Hoa (name changed for security reasons), an apartment owner of Vinpearl Empire Condotel (VEC) project on Le Thanh Ton street, Nha Trang city, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the incident happened on the morning of November 15 in Hanoi.
Dozens of apartment owners gathered in the area near the Vincom Plaza Long Bien building where Vingroup’s headquarters is located in Viet Hung ward, Long Bien district, Hanoi to meet the responsible people in resolving the issues between them and the company.
On Tuesday morning, many guards in camouflage uniforms like the army and many tattooed young men were dispatched to the area. The company also previously erected protective barriers to prevent customers from coming to submit their petition and claim legitimate ownership.
According to Ms. Hoa, when the customer group approached the headquarters, a group of young people stopped them and stole the box of red T-shirts that the group was going to wear when they went to negotiate.
Unlike apartment owners in Da Nang who have T-shirts with the yellow text “Request VIN to return apartment pink books [titles] to VRC Danang residents,” VEC t-shirts have no message.
Pink book is a certificate of house ownership and residential land use right for urban areas, applicable to houses and urban residential land.
A foreigner whose wife is Vietnamese and owns an apartment of Vinpearl Nha Trang took back a shirt when two guards wearing camo and another person wearing the white uniform of a security guard grabbed his arm and broke his arm to grap back the shirt.
According to a video clip taken at the scene, a man suffered a nosebleed from being beaten by people in plain clothes, while the Vingroup guard pushed around. Hoa said this person had a broken nose and had to be hospitalized for treatment.
These people then entered Vingroup’s headquarters and met Vinpearl’s Customer Service Manager Ho Thi Thanh Thuy. When a female customer took a red shirt with no print from her pocket to question them about being assaulted at the gate, some security guards rushed in and grab this person’s shirt.
Ms. Hoa recounted that during this meeting, Ms. Ho Thi Thanh Thuy said: “This is Vin’s headquarters and territory, if you suddenly rush into someone’s house, of course they have to beat you!”
Vinpearl does not comply with the apartment purchase and sale contract with the investor
Vinpearl has a luxury apartment project in Da Nang named Vinpearl Riverfront Condotel Danang (VRC) and two other projects in Nha Trang called Vinpearl Empire Condotel (VEC) on Le Thanh Ton Street and Vinpearl Beachfront Condotel (VBC) in Tran Phu, Phu Loc.
The VEC project has 1,200 apartments on a land plot of type “Urban residential land (not forming residential units)” according to documents issued by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment of Khanh Hoa province on June 9, 2022.
The other two projects have the same number of apartments, Ms. Hoa said.
In 2016, Ms. Hoa bought an apartment in VEC mixed-use building for VND2.3 billion ($100,000) while the market price at that time was only VND1 billion. This apartment has many types of apartments with different areas but is sold by Vinpearl for a common price of VND65 million/square meter.
Another investor in VEC named Hong (who did not disclose her real name because of the sensitivity of the matter) told RFA that in the apartment purchase contract between her and Vinpearl, the name of the apartment with permanent ownership, but in the pink book that many other investors have received, it is recorded as a tourist apartment/condotel (to live in but not form a dwelling unit) which does not have a clear legal framework.
Ms. Hong has yet to receive the red book and pink book for her apartment in VEC, while Vinpearl blamed the delay on Khanh Hoa province authorities.
“According to the Law on Real Estate Business, the investor can only collect 95% of the apartment when there is no pink book for the customer. But it is illegal for Vinpearl to collect all my money six years ago without giving me the red book-pink book,” said Ms. Hong.
Ms. Hong said another thing that investors are not satisfied with Vinpearl is that in the sale contract, Vinpearl collects 2% of the apartment value to use as a maintenance fund and establishes a building management board to manage this money to perform the maintenance. However, to date, Vinpearl has not established a board of directors, and has not reported how this fund is used.
Rental Apartment Management Program
In 2018, when received the apartment from Vinpearl, Hoa and other investors leased the apartment to this company under the “Apartment management program” for a period of 50 years with the promise of paying 10 % of the apartment value per year for the first five years, and from the sixth year, the apartment owner will receive 85% of the profit from the tourism business and the remaining 15% is the management fee.
In the first five years (2016-2021), Vinpearl fulfilled its promise. In 2022, this company does not pay rent to apartment owners for the first six months of the year, citing a capital loss due to no tenants.
However, Vinpearl is not transparent in providing rental unit sales reports for the first sixth months this year to owners.
Ms. Hong was told by a person living near the building that there were quite a lot of guests coming to rent a room in this project after the social distance due to the COVID-19 epidemic was removed.
“At night, the lights are on in the apartment, but Vinpearl said there were only one-night renting in the first six months of this year,” said Ms. Hong.
The owners want to take back their apartments but Vinpearl does not agree
Realizing that sub-leasing to Vinpearl is no longer effective, hundreds of investors in the three projects above want to take back their apartments so they can do their own business or rent them out to other companies, but Vinpearl does not agree, does not negotiate, leading to the recent scuffle.
In the sublease contract between the owner of the tourist apartment and Vinpearl, there is a clause to cancel the contract after five years.
However, Vinpearl does not agree to cancel the contract even though the owner is willing to pay a penalty (8%) as stipulated in the contract, the condition that Vinpearl offers is that 90% of the owners agree to cancel the contract.
According to Ms. Hoa, about 550 owners of tourist apartments in three Vinpearl projects have formed groups to find ways to deal with the company.
Hoa and many people suspect that Vingroup’s subsidiary will not return their tourist apartments to the owners because it wants to buy them back at cheap prices. She said that many sales staff of the company offered to buy back her apartment for only VND1-1.5 billion.
The apartment owners hire a lawyer and plan to sue Vinpearl in civil court
Ms. Hong said, based on the signed contracts between the two parties, she has the right to ask Vinpearl to stop providing apartment rental management services at the VEC project and request the investor to terminate all rights and obligations under Appendix 07 attached to the Sale and Purchase Agreement between the two parties.
Ms. Hoa said there was news that Vinpearl was planning to transfer the project to lease the tourist apartment to Melia Vietnam Co., Ltd. The above apartments of Vinpearl have been renamed as Melia VEC, Melia VRC and Melia VBC respectively.
“Vinpearl worked with Melia on its own and transferred it to the rental management without notifying the owners, indicating that it was a business partnership. Vinpearl does not disclose the content of cooperation, saying it has no obligation to publish,” said Ms. Hoa.
Ms. Hoa said that not all owners of Vinpearl’s apartments are rich, many people use money accumulated over many years or even borrow money from a bank with an interest rate of 13% per year to buy in order to make a profit for daily activities. The fact that Vinpearl does not pay interest makes their lives miserable, she said.
RFA reporter contacted Vingroup and Vinpearl via email, but only Vinpearl’s customer service department sent an automatic reply with the content: “Customer care specialist will contact you as soon as possible.”
We called Melia Vietnam Co., Ltd., and the person who answered the phone said that the communications officer was away and made an appointment for another meeting.
Vietnam’s state-controlled media was completely silent in the dispute between Vinpearl and the apartment owners, not reporting on the violence that occurred on November 15 in front of the gate of Vingroup’s headquarters in Hanoi.