Negril Estate developer, owners haggle over failed promises, arrears
A United States-based woman’s desire to build her dream home in Jamaica is being threatened by ongoing disputes between property owners at the Negril Estate in Westmoreland and the developer, Reading Holdings Limited.
Enticed by the promise of supporting amenities – such as a park, water slides, a tennis court, and round-the-clock security – Rose Hill, a 60-year-old marketing consultant, decided to purchase a lot at the high-end development for US$25,000, under a payment-plan arrangement, which was completed on July 9, 2007.
She paid an additional US$5,000 for maintenance fee, which the agreement claimed was to take care of security and the tennis court.
“This charge will cover ten (10) years but not exceeding eleven (11) years,” stated the document signed by the company’s managing director, Patrick Fletcher, a copy of which has been seen by The Sunday Gleaner.
But when Hill started to receive invoices for maintenance payment a few years after and contacted the developer’s office to point out the content of her agreement, Fletcher advised that the maintenance period paid for should have been five years, not 10.
“According to my sales agreement on buying this lot in 2007, my maintenance fee covers 10 years (which would expired in 2017) and that is what stands,” Hill said in a telephone interview with The Sunday Gleaner from her home in the US.
“It has been a long-standing issue and I even came to Jamaica to settle the matter, but the discussions got too intense.”
Fletcher has been pushing to collect the unpaid amount, which company records state are US$8,950 in fees, interest, and penalties. But Hill is determined to stand by the original sales agreement and has only paid maintenance for 2017 and 2018, after her request for a breakdown of how the fees were being spent was rejected.
“I am in my right to demand a breakdown from Mr Fletcher on how this maintenance payment is being spent because based on the terms of my sales agreement, there is to be proper security, a tennis court, and other amenities that are still not in place,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.
Hill said that at one point, she got word that surveyors were on her property and immediately contacted Fletcher’s office, but was advised that the developer was no longer associated with Reading Holdings Limited.
When The Sunday Gleaner contacted Fletcher, he said that he no longer owns the company.
“What I did one year ago was to sell my debts for persons who would not pay,” Fletcher said. “I lost the company because I owed some people US$2 million.”
According to Fletcher, Andrew Neil is the new managing director of Reading Holdings Limited, but he said his successor was located overseas. However, Companies Office of Jamaica records still name Fletcher as the managing director of Reading Holdings Limited.
Quizzed about the issue with Hill, Fletcher said that she erroneously received a benefit that was designated for local civil servants.
“Since 2004, I have had a policy that offers a special discount to civil servants who normally gets it at cost price, but Ms Hill is not a civil servant.”
Since its inception, over 72 lots have been sold, but so far only 17 buyers have constructed homes in the sprawling Negril Estate development, as a stand-off between property owners and Fletcher continues unabated.
The controversial businessman has been seeking to recover nearly US$30 million, which he claims is owed in maintenance costs, but the property owners, through their association – the Negril East Citizens’ Association Benevolent Society – and individually have been demanding a meeting with the developer to discuss the issues.
According to Fletcher, all the facilities that were promised to homeowners are in place, but in 2005/2006, they voted for 24-hour armed security instead of the tennis court.
“They got all their amenities; everything is in place,” Fletcher insisted in a telephone interview with The Sunday Gleaner.
But the residents say no such agreement was made with the developer.
“The association has been fighting for the tennis court and all the amenities that he committed to. Nobody came to that agreement with Mr Fletcher,” said an executive of the association, who asked to remain anonymous.
When The Sunday Gleaner team visited the Negril Estate property recently, a middle-aged woman was on duty at the gated entrance. Fletcher, who was on the premises, claimed that the armed guard was elsewhere on the property, but the homeowners said that no form of security exists on the 170-lot facility except for some locals who were hired for the main gate.
“That is one of the things we have been fighting for because we want our association to take over so that we could have proper security and put in all that we need to make our home secure; we want to manage our affairs,” the executive said.
The association also sought the intervention of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation, to examine the failure of Reading Holdings Limited to install basic infrastructure, including piped water, additional street lights, and road-safety signs, on the property.
“There is absolutely no running water in the community. Instead, water has to be trucked at the residents’ expense for usage, who is billed $6,800 monthly for the commodity, despite forking out US$1,000 per year for maintenance,” the executive pointed out.
Water was turned on in January 2019 by the National Water Commission but was disconnected by the year-end for non-payment of arrears amounting to J$12 million, after the developer connected a bulk meter to the development instead of honouring requests for individual meters.
The attorney of another disgruntled property owner has written to Fletcher to advise him that his client would not be making further payments until the formula used to determine common charges is revealed.
According to a source at the municipal corporation, the authority rejected an application from Fletcher for a compliance certificate, as there is more infrastructural work to be done on the property.
However, Fletcher insisted that “I am the victim in all this”.