Batam resort apartments owned by foreigners, including S'poreans, forcefully repossessed

Homes and investments allegedly lost.

Belmont Lay | December 21, 2021, 07:22 PM

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Apartment units owned by foreigners and local Indonesians in Batam are reportedly forcefully repossessed and demolished against the will of the residents, causing altercations between homeowners and those carrying out the evictions.

A tip-off by one of the homeowners affected, corroborated by local media reports emanating out of Indonesia, has shed light on what has been happening since mid-December 2021 at Indah Puri Golf Resort, where demolition works and forceful removal of residents have been carried out in full public view and filmed.

25-year tenancy ended with no extension

The current understanding of the situation is that the 25-year tenancy lease of the property has expired, with no consensus on extension, and the transference of the property from one management company to another to oversee the resort has allegedly occurred.

The conditions of the apartments have been worsening over the years as it fell into disrepair, but residents, mainly foreigners who have married local Indonesians on Batam, continue to live there.

In total, at least a few hundred homeowners, many with young children, are affected, with many residents seen putting up fierce resistance to being chased away from their properties.

The final straw came when water and electricity were cut recently, and the apartment blocks were physically razed to the ground starting from the roofs.

What homeowner is claiming

According to the tip-off, the Indah Puri Golf Resort in Batam completed construction and opened in 1993.

Those who invested in a property in the resort forked out hundreds of thousands of dollars as they were promised a holiday home equipped with a golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and a gymnasium, as well as a marina.

As Batam is in close proximity to Singapore, those who invested in a property supposedly included numerous Singaporeans, as well as many Batam locals and expats working on the island.

"Apartments were bought with a promise that the 25-year lease would be extended when it expired in 2018, without issue," the tip-off said.

Amenities not maintained, fell into disrepair

However, over the years, conditions of the apartments got worse over time due to lack of maintenance and under delivery on promises.

The marina, for example, never appeared.

Gym equipment that failed were never replaced, the pool area became increasingly dated with dirty poorly maintained seating and sunbeds, and the changing area resembled a poorly maintained public toilet.

Roofs leaked, staircase hand rails in the apartment blocks fell off, wooden balconies withered away due to the termite infestations, and paintwork wore out.

The resort management even billed residents for the treatment of termite infestations.

But the infestations were reportedly so bad that one of the roofs of the apartment blocks collapsed in June 2018.

The resort management apparently made no attempt at repairs, leaving the residents below vulnerable to flooding.

Signs were then erected stating the whole apartment area was unsafe.

The derelict conditions put off many homeowners, who subsequently stayed away from their holiday home, and stopped visiting on weekends and during the holidays.

This only caused maintenance fees to skyrocket as the cost was billed to a smaller number of residents who stayed on permanently, a practice that made living in this particular resort on Batam exorbitantly expensive.

2018: Lease up

And when 2018 rolled around, lease for the properties ended and the parent company PT Guthrie supposedly transferred control of the property to PT Capital Graha Indonesia based in Medan, according to the tip-off.

But news reports said the current demolition of the Indah Puri apartment buildings is allegedly carried out by PT Guthrie Jaya Indah Island Resort, reported as the manager of the Indah Puri Golf Resort area.

Maintenance stopped as 25-year lease ended and residents in limbo

Since September 2018, all maintenance stopped in the apartment areas with the lease expiry.

The swimming pool, gymnasium and tennis courts were closed.

The grass was not cut, the stairs and common access areas not cleaned, and weekly fogging was also stopped.

Residents stopped receiving bills for water, electricity, and maintenance.

The residents' collective assumption was that previous arrangements regarding the services will automatically resume once the transition to the new company and lease renewal were completed.

Cutting utilities just a ploy to evict

But that scenario did not play out.

According to the tip-off, the termination of basic services was not just to mark an end of the tenancy, but a move to force those who were still living on the property to move out by making conditions unbearable.

The tip-off alleged that by August 2019, residents were given just three days' notice to attend a meeting regarding the lease renewal.

At the meeting, homeowners were allegedly told that the new company intended to redevelop the resort and to facilitate this, all residents were to be evicted from their homes and placed in different apartments to facilitate the redevelopment.

