Friday, 9 November 2007

Brief Hiatus

I'll be away for a conference and a much needed holiday in a country where they do not enbloc their buildings LOL. I'll try to update the site when I can - a much needed update is about the protocols for the 1st EOGM in light of the new regulations. There's been a lot of feedback from various estates about how confusing the new law is with regards to the first EOGM to elect the SC members (or rather, how vague the law is in procedural terms for the election!). I'll try to compile what other estates have done, were successful in achieving, and what some marketing agents and managing agents have tried to do (pull the wool over owners' eyes, capitalise on the ambiguities to push their agendas, utter confusion over what to do etc).

It's the Wild Wild West out there, ladies and gents. Be careful!

Oh, and I absolutely loved that article about Springwell Mansion in the New Paper (reproduced here) where the owners who were against the sale paid $60 to put up a banner on the gate saying "No to Enbloc". After all, if the marketing agents can put up massive posters/banners on the estate gates indicating the collective sale, why not minority owners?

Poll's ending soon. Any suggestions for possible polls? Hit me.

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Monday, 22 October 2007

Going to Court: Developer Caught Red-handed for Evading Stamp Duty

I've updated the Enbloc List for those who use it as a reference, and this was published recently - another in the "Going to Court" series. You can read the full article reproduced here, and the judgment by the High Court Judge here (and archived on scribd here).

Estate: Golden Towers and Eu Hock Apartments on Minbu Road
Stage: Sold at $61 million 2005. Developer appealed to High Court over stamp duty.
Source: New Paper 21 Oct 2007
Parties: Commissioner of Stamp Duties vs UOL Development (Novena) Pte Ltd
Collective Sale Lawyer: Wee Ramayah & Partners
Developer Lawyer for Appeal: Tan Lay Kheng & Teo Lay Khoon of Wong Partnership
Judge: Justice Tan Lee Meng
Developer: UOL Development (Novena) Pte Ltd
Reason: Appeal to High Court against decision by Commissioner of Stamp Duties (CSD) who treated enbloc sale as a collective contract rather than 53 independent contracts
Details: When SPA was made between owners of Golden Towers/Eu Hock Apartments, UOL asked the sale lawyers for 53 letters of acceptance from the 53 owners. The 53 contracts were presented to CSD for stamping. CSD argued that the sale should be collective and hence UOL should pay stamp duty based on enbloc price and not per unit basis. Justice Tan pointed out that in the tender, owners agreed to sell the units collectively. Said Justice Tan: 'Apart from the fact that there is no reference to 53 separate contracts in UOL's offer to purchase the properties, UOL didn't assert that there was any written evidence to support its claim that it had purchased the properties on the basis of 53 separate contracts'; ''The plan for 53 separate contracts had no sound commercial basis and was so contrived that it was clearly intended to reduce or avoid tax liabilities'.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Statutes Online Updated with New Amendments

Just to let all know - the Statutes Online has now been updated with the new revised Land Titles (Strata) Act (here). I have not had the time to update the Enbloc List since the last update but bear with me - it should get done this weekend.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Horizon Towers Update - Judgments by Justice Choo Han Teck

For those who don't know this, there are 2 judgments available on the web, pertaining to the Horizon Towers case. Both are by Justice Choo Han Teck and you can read the actual considerations and deliberations that he went through for (a) allowing additional parties to intervene - here (or on scribd archive here) and (b) his decision on approving the appeal here (or on scribd archive here). The first is currently on the Supreme Court's website but the second judgment was removed from the website for a few days and placed back in again. I have reproduced it from Google Cache and stored it on scribd here. [If this is not allowed, please contact me and I shall remove the documents.]

As someone who has acquired the ability to read academic texts (a long arduous and painful journey I can tell you), reading legal documents like the CSA and judgments are headache-inducing for newbies like me. But this is a landmark judgment in today's enbloc craze and I'd suggest that readers take the time to read this post first, and then supplement with the actual judgment in its entirety. It's long so grab a pillow and get comfy.

I want to begin by what I think probably are the most philosophical and poignant passages in the judgment by J Choo, with regards to the nature of law :-

"The nature of law is purposive. Law is always purposive for if man and society were perfect there would be no need for law. We often encounter complications when one principle of law appears irreconcilably incongruous with another. We are also often compelled to seek the middle course between extremes such as immutability and ephemerality; sometimes as an exercise in precision and sometimes out of nervous uncertainty. Nonetheless, the courts are also often urged to reject the compromise in order to be absolutely right rather than to be half wrong. Law is also largely interpretative, and so “absolute” is a very difficult word to employ. Almost everyone has his idea of what the law is or should be, and how it is to be applied. It is not unusual to find that the more uncertain and difficult the hermeneutic exercise becomes, the more one resorts to vague terms such as “justice”. That is why it is not unusual, therefore, to find opposing arguments each claiming to be an argument from justice. Anyone who has studied the chariot race in the Iliad will understand the inherent contradictions in that word. The conflict between fairness, entitlement, and desert all too often stands in the way of a just or ideal solution to disputes.

That said, fairness requires that the law is applied consistently to everyone in similar circumstances. It gazes upon the horse as it does the horseman. It may be the appellants today who slipped, and tomorrow, the respondents. If the majority succeeds it is because it is right, not because it is the majority. Likewise, if the minority succeeds it is because it is right and not because it receives favours granted only to the underdog. Therefore, in determining the correct interpretation of a law or principle of law, it will be helpful to consider whether an opponent would have objected as strenuously as he did had he been the one in need of the very interpretation he challenges. " (Paras 7 & 8)

".. if man and society were perfect there would be no need for law". For those doing the polls on the right, this sentence carries a lot of relevance. I've always suggested that an IDEAL enbloc could be carried out if people pitch together to work towards a common goal - be it to redevelop or retain/upgrade their estate. In other words, sure, the new amendments to the enbloc law could have been better but if an estate makes that effort to be all-encompassing in fairness and transparency, then there wouldn't be a need to defer to law except for procedural reasons. But enblocs necessarily are about money and profits, and society often crumbles in the face of such financial incentives that compels individuals, not collectives, to act individualistically.

For those who have not read the Iliad, a good summary can be found in this (academic) PDF article here (pages 11 to 14 - gripping stuff). J Choo's point, I'd hazard to guess given his reference to the Iliad, is that the notion of 'justice' is not as clear cut as one would like to believe encased in words of law. Despite both parties (majority representatives and minority representatives) wielding concepts like justice and fairness, J Choo acknowledges that they are "vague" and may stand in the way of a "just or ideal solution to disputes". He points out that fairness must be consistent across all parties - the majority succeeding in the sale is not because they are that 80% and therefore, as some in the condosingapore forum would argue with fervour, justified in the sale. It is because they are right in the eyes of the law. It's not the case of might makes right, but right means right for both majority and minority.

