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Monday July 25, 2011

The Language House: More time sought

THE Language House, one of the largest language centres in Malaysia, is facing eviction as The Atria Shopping Centre is closing down for business effective August 1 for redevelopment.

The Language House academic director John W. Davis said he received a letter from Atria management three months ago in April to terminate their lease — which expires in 2014 — and move out.

“We were quite shocked to only receive the letter in April although we know that the developer has previously mentioned of plans to redevelop Atria.

“But despite mentions of the plan, the developer cited in a letter last year ‘that the redevelopment may not happen’ and then verbally told me this January that ‘they are expecting an approval but unsure when they will get it’.

“So we waited and continued operations as usual,” said Davis.

Much effort: Davis said the centre has spent RM1.1mil for renovations on the premises.

The educational institution, which has been established for 21 years in Malaysia, moved into Atria in 2005 from its previous location in Section 19, Petaling Jaya.

Davis said the lease contract signed with the management was on the basis of 3+3+3, whereby after the first three years, he has the automatic option to renew for the next three years followed by another three.

This was subjected after agreeing to a 30% increase in rental rates for every renewed option, and that they pay their rent on time.

Although the end of their first option term expires this August, Davis maintained the automatic option to renew is on them and not the developer.

“When we renewed our first option in 2008, I was asked to sign a ‘major work’ clause which I refused.

“The management let us operate as usual.

“Then in January this year, the management told us they will give us a reasonable amount of time to move out as they are receiving their redevelopment approval soon.

“All of a sudden, the termination letter came in April asking that we evict by July 26. We are disappointed that the reasonable relocation time promised to us is now reduced to three months,” added Davis.

He said their dilemma now is not being able to move out in this short span of time, adding that the relocation process itself take several months.

Davis said he has spent RM1.1mil previously in renovations to extend the extra floors that amount to 30,000 sq ft of usable space.

“Our bigger problem is that an educational institution like us cannot just move without a transfer licence from the Education Ministry (MoE).

“Before we can even submit our application to the MoE, we have to do renovations in our new place and invite the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) for their inspection and approvals that can take between three and five months, followed by the State Education Department.

“These are rigorous, time-consuming process and conducting classes without such approvals are illegal,” Davis pointed out.

Davis, the developer and the respective legal teams met on July 14, after Davis wrote a letter asking for a meeting to come to an understanding.

“Since March this year we had not had a real discussion about this; only letters between our legal teams,” said Davis.

He added under Clause 7.5 of the original agreement, he interpreted that their lease can only be terminated in the event of repair works to damages or renovation.

“Nowhere in the agreement is it written redevelopment or major works. Renovation is not redevelopment when you are demolishing a whole building to put up a new structure,” said Davis.

The termination, he said, also impacts upon their 250 foreign students where their studies would be effectively disrupted.

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