Residents confront police and authorities over neglected houses in Ho Chi Minh City

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Angry residents of an apartment building in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam have been ordered to tear down banners accusing the owners of neglecting the building’s maintenance while taking advantage of years of management compensation.

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

Frustrated by the inaction of the authorities, many residents hung banners on their balconies that read: “Our petitions have been thrown away”, “Our maintenance costs back”, “Eight years of doing nothing to solve our problems” and “Give residents the title deeds to their apartments.”

Instead of answering their complaints or discussing them with residents, the secretary of the Tan Quy district party committee came to the apartment, supported by police and militia, and ordered the residents to remove the banners.

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“Tenants put up banners with words that do not offend the government and are not intended as incitement,” said Nguyen Manh Hung, head of the block’s management.

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

Hung said the government should have worked with the condominium’s investors to resolve the issues, but instead sent a mob to try to remove the banners. He said that when officials ordered residents to remove the banners, they were asked when they would address the issues. He said the officers kept quiet and left.

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

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According to documents written by the Ministry 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 granted permission to build and lease a 232 apartment building.

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 the pledge.

Hung said about 1,500 residents have said they feel insecure about the illegal construction on the ground and mezzanine floors.

He added that the additional apartments and commercial units do not have fire prevention facilities and therefore pose a threat to the entire building.

The maintenance fee, which is 2% of the building’s appraisal, was withheld by the company Khang Gia, rather than being transferred to the apartment management to repair elevators, fill cracks and make other repairs.

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“Local authorities should investigate whether the investor appropriated the maintenance fund,” Hung said. “But they haven’t been doing that for years. Now the investor has disappeared after being investigated for abuses in other projects. I don’t know why they didn’t investigate. They may have covered up the matter for some reason, but doing nothing is against the law.”

The news site Lao Dong Online wrote in December 2020 that the general manager of Khang Gia Company 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 were not given. The company office is no longer at the registered company address.

RFA called the Khang Gia Real Estate hotline listed on the website, but the person who replied denied working for the company, saying it was the wrong number.

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