Now the High Court is there only to hear about "points of law" (Para 2). These are (Para 3):

  1. "Whether the law permitted the Board to dismiss the application on the ground that there was a defect in the application without hearing the application on its merits"
  2. "If there were a defect, whether the Board had the power to allow an amendment of the defect"
  3. "Whether the Board was right in law to hold that it was constituted by the application and its existence is extinguished when an application is invalid"
The STB's grounds for dismissing the application (Para 5) was that "there was a defect in the application by reason of the three missing pages and that this defect was incurable because the Board had no power to allow an amendment so as to provide a cure". Subsequently, the board dismissed the application and disbanded.

J Choo first asked, what exactly was this incurable defect that jeopardised the entire application. Both sides pointed out that the consequences of this defect was either "criminal" or "merely a 'technical' or 'clerical error". Rather than deliberating on this, he instead asked - because of this defect, whether "an error or omission had caused prejudice to the minority" (Para 9). He reiterated this point - if the error "had a material effect on the minority's rights" (Para 10), then the STB had to make an appropriate ruling. However, and this is the important part:

"There had been no argument from any counsel as to what harm had in fact been caused. It was said that the application would be relied upon by the minority owners to decide whether to oppose it, but it did not seem to me that the three missing pages in question had any material effect on the decision of the minority in this case" (Para 10).

This has bearing even under the new laws which stipulate that technical non-compliance be ignored unless it prejudices the interests of any owner. Note the difference here - "any owner" as opposed to J Choo's focus on minority owners. The new law therefore allows that errors may have a material effect on both majority and minority owners. However, only minority owners can object which means majority owners that have been prejudiced will need to alert the minority owners. Possible scenarios (off the top of my head) where prejudice may be caused - calculation of % was incorrect and you signed on that basis hence tipping it over to 80% and executing the CSA; notices not put up clearly and you signed because of incorrect information hence tipping it over etc. I'm sure you can think of other examples.

Of course, you won't realise an error was made until in hindsight (which can be months later) and even then, you can't object because you've become a majority owner etc. But the point is that determining and ascertaining the error or non-compliance is insufficient - you need to find out if owners have been affected in any way by the error, and how (eg signed on wrongful or incorrect information). It means, as always, carefully documenting every information that was given to you that may have caused you to make certain decisions. You never know when such information may turn out to be useful especially if it prejudiced your decisions.

As a final note, I think there still is a disparity between (a) the narrowly defined list of valid objections - financial loss, bad faith (as defined by sale price, apportionment, and relationship of purchaser to SP), SPA arrangement, SC refusal to accept STB's order to increase proceeds to minority owners, and (b) prejudicial acts that materially affects the decisions/interests of owners. 'Prejudicial acts' (in the spirit suggested by J Choo) has a far wider meaning and is meant to encompass acts or information-dissemination that may provide incorrect or misrepresentative impetus for owners in their decisions. Blatant misrepresentation or outright lying would count as prejudicial to the interests of owners. But note that these are not valid grounds for objection (as listed in (a)). It's a real pity the list of valid objections is so narrowly construed and remains unaltered by MinLaw.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Enblocs hit Facebook!

Now this is what I call social networking and social awareness! Who would have thought that people who love their homes would set up networks online :)

Facebook which is a social networking site (amazing site - I discovered 2 long lost friends so far!) has been in the news lately for its addictive ability to suck you right into searching online for friends, colleagues, enemies lol. The principle used is six degrees of separation - find a friend and chances are his friends are friends that you know as well etc.

Amazingly, facebook has also become a site for a small group of people who love their homes - Pearl Bank to be exact - and have used it to network. You can find that group "Block the En Bloc (Pearl Bank Chapter)" here. (Note - you must be registered and logged in to view the Chapter.)

Now let's see who will set up the next enbloc support groups (or "Chapters" I guess!). For that matter, I'm just waiting to see if an 'Enbloc Windfall Huat!' (Huat is a hokkien term for 'striking lucky') group will appear. Likewise, maybe someone should start up a "Say No To Enbloc" group too lolol :)

For new users - it's really easy to set up facebook accounts. The more information you enter, the better its ability to network to other people you know - from primary school to university, from workplace to social clubs. Warning - it's addictive.

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Sunday, 14 October 2007

If You Can't Poll and You Use IE7...

Many thanks to Mr Vincent for alerting me to this. It has come to my attention that some of you are unable to use the Blogspot Poll (on the right side) - you get errors like "unable to process request" etc. This might occur because you use Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) in particular.

The solution can be found here. For IE7 users, you'll need to add "" into your trusted sites list. From IE7, click on Tools and then select Internet Options. Click on the Security tab and select "Trusted Sites" (Green Tick icon). Click on the Sites button and enter "" and click "Add". Uncheck "Require server verification..." at the bottom and then click Close. Click OK and then close IE7. Try the poll this time and see if that works?

Good luck :)

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Horizon Towers Update - Old or New

For those who have been in some deep part of our urban jungle, the news of the day had been about the Horizon Towers Appeal being approved. You can read the various articles reproduced here.

Two interesting points I should note:

  • In terms of the lawsuit, what would happen if the appeal was dismissed? The lawyer for HPPL, SC Shanmugam, said that "we would have to consider the option [of continuing with the lawsuit]. HPPL hopes an order would be made for the sale eventually because then the action would be discontinued altogether." So it appears that even if the Judge did find that the STB dismissal was in order, HT owners might be faced with the lawsuit. This is odd, to me as a layperson, as I'd have thought that if the Judge deemed the STB dismissal to be lawful, then that's the final word on the matter - the appeal was processed and judgment made. Case closed. But it appears that increasingly, the lawsuit seems to be independent of any legal judgment (whether from the High Court or from STB for that matter) but purely dependent on the successful completion of the sale. So what happens, if by a miracle, STB actually dismisses the application this time round because it was not done on good faith? Would HPPL proceed with the lawsuit? I'd really hope not.
  • So now the case goes back to STB. But when that happens, will the STB application and proceedings work under the old law or the new law? Some speculators argued that it'd be under the new law, particularly that allowing for any further technicalities to be disregarded so long as it does not prejudice any owners. But you can't have a mixture of the old and the new. If it's under the new law, then all the other regulations - allowing STB to increase proceeds for minority owners with valid objections, return of sinking/management funds, etc - should be equally applicable. This would also mean that to be fair, all HT minority owners should be given an equal opportunity now to re-apply for objections under the new rules (eg those who did renovations recently but would not have been able to object under the old rules).

This remains a gray area, for me at least. There are effectively 2 parts to the Amendments. The first part deals with procedures for securing the execution of the CSA and the tender process, and the second part deals with the application to STB. While the first part would seem nonsensical in HT's context, the second part seems to be more equitable for their case (it'd allow for more STB board members, it'd allow for technical non-compliance to be ignored if no prejudice is noted, etc) but it'd also mean that to be fair, minority owners should be able to submit new or revised objections as well.

