Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Myth #7 - Strata Titles Board & Conflict of Interest

As some of you know, the Strata Titles Boards (STBs) is in charge of processing all en-bloc sale applications. They are also the body that one appeals to if you have any objection to the en-bloc sale. The other legal body is the Singapore High Court.

Basically, if you have any issues with en-bloc sales, the buck stops at the STBs.

So let's look at who they are. Everytime an application is submitted to STBs, they form a 3 or 5 person 'committee' (called the Strata Titles Board (STB), as opposed to Strata Titles Boards). These people are drawn from a list of 30 people, appointed by the Minister. From their website : "These members of the panel have a wide range of experience and include accountants, architects, engineers, lawyers, property consultants and surveyors".

Let's look at the breakdown of these 30 people:-

Lawyers - 5
Engineers - 4
Surveyors - 2
Architects - 4
Property Consultants - 8
District Judge - 2
Lecturers - 5

Now in any hearing on the en-bloc sale, the panel should be impartial and have no vested interest in the act of selling land collectively. That's only fair and that's how the law should operate - panels should be neutral, impartial, have no conflict of interests or vested interests in promoting collective sales. Otherwise, how can an appeal to the STB be deemed a fair appeal?

Did you know that out of the 5 lawyers, FOUR of them are in companies that actively promote themselves as solicitors for collective sales? Or that from the 8 property consultants, TWO are from Savills and Jones Lang LaSalle, two of the most active marketing agents for collective sales? If you then factor in the question of who would benefit from collective sales, you'll need to include lawyers (from dealing with the legal aspects of the sale), architects (who designs new developments), property consultants (who sells developments), surveyors (whose services are required for land and property sales), and engineers (in the designing of developments). The only group who may be deemed as people who may not have vested interests are, in theory, lecturers (they only have architect and law faculty) and the two retired district judges.


Vested Interest Panellists in STBs (or members who may have conflicting interests to any appeal): 23
Neutral Panellists in STBs: 7

You have to love the system for selecting the very people who are most likely to say YES to a collective sale. And given that nowadays, most objections are not really about financial loss (although it has to be crouched in those terms; look at the case of Eng Lok) but about losing their homes which goes beyond any financial value, there is a surprising dearth of the very people who should be involved in hearing these minority owners' plight.

Members of Parliament.

Shouldn't each STB hearing include the MP of that en-bloc property's constituency? Even if not, the imbalance due to huge conflicts of interest in terms of collective sales in the STBs panel of members needs to be seriously redressed.

Is it any wonder the Nurse of Eng Lok Mansion lost her appeal to block the collective sale? Is it any wonder that there has been, historically, no collective sale that has been rejected by the STBs?


Anonymous said...

We had a briefing from our lawyer. He is also a senior mgmt at the STB. He said that he won't trade his integrity by being subjective in such sensitive matter.
As I sat down listening to him, I'm not convinced. His body language, and the fact he is not willing to go beyond the norms, show that he is not fully at our side. BTW, we pay him. So we expect him to be at our side.

Anonymous said...

Interesting situation where you can take advantage of the conflict of interest situation. It works both ways after all. Since he stated that he won't trade his integrity, you can tap on his 'resources' as a member of STB to find out what ticks and what doesn't in STB; what were the gray areas that can be pushed further and how can the STB be persuaded in your favour. After all, as YOUR lawyer his information about the innerworkings of STB and the cases that has been brought forward in STB should be knowledge that will (always) be useful to your own case. In other words, make him 'prove' his loyalty to your cause. Why select him over other possible lawyers, after all?

Anonymous said...

it is also no wonder that pple with agenda will offer their time and service to swing the decisions. hence, conflict of interest always stay.

If one has no interest in the subject, why wld they be there at all in the first place? must be something to draw their interest, yea?