Hanoi upscale apartment residents protest service fee hikes

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Residents of five upscale apartment buildings in Hanoi have sought the capital city administration's help in preventing service fees from being hiked unreasonably.

According to a report in Monday's Tuoi Tre newspaper, the residents at 93 Lo Duc, The Manor, Golden Westlake, Keangnam, and Sky City have complained that the prices for services have been decided arbitrarily.

93 Lo Duc resident Phan Minh Thuy said that in 2007, the developer of the building started to charge its residents a monthly service fee of VND300,000 for each small apartment and VND400,000 for the larger ones. Last July, the fees were doubled.

"All kinds of fees must be agreed upon by the developers and at least half the residents, but so far they just impose the fees by themselves and we have to pay," she said.

Service fees usually cover garbage collection, use of elevators and public lighting.

Thuy said residents like her do not know why the fees keep increasing because the developer does not provide any details.

"We have demanded to know how much each service in the building costs, but the developer never gives out the information," she said. "People here are really upset."

An unnamed resident, also in the same building, was quoted by Tuoi Tre as saying the lack of a cap on service fees allows many apartment buildings to collect as much money as they want.

"Almost all developers refuse to disclose the real costs they have to pay, and residents continue to be robbed," the source said.

The situation is similar at luxury buildings like Golden Westlake and Keangnam.

To Hong Son, who owns a 145-square-meter apartment at Golden Westlake, said he paid service fees of around VND6.9 million in the first quarter, but the payment surged to VND8.1 million (US$390) in the second quarter.

Son said the fee was set in US dollars, despite the government's ban on price listings in foreign currencies. "When the dollar rises against the dong, we have to pay more," he said.

Nguyen Huy Tuong, vice chairman of the Hanoi People's Committee, said he has asked the Department of Finance to look into the situation and propose a limit on service fees at apartment buildings.

The proposal will take into consideration different conditions at different buildings and will make sure developers "can't just charge whatever they want," Tuong said.

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