Let's see what happens next.

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Tuesday, 9 October 2007

CNA Edge of Change NOW

Just realised ChannelNewsAsia has a documentary on now 1132pm!

Edge Of Change
Ep 1-En Bloc Phenomenon
Experts share their views on the recent en-bloc rush and property boom.

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Poll Results and Updates

Several updates this week:-

Poll Results

First, the poll results are in. 49.7% disagreed to enbloc their homes (No), 22.7% might (Maybe), and 27.6% will enbloc their homes. The poll was set up in such a way that of the 9 possible options, they would cluster into 3 Yes, 3 Maybes, and 3 Nos. What is interesting is that almost 50% of the 163 who participated in the poll are (to use bad stereotypes) 'pro-sales' (Yes) or 'pragmatists' (Maybe). When the blog was set out, I anticipated that the majority of the readers would be those who were against enbloc sales or were minority owners (that is, after all, the intention of the blog). So it's pleasantly surprising to see that I 'seemed' to have a balanced viewership.

When the results are rank ordered, the top 3 reasons (comprising 70%) are: 38% said their homes are priceless. 17.8% said they would sign if the price is right, 14.1% said their homes are old, hence they'd sell. Bottom 3 reasons are: If no choice (1.8%), if can find replacement (3.1%), and a tie between my only home (3.7%) and I need cash (3.7%). What this indicates to me:

  • People do view their homes (which according to government statistics are about 25.9 yrs old) as old. However, assuming the national average of 25.9 yrs, that means the building would have gone through only 5 'health inspections' which isn't a lot. It also begs the question - are Singaporean buildings really not built to last if they are considered old at 25.9 yrs old, or is it the case that estate management councils are not equipped to manage buildings on a long term basis?
  • The majority do believe that their homes are priceless and I'm heartened by that. It means that there are people out there who value their homes beyond their financial value.
  • People do believe strongly that they have a choice when it comes to enbloc sales. That being the case, it is imperative for people who wish to keep their homes not to sit on the sidelines and say to themselves "enbloc will not happen" and hope it won't happen. Owners who wish to keep their homes should endeavour to be pro-active, especially in getting a group of likeminded people together, much as a sales committee will do the same in their attempt to sell. A strong community can be formed within the estate through a common purpose of cherishing it.
Would you enbloc your home?

Yes It's an investment purchase 16 9.82%
Yes I need the cash 6 3.68%
Yes Place is old 23 14.11%
Maybe If price is right 29 17.79%
Maybe If can find replacement 5 3.07%
Maybe If no choice 3 1.84%
No It's my only home 6 3.68%
No Can't get replacement 13 7.98%
No My home is priceless 62 38.04%

163 100.00%

I will be starting a new poll soon, based on the new amendments that kicked in. Do feel free to participate again :)

Method of Apportionment

Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong wrote a clear explanation of his speech during Parliament and his feelings about the new amendments, which while improving on procedural aspects of the sale, may create a "loophole that permits what I would call a daisy-chain of reciprocal back-scratching to satisfy the law, without actually protecting anyone's interests". You can read the full speech, Prof Jayakumar's response, and his explanation on his blog here. Kudos to him for standing up to raise what is arguably one of the central points of contention in any enbloc sale - the method of apportionment.

News Update

Finally, a report in the Straits Times (reproduced here) on the mad dash to get that 80% before the law kicks in. And an update on the Horizon Towers (with caricatures!) here. I have as usual kept the En-bloc list as updated as I can.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Amendment to En Bloc Sale Legislation Take Effect On 4th October 2007

Direct from the Ministry (here):-

  1. The Ministry of Law has announced that the Land Titles (Strata) (Amendment) Act, enacted by Parliament on 20 September 2007, will take effect from 4 October 2007.
  2. The provisions of the new Act will apply to developments where the required 80% or 90% majority consent of owners (based on share value) has not been obtained as at the date of commencement of the Amendment Act, i.e. 4 October 2007. These developments will have to comply with the new requirements set out in the Amendment Act. Developments where the required 80% or 90% majority of owners (based on share value) have signed the Collective Sale Agreement will not need to comply with the new requirements. Developments that are 10 years or more require 80% majority consent while those below 10 years require 90% majority consent.
[Update - Didn't notice that today's International Bloggers' Day for Burma as well so go here and support!]

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Horizon Towers Update - Appeal Hearing

It's been a while since the last update on Horizon Towers. A lot has happened and it's all over the news (almost daily) by now, but for the benefit of the overseas readers and those who have not kept up, here's a quick summary below (in chronological order). I'll be providing links to condosingapore's forum which has a dedicated HT Saga sub-forum, but a warning first - there are 'trolls' on the forum who seek only to incite readers through their inflammatory comments, so ignore their postings and don't 'feed' them (ie don't respond back to them). Click on the date to jump to the condosingapore's reproduced articles.

11 Sep - Majority sellers trying to find volunteers to form new SC. Sellers ignored 11 Sep deadline by buyer to extend the sale completion date.
19 Sep - A group of majority sellers wrote to HPL saying they are willing to sell their units to the consortium at original sale price.
20 Sep - Ong Beng Seng, HPL chief, met with group of sellers to talk about extension. He urged the group to convince other sellers to have integrity, honour the contract and set a good example for their children.
21 Sep - New SC formed. HT has 210 units, 135 sellers out of 177 majority sellers attended meeting to vote on extension of sale deadline. Only 1 unit did not vote in favour. 80 owners represented by Wong & Leow engaged a public relations consultant.
25 Sep - With extension of sale deadline, HPL agreed to adjourn legal proceedings against sellers. Deadline pushed back by 4 mths to 11 Dec.
28 Sep - HPL adjourns High Court hearing of the lawsuit. Sellers begin High Court appeal hearing to overturn STB ruling. Consortium files affidavit to participate in appeal hearing. If appeal succeeds, STB may have to reassess HT deal.
29 Sep - 4 Senior Counsels, 6 law firms turned up at start of appeal hearing, with 2 groups wanting to be included in hearing so they can have their say - (1) Group of 13 sellers including pop star Ho Yeow Sun and husband Kong Hee represented by Rajah & Tann; (2) The Consortium represented by K Shanmugam.
2 Oct - Justice Choo Han Teck allowed the additional groups to participate in appeal hearing. Dragon Court sale in 2003 brought up as it related to issue of missing disclosure. In the hearing, SC Shanmugam challenged the other lawyers to argue before Justice Choo the validity of the contract between HPPL and the owners. He "hopes to preempt what he believes would be the owners' game plan — to "get rid" of HPPL and succeed in the appeal as well" (Today Online). The rest of the Today article highlights the ongoing legal debates between the SCs. What was interesting was the "investigative work" from the HPL lawyers, especially in obtaining information distributed or shared among owners. I can only assume a whistle blower among the majority owners, and as they say, "all's fair in love, war and enbloc".

