Singapore Air Force turns up heat on dodgy hotel air con

Rockhampton Plaza Hotel. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Rockhampton Plaza Hotel. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison

IF you can't stand the heat get out of the Plaza Hotel.

That's what the Singapore Air Force seemed to be thinking when it complained about poor air-conditioning at the landmark Rockhampton hotel in 2007 and 2008.

The SAF told the hotel it would not return unless the problem was fixed - putting a $250,000 accommodation contract with the Plaza at risk.

The hotel lessees Jim and Linda Bentley found themselves in a race against time to install new air-conditioning units to save the lucrative contract.

Mr and Mrs Bentley recently appeared in the Brisbane Supreme Court as applicants requesting a resolution to a dispute they had with Chang Holdings, the owners of the hotel, over the alleged $157,073 in upgrades needed to replace the hotel's rundown air-conditioning system in 2008.

Mrs Bentley told the court that by 2008, the old system "when it ran" could never sufficiently "cool the rooms to make them comfortable, and also constantly broke down".

Other customers, as well as the Singapore Air Force had complained about the air-conditioning.

The court heard that a Rockhampton air-conditioning service company had deemed the Plaza's system in need of "urgent and significant refurbishment and the individual room units were unreliable and performing poorly, and concluded that the cost of repairing the chiller was such as to make it more economical to install a new chiller and the individual room units should be replaced with a full refurbishment of the ground floor fan coils".

With the lessees hoping to secure another contract with the Singapore Air Force, they set about fixing the problem.

A string of emails with Chang indicated that an arrangement was made in which they would share the cost of the replacement, but communication between Chang and the Bentleys broke down on a number of occasions.

By April, 2010, Chang had still not contributed to the air-conditioning system replacement but the Bentley's went ahead and organised the air-conditioning work to have the building completely air-conditioned in time for the Singapore Air Force visit

The Bentleys did not receive any payment from Chang Holdings and lodged a complaint against the company, seeking $75,000 compensation for the alleged $157,073.89 they had spent in total on the replacement of the air-conditioning system.

But of this amount, $30,800 was said to be the cost of the applicants' own time spent in the replacement project.

However, it was decided by Judge Philip McMurdo that the Bentleys were not entitled to the full sum they requested.

He stated; "I am not persuaded that the applicants are entitled to the total of those three invoices. Nor should the applicants recover for what they attribute to their own time. The result is that they are entitled to one half of a total of $87,123.60, which is $43,561.80."

Court documents also indicate that there are still a number of issues between Chang Holdings and the Bentleys that yet to be resolved.

A further issue between the parties is about the responsibility for the cost of the repair of one of the lifts.

In September, 2011, the lift, which is 40 years old and the last of its kind operating in Queensland, broke down.

There followed emails from the applicants to Mr Chang informing him that the lift was unrepairable and required a "complete upgrade" which should be done, they claimed, at the cost of the respondent. To return the unused lift to service, there would have to be a complete replacement of the control system and other works costing about $129,000 plus GST.

Because the lift has failed through fair wear and tear, however, it was decided that it was the responsibility of Chang Holdings to pay for the lift.

Topics:  brisbane supreme court, chang holdings, plaza hotel, singapore airforce



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