Residents confront police and authorities over neglected Ho Chi Minh City homes

Angry residents of an apartment building in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh city have been ordered to take down banners accusing the owners of neglecting the building’s upkeep while profiting from years of management fees.

Residents of the Khang Gia apartment block in the city’s Tan Phu district are concerned about the structural quality of the building and its fire resistance. They have petitioned authorities to make improvements for eight years but say nothing has been done.

Frustrated at the authorities’ inaction, many residents hung banners from their balconies saying “Our petitions have been binned,” “Return our maintenance fees,” “Eight years of inaction on fixing our problems,” and “Give residents the title deeds to their apartments.”

Rather than answering their complaints or discussing them with residents, the Secretary of the Party Committee of Tan Quy ward came to the apartment, backed by police and militia, and ordered residents to take the banners down.

“Tenants hung banners with words that do not offend the government and are not intended as incitement,” said Nguyen Manh Hung, who heads the management board at the apartment block.

“But when residents hung them up many local officials came with police and militia as well as ward and district civil officers. They tried to storm the apartments that put up banners. When I asked what they were going to do, they said they would order the residents to take the banners down.”

Hung said the government should have worked with the apartment block’s investors to solve the problems but instead sent a mob to try to get the banners removed. He said that when officials ordered residents to take down the banners, they were asked when they would address the issues. He said the officers remained silent and left.

RFA called the People’s Committee of Tan Quy ward and Tan Phu district to verify the information provided by Nguyen Manh Hung, but none of the calls was answered.

According to documents written by the Department of Construction of Ho Chi Minh City and the People’s Committee of Tan Phu district, Khang Gia Real Estate Development and Investment Company was given permission to build and rent out a 232 apartment block.

The company built almost twice as many apartments, which residents say has made the building structurally unstable.

The local government said it had decided to forcibly dismantle 72 apartments and commercial units but nothing has happened in the eight years since it made the pledge.

Hung said about 1,500 residents have said they feel insecure due to the illegal construction on the ground floor and mezzanine levels.

He added that the extra apartments and commercial units have no fire prevention facilities and therefore pose a threat to the entire building.

The maintenance fee, which is 2% of the building’s valuation, has been kept by the Khang Gia company, rather than handed over to the apartment’s management board to fix elevators, fill in cracks and perform other repairs.

“Local authorities must investigate the investor’s appropriation of the maintenance fund,” Hung said. “However, they have not done that for years. Now the investor has disappeared after being probed for wrongdoings in other projects. I don’t know why they didn’t investigate. Maybe they have covered-up the case for some reason but doing nothing is not in line with the law.”

The Lao Dong Online news site wrote in December 2020 that Khang Gia Company general director and legal representative Trinh Minh Thanh had gone into hiding. It said he was wanted for the crime of “financial fraud” for taking millions of Vietnamese dong from people for apartments they did not receive. The company office is no longer at its registered business address.

RFA called Khang Gia Real Estate’s hotline, listed on its website, but the person who answered denied working for the company and said it was a wrong number.

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