The parties involved so far -
  • Hotel Properties, Qatar Investment Authority, funds managed by Morgan Stanley Real Estate. Represented by Allen & Gledhill, Senior Counsel K Shanmugam
Majority Sellers:
  • Directed by new SC. Represented by Tan, Rajah & Cheah, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah
  • 13 Sellers, including 3 members of original SC. Represented by Rajah & Tann, Senior Counsel Andre Yeap
Minority Owners:
  • 1 group of 3 represented by Tan Kok Quan - Mr Ramesh Kannan
  • 1 group of 4 represented by Harry Elias Partnership - Senior Counsel K.S. Rajah and Mr Philip Fong.
  • 1 owner represented by Phang & Co, with instructions given to Senior Counsel Michael Hwang.

Messing the Estate - Management 'Allowing' Ads

A poster on condosingapore's forum laments that his estate, which is currently undergoing enbloc, has become cluttered and badly maintained due to the increasing number of advertisements on the walls, along the corridors, on mailboxes, in the lifts, etc. When he asked the security guard, the guard said that the management council had given instructions to allow the advertisers to put them up.

This is not the first time it has happened, and chances are if you check the SC list, you'll find members of the MC in there, which would point to the main reason this is allowed - to make the estate look less appealing to owners, residents and tenants so that they are more likely to sign the CSA. Even if the enbloc is completed, advertisers should not be allowed to enter and place things up. More importantly, the management council has a duty to all owners. Through the council, the management corporation has a duty to "(a) to control, manage and administer the common property for the benefit of all the subsidiary proprietors constituting the management corporation" (Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act 29.1.a). I seriously doubt any SP would say that the ads are beneficial to them.

So what can you do?
  1. Obtain a copy of the by-laws for your estate from the managing agent (if it's not already on your notice boards in the estate). In it should have clauses on vandalism or inappropriate advertisements in the estates.
  2. Write to the management council pointing out that there are unknown peoples putting up ads and are therefore vandalising the property. If such notices are not removed, you can file a complaint to STB (using the form here) to lodge a report against the management council for failing to perform their function.
  3. I think the threat of this is sufficient for them to take down such ads and ensure the estate is clean. The guard can serve as witness (in a written statement) although I don't think that's even necessary since you're not attributing blame but merely pointing out that the MC is not performing their function in accordance with the by-law.
Relevant sections of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act:
29 Duties and powers of management corporation in respect of property
32 By-laws for common property
101 General powers to make order to settle disputes

Sunday, 30 September 2007

"Consider" This

A commenter "ngiamsw" posted an interesting comment about the nature of the word "consider" in the new bill, particularly in the context of general meetings held for collective sales (discussed here). A lot of people believe that "consider" means the following together: (a) to think rationally, (b) to discuss in a meeting, (c) to vote on the matter. I would have agreed on this except when I read lawyer Mr Ong Ying Ping's slides from a seminar he gave. In it he raised the question with regards to EOGMs - should resolution be passed to comply with para 1(c) Schedule to LT(S)A (which is to "consider the collective sale")? In other words, should voting for a resolution be allowed? He referred to Sim Lian (Newton) Pte Ltd v Gan Beng Cheng Raynes and Anor [2007] SGHC 84 which was a case on Lincolnsvale. In the High Court judgment, Asst Registrar Paul Tan stated in Para 77 the following:

The propriety of the EOGMs:
The respondents raised the point that the EOGMs held to consider the collective sale did not comprise any voting and were therefore void or invalid. This argument holds no substance. Under para 1(c) of the Schedule to the LTSA, the EOGMs are held to “consider” the sale; there is no requirement for any voting or any passing of any resolution.

"There is no requirement for any voting or any passing of any resolution" when it comes to considering the sale. Now I've long discovered that in matters of law, there is no black and white, and it remains to be seen if AR Paul Tan's argument about "consider" will be used against owners who wish to vote or pass a resolution. Of course, if the committee chairing the EOGM allows for a vote to be passed, it gives them a stronger mandate (since it does not require them to do so) and that speaks a lot more for that estate's sincere attempt for transparency and fairness to all owners. But will estates do this, or will they merely "consider"?

Now note that ngiamsw's quote of p26 of the amendment bill on the Notice on General Meetings (2nd Schedule) that the clause to "consider" (2b) is separate from the clause to vote (2d). So what can be voted? (1) in respect of each considered proposed resolution (2d) and (2) the election of members of the collective sales committee (2d).

So here is where things get tricky. I quoted the 3rd Schedule which lists the various purposes of the general meeting, most of which are "to consider". But 2nd Schedule requires a notice of the GM to be delivered to owners, which must include the proposed resolutions. So can an owner vote ("may vote in respect of each proposed resolution" - "may" not "can" or "must"; "may" infers option)?

There's therefore 2 interpretations, and until a ruling is made or a clarification is made on this matter - the court is still out on it.
  • (A) In accordance with AR Paul Tan's ruling, 3rd Schedule's various "consider" means that no voting is necessary - a resolution need not have a vote, although the sales committee might invite for such a vote.
  • (B) Every resolution should require a vote, which means at every general meeting #1-4 there will be voting on the various purposes as outlined in the previous post.
I doubt B is the correct interpretation though, because at two crucial points, if put to a vote, the entire sale process may be thrown right out: "consider [or vote for/against under interpretation B] the terms and conditions of the CSA" and "consider [or vote for/against under interpretation B] the terms and conditions of the SPA". Would the law be written in such a way that a resolution/vote at the 2nd and 4th EOGM might jeopordise the entire process if the vote is against the CSA or SPA? I don't think so. Which would mean interpretation A is the more likely meaning.

So what can owners do? If interpretation A is the correct one, while SCs are under no compulsion to vote, they can be pressured to do so; after all, it gives them a strong mandate and they have to be convinced of their own conviction that the process will result in a successful sale, right?

Hope I'm not losing people in this interpretation of the general meetings (which ultimately, is my own interpretation... so "consider" it lol). Do let me know if this is a wrong interpretation; I welcome comments on this. What is not for consideration is the VOTE on the right hand side, with only a few days left!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

How Many EOGMs Does It Take To Lay the Golden (Nest) Egg?

