Friday, 20 April 2007

Help Needed: Experienced STB Mediation Folks Required!

Apologies to all about not updating the site. I'm keeping it as minimal as possible for now so that readers can find the information on the Ministry of Law Public Consultation here and the Feedback Unit's REACH Discussion Forum here.

In the meantime, I've been approached by a group of minority owners who would like to hear from others who have been through the STB mediation process. They do not know what are the next steps (they have submitted their objections), neither do they know if a legal representative is required for the mediation or not etc. If anyone has any information on this black boxed process, please let everybody know via the comments section of this posting. Such information will give minority owners greater confidence in preparing for the legal battle ahead.

It'll be useful to others to know so that any potential minority owners can be better prepared before they enter the STB hearings. Some points you can include for all to read:-

  1. What factors did you bring up in your objections (financial loss, bad faith, apportionment). Which ones were allowed and which were rejected by the STB?
  2. Did you go as a group or as individuals?
  3. Did you obtain a lawyer to represent you (or the group)? Must you have a lawyer?
  4. What was the STB hearing like? Was it akin to a court hearing with the sales committee's lawyers and the STB 'judges'?
  5. Can you hire a lawyer after any initial STB mediation or does the STB disallow that? How many sessions do you have to go through?
  6. Did your sales committee's lawyers try to impose their charges on you (or your group), especially if the objections were found by the STB to be unjustifiable/untenable? (eg did the SC try to deduct a certain amount from your sales proceed, more than everyone else?)
  7. Any other points.

Much appreciated.
ps. Updated En-bloc list Scary how the list of confirmed en-blocs is growing!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Feedback Unit's REACH Discussion on En Bloc Legislation

REACH, the Feedback Unit's public forum, has posted a discussion thread on the proposed en bloc legislation changes. You can find it here. By all means, feel free to chip in there as I do believe the Feedback Unit reads the discussion.

Reach's Our Common Space Forum Discussion - Proposed Changes to En Bloc Sale Legislation

While I'm not familiar with the forum protocols, I think you can submit responses to the discussion thread anonymously (like I did) or you can register an account. In either cases, I'm sure your IP address is logged so anonymity is an illusion :)

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

The Time is Now - Ministry of Law Public Consultation

This is the moment we've been waiting for.

To all those who have suffered from enbloc sales, the Ministry of Law is holding a public consultation on the proposed amendments to the en bloc sale legislation. Information can be found here (includes consultation paper and draft legislative amendment document). While the main intent is to discuss the 3 particular amendments (additional consent, empowering STB to increase sales proceeds for minority owners, improvements made to en bloc sales procedures), if you send to them a well-argued, well-justified critique (and importantly, suggestions) of the current en bloc sale legislation, I do not think they would turn you down.

All of us minority owners and people who may be going through enblocs now, we have from 2nd April to 12th May 2007 to send our reviews and comments to the Ministry of Law. There are two methods of delivery to the Ministry:

  1. By Mail: The Ministry of Law, 100 High Street, The Treasury, #08-02, Singapore 179434. Attn: Mr Gary Goh.
  2. By Email:
Please send constructive comments and critiques to the Ministry... It's no point sending a major complaint letter as it'd get nowhere except the governmental bin. Bear in mind as this is a public consultation, it won't be just minority owners voicing out to the government; the Ministry will receive letters from property agencies like CBRE, Knight Frank, etc about why the changes are bad form. They'll get letters from law firms that handle enbloc sales with legal counters to the amendments. There will be sales committee members who will write in to attempt to stop these changes too. So it's not just minority owners who will be writing in but everyone who wants the status quo to remain.

This means you MUST write in and voice your concerns, issues, suggestions. Or the majority will gain the upper hand again.

Some suggestions for you to think about:-

  • You are going through an enbloc sale and you're not happy. List down the reasons why you are not happy with the way the sale was conducted, the bullishness of sales committees or agents, the aggressiveness of majority owners etc. For each of these reasons, think about how they can be converted from a complaint into a suggestion. So if the sales committee was being a major bully to every minority owner, how about suggesting, like true elections, anonymous voting at selected period in the enbloc process? An accounting firm can handle the voting and it can be done in writing rather than the way it's done now (collecting signatures so that everyone who signed the CSA knows who has not). Be imaginative but pragmatic. Give valid reasons why you're suggesting such improvements.
  • You've been through an enbloc sale and you're not happy. Again, your complaints will get you nowhere unless you can change them into critiques and suggestions. Did you feel your entire estate was suddenly pushed into the enbloc at lightning speed without clear protocols? What procedures would you want to include to ensure this does not happen again?
  • You've been evicted from your enblocked home and now you're worried that your new home will be removed from you in a few years' time. A good suggestion from The Pariah is to have legislation over how frequent an estate can hold an enbloc sale during the fixed period of time. So say after the first failed attempt, make a suggestion to the Ministry that it should regulate the next time it can be done (say 4 years). How about a permit that must be obtained (like COE) to allow any sales committee to even begin the enbloc. Such a permit would require say a surveyor's report indicating the state of the estate, showing how any upkeep costs would no longer be sustainable, ie justify why an enbloc should be done. This would cut down on environmental wastage and give many owners some security that no single group of ambitious owners can take away your home without sufficient justification.
You get the idea. Constructive criticism and suggestions are key in governmental discussions. Lamenting the fact that you lost your home must be balanced with how the government can improve things so that it will not happen to you or anyone else in the future.

Let's get this rolling people. Start writing to the Ministry! Don't sit there thinking others will do the work for you.. please put your frustration, sadness, anger and thoughts onto paper and let the government know enough is enough.