, it proved a bitter experience for those
who hoped it would be their dream home.
(name changed) who holds the power of attorney for his brother who
is currently residing abroad, told The Sunday Times that his brother
had bought the apartment in 1996. After having completed all the
payments within a month, he had been promised the deeds. Up to date,
however, he is yet to receive the deeds. One year after purchase,
Mr. Fernando had noticed cracks and leaks with water seeping into
the apartment. There were other structural problems too, he says.
He noticed that the building seemed to be tilting slightly towards
a neighbouring house. The original switchboard installed by Grayline
also had to be replaced by him, as it had fused due to the use of
cheap electrical equipment, he said.
complaint addressed to the Chairman of Grayline brought no response,
not even a telephone call. Therefore, he said, he filed suit against
Grayline Homes, demanding either a money back guarantee plus the
12% interest he was entitled to by law or the long overdue deeds
to his apartment. The trial date was set for August 26.
At the last
hearing, Grayline had promised to hand over Mr. Fernando's deeds
within two weeks. Already three weeks have lapsed and he is yet
to see the deeds or receive any communication from the company,
he said. Mr. Fernando said if he at least had the deeds, he could
reconnect the water supply to the apartment.
after the demolition notice was put up, there was a flurry of activity
at the building and a security guard was deployed by Grayline. A
construction team was also sent over on September 13. They had,
however, begun repairs on the bottom half of the building but neighbours
had made a complaint to the police who put a temporary stop to Grayline's
repair attempt. So what are the obligations on the part of the company
that constructed and sold these apartments? The Chairman of Grayline
was not available for comment despite repeated attempts by us to
speak to him.
UDA's Ms. Ariyathilaka
says that if Grayline wants the building, they would have to meet
both the Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte MC officials and the Director
Buildings and submit their plans for the apartment building. Only
then under their supervision, can Grayline begin repairs. She also
adds that Grayline would need to do the repair work very carefully
ensuring safety of adjoining buildings.
Operations Manager, Grayline Group of Companies, said both he and
his structural engineer attended the Planning Committee meeting
at the Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte MC, last week, to discuss whether
Grayline could undertake to do the necessary repairs themselves.
Kodagoda assured that all walls with severe cracking which posed
a threat to adjoining houses, would be brought down and reconstructed
on Grayline account.
Grayline's plan, Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte Mayor Ranjith Cooray
said the Planning Committee, with his approval would allow Grayline
to go ahead with the necessary repairs. However, the project must
be conducted under the strict supervision of Municipal Engineer
But after years
of apathy, neighbours are doubtful. Unless action is taken quickly
this apartment building may come crashing down, injuring them or
damaging their property, they say. It is now upto the UDA and the
municipal authorities to ensure that the promises are kept and the
safety of residents assured.