A commenter asked how many EOGMs is required under the new amendments. Let’s count them up:-

EOGM 1: Election of Collective Sale Committee (CSC)

According to the Section 84A Subsection 1A, and Third Schedule Para 1, the first EOGM is to elect the CSC comprising no less than 3 members and no more than 14. Such election is to be conducted by ordinary resolution (majority vote). If this is like election for management councils, each candidate will have to be voted in, which means some may not be elected if the majority votes otherwise. During this EOGM, all candidates must declare any interests (direct or indirect) in any property developer, property consultant, marketing agent or law firm. (Third Schedule Para 2)

EOGM 2: Appointment of Law Firm, Marketing Agent, Apportionment of Sale Proceeds, and Collective Sale Agreement.

This is the 2nd general meeting. To “consider” the appointment of lawyer, marketing agent, to “consider” the apportionment of sale proceeds, and to “consider” the terms and conditions of the CSA. Now “consider” means it is purely informative; you do not get to vote on the matter. But I wonder if a subsidiary proprietor or a group can requisition for a motion to vote on these matters during the general meeting or not.

Some have tried to argue that since EOGM 2 is informative, it can be collapsed into EOGM 1. This means that the CSC is highly confident that (a) the SPs will elect for the formation of the CSC (b) all of them would be elected (c) they have lined up the law firm, marketing agent, and CSA already. However, I suspect some marketing agents and law firms will now insist that before they sign a contract to be their agent, the CSC must be fully ratified first (since the election of the CSC is an ‘internal’ matter now, and it might not even get off the ground).

EOGM 3: Execution of the CSA

The 3rd general meeting. This is to give an update on the total number of SPs who have signed the CSA and to provide information on the sale proposal and process. This is before the public tender.

EOGM 4: Number of Offers, Sale and Purchase Agreement

The 4th general meeting. This is to provide information on the number of offers from the tender, their respective amounts, and to “consider” the terms and conditions of the SPA. This will be held “as soon as practicable” after the close of the tender, auction or private treaty.

EOGM 5: Dissolving the CSC

This is not officially in the process, but a group can requisition for the dissolution of the CSC by ordinary resolution at an EOGM. (Third Schedule Para 12)

So a total of 4 (or 3 if some groups decide to shoot for compressing EOGM 1 and 2), or 5 if a group thinks the CSC should be dissolved. Only EOGM 1 and 5 currently allows action by the SPs, the rest (EOGM 2,3,4) are purely informative only. As I said, because these are general meetings, there's a possibility that a SP or a group can requisition for additional motions to be entered into the notice as well. This will have to be tested of course.

The EOGMs 2 to 4 are stated in the Third Schedule (you can find the document here) reproduced below:-

7.—(1) The collective sale committee shall convene one or more general meetings of the management corporation in accordance with the Second Schedule for the following purposes:
(a) to consider the appointment of any advocate and solicitor, property consultant or marketing agent;
(b) to consider the apportionment of sale proceeds;
(c) to consider the terms and conditions of the collective sale agreement;
(d) to give an update on the total number of subsidiary proprietors who, immediately before the date of the general meeting, have signed the collective sale agreement;
(e) to provide information of the sale proposal and sale process;
(f) to provide information on the number of offers received for the collective sale and the respective amounts; and
(g) to consider the terms and conditions of the sale and purchase agreement.

(2) The meeting under sub-paragraph (1)(a), (b) and (c) shall be convened before any subsidiary proprietor signs the collective sale agreement.
(3) The meeting under sub-paragraph (1)(d) and (e) shall be convened after the subsidiary proprietors referred to in section 84A(1) or 84FA(2) have signed the collective sale agreement but before the launch for sale under paragraph 11.
(4) The meeting under sub-paragraph (1)(f) and (g) shall be convened as soon as practicable after the close of the public tender or public auction or, where applicable, after the collective sale committee has entered into a private contract under paragraph 11

The End of Enblocing Singapore?

Parliament has passed the amendment bill. According to the draft legislation (Attachment B):-
"To provide that the amendments to the Land Titles (Strata) Act will not apply to a development where the collective sale agreement has been signed by the required majority owners before the date when the amendments were passed by Parliament."

Likewise in the Consultation Paper (Attachment A):-
"26. The LT(S)A will be amended to give effect to the confirmed changes. The confirmed changes will apply to all projects except those that have already obtained the majority of 80% / 90% (based on share value) at the time the proposed amendments are passed by Parliament."

I take these both to mean that the new rules on enbloc processes just kicked in yesterday. Someone let me know if this isn't the case. You can also read Prof Jayakumar's Second Reading of the amendment bill here; there's information of some of the changes made to the amendment bill based on subsequent feedback (but not the criticisms by the various MPs).

So what now? Is the blog done? Unlikely. What I call the 'baby months' of a new law will comprise of various parties using everything they can to push the boundaries of how the new amendments will affect their estate's sale. Pro-sales will do their best to cut corners if possible, anti-sales will do their best to ensure corners are not cut, and adhered to. While the process will take longer, it will ultimately allow many points of access for those who wish to keep their homes (and conversely many points of attack for those who want to sell).

Here's the prediction for the near future:-
  1. Enblocs won't stop. Sales committees will have to be more sociable and actually do the ground work of meeting people, gathering support. Likewise, those against the sale will have to mobilise themselves and gather support. Questions about suitability of potential SC candidates will become frequent. The outcome will be largely positive because in many ways, if everyone turns up with their questions and grill the candidates, only those who are well-supported will emerge as more representative than pre-amendment time.
  2. Marketing agents will bump up their commission fees, citing more work that they have to do to get the process moving along. Typical rates of 0.3% will probably go up to 0.4-0.5% for baseline RP, and 1.5-2% for above RP. The more established agents will be monopolistic and very quickly, you'll see standardised rates across the bigger firms. Owners will be in a conundrum - hire a big firm and pay the premium; hire a smaller firm and suffer a potential Horizon Towers. While decisions will rest with the various owners/protem-SCs, what must be clearly outlined now are the duties and responsibilities for the agents, in accordance with the new amendments. Eg some agents are saying you don't need 4 EOGMs but can compress them into less. Will this mess up the application? Maybe not, but maybe it might too. The beginning stages of a new law is always a painful time when both parties (pro- and anti-) strive to find ways to counter one another. Better be safe than sorry though.
  3. Likewise for law firms and their fees. Again, the bigger ones will standardise quickly and the owners need to make clear what are the duties and responsibilities for the law firms. Through the law firm, the owners should also engage the SC directly to clearly outline their duties and responsibilities. Horizon Towers is an example of how things can still go wrong post-amendment since some aspects of the problems reside in the CSA and the responsibilities of the SC.
  4. For those who love their homes, what can you do? Document everything, take note of when announcements for EOGMs are made, when they are held, whether a notice of who are eligible to vote is placed up, who voted, how was the voting done etc. Everything counts now. Attempts will be made by pro-sales people to interpret the new law in their favour and it'll be up to anti-sales people to ensure this does not happen. It means you need to mobilise yourselves into a group if possible. Look at the Love Bayshore Park and Dairy Farm groups, both fairly successful in raising the profile of their intention to keep their homes. Get together, read up on the new law, read both the Land Titles (Strata) Act and the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act. Push the envelope yourselves - can you submit a motion before an EOGM to require all potential SC candidates to present a CV of their relevant experiences? Can you submit motions that require voting of a particular resolution to be done? Can you query the CSA during the EOGM? Can you demand an account or justification why particular agents/law firms were selected? Can you vote on these matters (or put in a motion to vote)? Bear in mind an EOGM doesn't mean that the pro-sales people hold the reins; any SP can submit a motion according to the BMSMA as shown below.
  5. Use the forums eg condosingapore (but do create an account!) or create your own blogs, document for others to see what you have succeeded (or not succeeded) in doing. Many estates are now more emboldened by the knowledge that there are other estates that have like-minded owners who wish to do something about protecting their homes against mindless destruction. Information shared is always a good thing.
The baby months will be a time of testing and contesting the boundaries, as both pro- and anti-sales try to find their feet under the new regulations. The pro- have the advantage of big estate agencies and law firms to help them (since these firms will undoubtedly share their knowledge and intelligence about other estates among themselves and their clients). Anti-sales have only the internet, and their strong determination to fight back.