The tip-off also claimed that the terms for the renewal were exorbitantly high, as the costs will be borne by the residents, to a tune of 12 million rupiah per sqm, which would come up to a cost of US$100,000 for an apartment.

The normal lease renewal cost in Batam for that area, the tip-off said, is only around US$5 per sqm, and residents were expecting to only pay around US$4,000.

This was the figure that buyers were apparently initially told when they questioned about the lease renewal before purchasing.

Billed for maintenance and utilities for 2018 when no work done

Owners were also told at this August 2019 meeting that billing for maintenance and utilities was to recommence with immediate effect.

The bill for maintenance for the previous year would also be exactly the same, despite the pool, gym and tennis courts closed, the grass not cut, and no cleaning and fogging services rendered.

Residents refused to pay in full, and for those who did, they paid a partial sum for only water and electricity, as well as trash collection and security -- services that were rendered.

The residents then waited for a corrected bill.

Electricity and water cut

The tip-off then alleged that all residents, regardless whether they paid or services, then received a letter threatening to cut water and electricity.

They were also informed that further steps would eventually result in residents being refused entry to the resort and their homes.

A subsequent letter has now confirmed this and residents do not know if they will be allowed back to their homes if they leave the resort.

The action of cutting electricity and water has now been understood by residents as a ploy to force them from their homes, as it gives the parent company the necessary grounds to repossess the apartments due to non-payment.

Residents are naturally hard pressed to pay up if those services were not rendered previously.

This latest move has worked, as some residents have left the property, and cleared out furniture and fixtures, including air-conditioners, to salvage anything of value.

But as a result of forcing owners out, the tip-off added that the residents are effectively giving up their property without compensation.

Other residents have stayed put and have put up a fight.

Implications of forceful eviction and repossession of private property

The tip-off also highlighted the implications of the forced evictions and demolition for Batam property buyers in Singapore.

It said that among those interested in Batam property are Singaporeans who might start to invest in a holiday home once the current pandamic has run its course and borders reopen again, and they should be aware of how property rights are treated overseas, as not all countries approach it the same way.

Evidence from the ground

Multiple photos and videos from the ground in Batam have documented the extent of the evictions and demolition being carried out so far.

Removal of roof

The removal of roofs took place as early as Dec. 13, 2021.

Another video posted by a resident of Indah Puri Golf Resort showed an excavator removing the roof of one of the blocks in full view of people mere metres from the site without cordoning off the area.

Whole block demolished

The entire block was then demolished.

News on the repossession of property and demolition

One clip posted by Indonesian media TvOne showed a Caucasian man confronting personnel who had apparently arrived to evict residents.

During the standoff, the Caucasian man pulled out a handheld air horn to blast a loud honk in the face of one of the personnel, causing tensions during the standoff to escalate.

The Caucasian man also started cursing at the other men.

The news piece framed the issue as a foreign national protesting the demolition of the Indah Puri apartment blocks that are considered dangerous to residents as it was already falling apart.

Residents forcefully evicted

The situation on the ground remained volatile.

A video on Dec. 19 showed scuffles break out.

According to footage posted online in the Expats living in Batam Facebook group, one woman, believed to be a resident of Indah Puri Resort was seen being forcefully dragged along the road by uniformed personnel.
The video also showed the presence of security personnel, who appeared to stand to one side and not intervene during the altercations, calling into question their role.

Excavator on compound

On Dec. 21, an excavator continued to roam the compound.

Appeal to president for help

The residents have also put up an appeal for help for Indonesia president Joko Widodo to step in.

Response by resort management

Several women living in the Indah Puri residential apartments tried to enter The Indah Puri Club House to meet the management of the resort to negotiate, but were blocked by guards acting as security.

"The residents of the Indah Puri apartments have no rights because they ran out in 2018. The electricity will not be turned on forever," said one person, Jimmi, identified by local Batam news outlet as the director of management of the Indah Puri Golf Resort.

Jimmi said the residents will be moved to any location they want, with the help of the management.

"We will move them where they want to go," Jimmi said, adding that the management will help with the relocation to a hotel with air-conditioning, including moving of possessions from the apartments.

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