Good luck.

Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act First Schedule Requisition for motions to be included on agenda for general meeting
12. —(1) Any subsidiary proprietor may, by notice in writing, served on the secretary of the council of the management corporation or (as the case may be) subsidiary management corporation, require inclusion in the agenda of the next general meeting of the management corporation or (as the case may be) subsidiary management corporation of a motion set out in the first-mentioned notice and the secretary shall comply with the notice.
(2) The secretary of the council shall give effect to every requirement in every notice under sub-paragraph (1).
(3) Sub-paragraph (1) shall not require the inclusion of a motion on the agenda of a general meeting for which notices have already been given in accordance with this Schedule, but in that case, the secretary of the council shall include the motion in the agenda of the next general meeting after that.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Comments on Parliamentary Debate on Amendment Bill

I've been torn between ploughing through the videos tonight of the debates in Parliament on the enbloc sale, and churning out 2 papers that are due, VERY soon. So as a compromise, I watched some of them, and Prof Jayakumar's closing responses to all who raised concerns.

A couple of interesting observations. Each of the MPs raised extremely valid concerns and suggested ways to tweak and improve the amendment bill. Why were these raised at this stage and not earlier, right after the amendment bill was made public? I ask this because their concerns, ranging from collective exchange models, concerns for the elderly owners, method of apportionment, clearer standardisation of CSAs, duties and responsibilities of SCs etc, would have gone much further into improving the mess that enbloc sales are currently in. While admitting that the amendment bill is a major step forward, it could have been a GIGANTIC leap forward if such considerations were seriously taken on board. But it seems, when raised in Parliament, (a) they don't seem to have an impact on any possibility of tweaking the amendment bill (someone correct me if I'm wrong here), (b) the major arbiter is Prof Jayakumar (listen to how often counter-responses to the suggestions or concerns raised by (N)MPs are preceded by first person reference "I think", "I wish to point out", "I would not favour", "I'm reluctant to" etc). The latter point seems to suggest that rather than a careful consideration of some of the suggestions (many of which were raised during the public consultation, some by me LOL) by a group of experts/researchers/lawyers, the buck seems to stop at Prof Jayakumar. If he agrees with it (eg NMP Siew's suggestion that SISV look into clearer stipulation of guidelines for method of apportionment) it goes through the gate and MinLaw will consider following up on it (in this case, working with SISV).

For me, this is the first time I've witnessed Singapore's Parliamentary debates on a specific topic and watched/listened to it carefully with my analytic cap on. Having seen British Parliament in action (they have a dedicated TV channel broadcasting it even), and how lively (and intelligent in some cases) the exchanges can be, this is quite... monologic, let's put it this way :) I saw a post on condosingapore that seems to capture the sentiment well:-

I watched the Parliament news this evening, and seems that all MPs have some very brilliant idea about how the enbloc legislation can be further improved. E.g. banning SPs who have bought a unit < 2 years from being in the sales committee, etc
But it is a matter of "too much but too late". This is Singapore. Any proposed bill, surely will be passed without amendments. If only, instead of engaging in meaningless "for-show only" debate in the parliament, prior to the drafting of any new laws or revision, each MP can drop an e-mail to the Highly Paid Superscale Admin Service staff to have his/her view considered.
This is probably much more effective, and save the Minister from being bombarded in the Parliament. We will also be happier citizens, knowing that our dear MPs have been looking after our interests....via e-mails at least.

I'd strongly suggest watching the videos of MP Alvin Yeo, NMP Siew Kum Hong, NMP Mehta, MP Irene Ng, and of course Prof Jayakumar's closing responses.

Parliament Passes Land Titles (Strata) (Amendment) Bill

On 20th September 2007, Singapore Parliament passed the new amendments to the Land Titles (Strata) Act that will affect enbloc sales. You can read the brief reports on this on the Straits Times Online here, and ChannelNews Asia here. Both are reproduced on CondoSingapore here where you can discuss should you wish.

I'm including video links to CNA which kept streamed videos of the Parliamentary debate on this amendment. You may need Adobe Flashplayer to view the videos, and the videos are long (about 10-20 minutes each) as they cover the entire speeches given by the various Members of Parliament :-

  1. Second Reading by Prof Jayakumar here.
  2. Speech by MP Teo Ho Pin here.
  3. Speech by MP Alvin Yeo here.
  4. Speech by MP Ellen Lee here.
  5. Speech by MP Irene Ng here.
  6. Speech by NMP Kalyani Mehta here.
  7. Speech by NMP Siew Kum Hong here.
  8. Closing speech by Prof Jayakumar here.
You can find them archived on CNA's website covering the Parliament here (in case the links above did not work; look for videos dated 20th September 2007).

On a sidenote, HPL's Ong Beng Seng has met up with some Horizon Towers owners. You can read about that here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Parliamentary Responses to Collective Sale Queries

Yesterday's parliament had an initial foray into the Land Titles (Strata) Act Amendment Bill, which will be discussed this week. Facts and figures were offered in written response to questions posed. You can read the full CNA article here and reproduced here. I will add in additional information from the written responses.

  1. The average age of all developments which applied for collective sale from January 2005 to end-August 2007 was 25.9 years.
  2. The average age of the developments in the Core Central Region (CCR), Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside Central Region (OCR) was 25.3, 28.4 and 23.9 years respectively.
  3. The average percentage of owners who had signed the collective sales agreement at the time of application was 89.2 percent. About half of these developments received a consent level of 90 percent and above.
  4. The common reasons for objections raised by minority owners to the Strata Titles Boards were that they would suffer financial loss and that the transaction was not done in good faith in view of factors such as sale price of the lots and common property, the method of distributing the sale proceeds and the relationship of the purchaser to any of the subsidiary proprietors.
  5. Since 1 January 2005, a total of 3,700 private residential units have been issued Strata Titles Board orders for collective sale. When redeveloped, there will be 8,303 new units.
  1. Given the statistics above provided by MinLaw and Ministry of National Development, it is no surprise that the amendments did not consider the age of the estates as a possible factor for change (ie the 10 year arbitrary mark). A market-driven policy on enbloc sale has produced in the last 3 years or less, redevelopment for estates that are on average 25.9 years old. On its own, that average is a very good justification to leave the 10 yr mark as it is.
  2. What it does not show, however, are the following: (a) the quality of a 25.9 year old estate and whether it is a blighted/run-down estate or whether it has been carefully kept and well-maintained for decades by judicious owners and management councils; (b) the spread of estates that are increasingly being attempted to go enbloc. I compiled the TOP data of all estates in the En-bloc List I have, and separated them into two charts. One for completed sales (which would correspond with MinLaw's data), and one for tendered/ongoing sales (not in MinLaw's data). The document is available here as a pdf with the usual caveats that the data is not 100% complete due to unavailability of some TOP data. However, when broken into two charts, and 5 yearly ranges, the spread of estates going enbloc are clearer. For example, while my data more or less confirms the 25.9 year average, the data also shows that for ongoing attempts, there is a noticeable increase in attempts on estates that are less than average range of 1981-1985, ie 1986 and younger.
  3. This means that IF urban renewal is the driving impetus for enbloc policies then estates older than the average range should be going for enbloc. But instead, it is estates that are younger than the average range that are going enbloc, especially estates in the 1986-1990 range. These are pretty young estates by international standards. There's essentially an increase in attempts on estates that are younger than 1981-1985, and a decrease in attempts on estates that are older than 1981-1985. It is possible that the supply of older estates is decreasing. I can't comment on this because I don't have data on un-redeveloped estates that are older than the average range (which are enbloc potentials). However, the issue remains: Is urban renewal still the rationale and driver for enbloc sales (which my data that shows younger estates going enbloc suggests otherwise), or is it the rationale of economic maximisation of individual assets (selling for maximum profit)?
  4. The common reasons for objection runs the whole gamut, but anecdotally I'd have expected financial loss to be less of an issue nowadays, than issues of good faith and on points of law. It's a pity a breakdown of the various objections was not disclosed.
  5. A twofold increase in units available in the near future from redevelopment is a pretty good justification for enblocs but again, the statistics belie the qualitative aspect of urban living - that most of the newer units are smaller, with new estates more packed in. This will invariably affect the quality of living in Singapore's condos where increasingly the only major structural differences between mass market condos and HDB estates are the presence of security and sports facilities (swimming pool, tennis courts, gym).
  6. With half of the developments exceeding 90%, the other half would be less than 89.2% which sounds about right, given that larger estates would typically obtain a consent level in the lower range of 80.1% to 89.2%, while smaller estates would hit 90% and above easily. Or combining two values, 10.8% minority owners of 3700 units is about 400 units that did not agree to the sale. Again, without a breakdown by size of estates it'll be hard to gauge exactly how many minority owners there were (ie 10% in an estate of 1000 units is more than 10% in an estate of 20 units).
I'll keep you posted with more information on this.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Banning Enblocs on Newer Buildings

It is rare to see a reader-submitted letter on enblocs in the Sunday Times, so it's interesting to see Mr John Lee Junshi's letter in the Inbox where he advocated that newer buildings should be banned from enblocs. At least until their 20th birthday. You can read that entire letter reproduced here.

His words:-
"The proposed amendments could have done better by prohibiting the collective sale of buildings that are less than 20 years old, and making the collective sale of buildings progressively easier for buildings 20 years and older.

For example, by requiring 80 per cent share value approval for buildings that are at least 20 years old but less than 30 years old; 75 per cent approval for buildings at least 30 years old but less than 40 years old and so on.

This formula will ensure that there is a balance between environmental concerns and urban renewal."

I actually submitted something along the same lines to MinLaw during the public consultation - a staggered method of calculating consent level based on the age of the buildings, rather than the simple 10 year mark as is currently implemented, and which is kept for the new amendments. Guess my suggestion got fed to the shredder :)

But I added additional clauses to the model. You see, while the idea of a staggered consent level is one way to go, it does not take into consideration the possibility that older buildings may not necessarily be more blighted, or decrepit, or rundown. I'm always heartened when I see 30+ year old condos that are well kept, very well maintained, upgraded consistently over the years with new lifts, improved security, renovated common hallways/gardens etc. When an effort is made on the part of owners who wish to keep their estate in pristine condition regardless of age, they should not be penalised by the possibility of the wrecking ball. So I suggested that if an estate has undergone substantial renovation/upgrading, they could apply for a 'stay order' against enblocs. In other words, it would be as if time has reset itself.

This point is important - owners should be given the possibility to take ownership of their own estate in two ways - not just in collectively selling (current mode) but collectively deciding to upgrade/renovate their estate (not in current mode or Mr Lee's letter). Should the latter happen, they should be rewarded with at least 10 years of enjoying their newly done up estate. A building inspector can certify such a renovation as being one that is substantial to formalise the stay order.

If estates in global cities like New York, London, Paris can be kept in pristine condition despite them being over 50-100 years old, why not in Singapore?

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Bayshore Park Goes on TV Monday 17 Sep 8.30pm

The new season of "Get Rea!" with Cheryl Fox begins with a documentary on the situation over at Bayshore Park. The opposition for enbloc sales, the Love Bayshore Park group (link here), has mobilised themselves even before the EOGM to elect the sales committee has begun. You can read the article on CNA here and reproduced here. The Get Real programme will be shown on Monday 17 September 07 8.30pm-9.00pm Singapore Time, CNA channel.

The blurb is below:-
"Episode 1: The en bloc fever's spreading in Singapore. For those chasing the property boom, it's the best time to cash in but it's a different story for those who want to stay. And the battle to sell or stay put, could get ugly. Your home could be your Singapore Dream or your Singapore Nightmare."

Going to Court: Phoenix Court Sale Put On Hold

This will be 'old' news by now, but still, in attempting to be comprehensive in the "Going to Court" (or STB in some cases) series, better to have this included :)

Details are below as usual. But before that, a few points - the article by Today paper is an interim report, as the judge has not given his decision on the case yet. You can read the Today paper article here or reproduced here (along with discussion). Also, SC Michael Hwang who raised these points to the judge is not some flaky lawyer firing a legal shotgun (metaphorically speaking) and hoping that a target will be hit. Senior Counsel Michael Hwang, aged 63+, was formerly with Allen & Gledhill, and one of their prized litigators (along with SC K Shanmugam). Trained in law at Oxford U, he joined A&G in 1968 after he was called to the English bar at Gray's Inn (a prestigious thing). He left A&G in 2003 to develop his arbitration practice, and his portfolio included being a Specialist Judge in the Subordinate Court, an ambassador to Switzerland, a deputy chief justice in Dubai International Financial Centre Court (2004), chairman of Singapore Dance Theatre, High Court judicial commissioner, SMY's law school advisory board, and the first batch of 12 lawyers appointed as Senior Counsels in 1997. What this means is that when he raises certain points of law, it is not a frivolous or nonsensical gesture. So bear this in mind before making any judgments about his objections to the Phoenix Court sale.

Estate: Phoenix Court, St Thomas Walk/Killiney Road
Stage: Sold at $88.1 million Oct 2007. STB rejected minority owners' case. Appeal to High Court.
Source: Today 8 Sep 2007, Today 6 July 2007, BT 8 June 2006
Party: 1 elderly couple as sole minority owner.
Minority Owners' Lawyer: Senior Counsel Michael Hwang
Agent: Dennis Wee Realty
Collective Sale Lawyer: Mr Christopher Yong, Legal21 LLC
Developer: Hiap Hoe
Reason: Appeal to High Court for sale to be dismissed due to 'defective' procedures.
Details: (Today 6/7/06) "some majority residents were also against an extension to their CSA.. but to no avail. The STB las week approved the sale to Hiap Hoe for $88.1m". (Weekend 8/9/07) (1) SC Hwang argued that 2 of the 3 majority owners who had applied to STB were not authorised to do so. (2) CSA signed Apr 06, 6 weeks later valuation done (approx Jun 06), STB application Jan 07, SC Hwang took issue with valuation report (possibly due to it being completed more than 3 mths prior to STB application) (3) method of distribution omitted from the SPA. SC Hwang: "the S&P agreement must define the contractual obligations between a buyer and the individual owners — since members of sale committee "lose interest very quickly, especially if they have gotten their money""; "This is in effect a compulsory acquisition. The onus is on those who acquire my clients' properties to adhere strictly to the requirements set out by the law."

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Architects - The Invisible Victims of En-bloc Sales

Friday's Straits Times carried a lengthy article on Singapore's veteran architects whose babies were subjected to the wrecking ball recently, courtesy of enbloc sales. Architects like Victor Chew, Timothy Seow, and William Lim, designed some of the earliest post-independence buildings and condominiums. These landmarks - Beverly Mai, Futura etc - are the true icons of Singapore's modern architecture. Yet in gaining huge windfalls, they are losing, as William Lim said "collective memories". Willaim Lim - "The Red House Bakery in Katong, the National Theatre - these may not be fantastic examples of architecture but they said something to the people"; "But there is no respect for the memories of the invisible public."

Victor Chew's question is poignant - what does a building mean to people? Is it just an investment waiting for the enbloc profit? Is it memories and histories for people who lived there? Is it just a place to stay, in true pragmatic Singaporean style?

Dr Timothy Seow's suggestion is likewise significant - he pointed out that many of the condos he designed were "well-designed buildings which if given a chance to be upgraded, would still be able to take on a new look that is relevant to the times".

Will the government continue to let the market-driven model of urban redevelopment systematically demolish the collective memories and architectural heritage of Singapore's modern era? Or will the government step in and put into place, like what Dr Seow suggested, upgrade schemes for condos which are worth conserving?

It's not impossible, it's a question of will. And if the government's actions in the past were any indication, when there's a will there's a way, as they say.

This article couldn't be more timely. I grew up on the west side of Singapore, and used to imagine Westpeak Condo (currently being torn down) as a giant Transformer (with its noticeable 'head'). Now I will never be able to drive past it and remember my childhood memories.

You can read the article reproduced in condosingapore here.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Questioning STB's Jurisdiction on Gillman Height's Sale

Not really a court case but an STB case. Here, the 2 minority owners from Gillman Heights have argued through their lawyer that the application should be dismissed on legal grounds. You can find the article from CNA here and reproduced here. An added note of interest - Capitaland who purchased Gillman Heights sold 50% of their stake to Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL - 25%) and 2 private funds (at 15% and 10% respectively). One wonders if it's the same 2 funds embroiled with Horizon Towers currently.

Estate: Gillman Heights, Alexandra Road
Stage: Sold at $548 million 7 Feb 2007 toppling $500m by Horizon Towers in Jan 07
Source: CNA 14 Sep 2007, BT 7 Feb 2007, BT 16 Feb 2007
Party: 2 minority owners. STB Hearing due in 2 weeks' time.
Minority Owners Lawyer: Eddee Ng of Tan Kok Quan Partnership
Agent: DTZ Debenham Tie Leung
Collective Sale Lawyer: Lee & Lee
Developer: Capitaland & HPL (+2 private funds)
Reason: Number of legal reasons raised as to why the sale should be dismissed.
Details: (CNA) Some of the legal grounds for dismissal are: (1) Age of estate - Estate built in 1984 but CSC issued in 2002. Contention is that the estate is < 10 years old, and hence 90% consent required (Current level at 87.5%). Note that new law will address this but it does not apply to Gillman Heights which had already achieved 80%. (2) CSA (inked in June 06) has expired with no valid extension in supplemental CSA. (3) Because CSA has expired, SC is not authorised to represent owners in STB application.

I'll update when I get more information on this.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Seminar by SISV on Collective Sales - 14 Sep 07

There's this guy lurking in my blog, asking about a seminar on collective sales that's upcoming. Well, further to the previous seminar conducted by Ahrals (the one which lawyer Mr Ong Ying Ping gave his seminar), I understand from someone that Ahrals may conduct a repeat event (although this is not confirmed - do contact Ahrals directly on this).

However, what IS confirmed is a seminar by the Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers (SISV) on the 14 September (Friday) from 9am to 1pm at Furama. You can find information on the SISV website here, and the specific flyer (in pdf format) here.

It's not free (public = $150). What I like about it, when reading the blurb, is the bit on "Some Thoughts From a Collective Sale Committee Member" - "The collective sale process needs three parties working together - the property consultants, the lawyer and the sale committee representing the owners" so said Ms Kwang Heng Lee (the presenter). It's quite telling that the fourth party, and probably the most important group, is not in this "working together" bit - the subsidiary proprietors (aka owners/residents). I guess an enbloc sale process can work without the owners, as I'm sure many would agree is the case nowadays :)

For those of you who are interested in issues of valuation (of your sale price and method of distribution), you might want to see what the President of SISV has to say.

ps. I'm aware of the Phoenix Ct case, but have not had time to sit down and read it carefully. You can find the information about the Phoenix Court appeal and the staying of sale here.