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: MLAW_enbloc@mlaw.gov.sg
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.


The Pariah said...

This is the Pariah again from www.singaporeenbloc.blogspot.com

Looks like we are on the same wave-length, man! I just updated my blog-site to say that it's no use lamenting. Instead, we must give viable alternatives or solutions to MinLaw to address or solve these laments.

I can't believe that we even used the same "lament" word!

Anonymous said...

If we give feedback, do we expect a reply? Or at least, a short acknowledgement? There are lots of discussion at REACH, but not a single post from the Govt. This is why we Singaporeans are indifferent.

BTW, I emailed you earlier regarding the ST forum. Not sure if it's too late.

Dr Minority said...

I don't think the government per se responds on the REACH forum. Rather, i think the administrators of the forum will forward the discussion (or summarise it) to the government.

Nevertheless, it is an official channel from the feedback unit so it's worth voicing your concerns there!

Anonymous said...

I think that waiting for response for the govt. is a slow , constructive approach. But while waiting, we need to look at ways of beating the law and using to advantage the grey areas of the law.

E.g. Questioning what are the accountabilities and responsibilities of SC, Marketing consultants to minority anti-enbloccers?
They owe the same duty to be transparent to anti-bloccers as defined in CSA ..'REgistered owners' even if anti-bloccers do not sign the CSA.
We need them to divulge important info. and given specific responsibilities under the CSA , are they not in a special position of fiduciary duty to all , and not just the signed Vendors?

I would also like to explore the avenues under Strata Act for anti-bloccers who register their objections. What is the cost involved and how does the Act protect this lot. Should we not all register our objection..after all it does not deprive us of the final outcome if need be.REason for objection- the condo is not old nor uninhabitable .

It forces SC and consultants to comply and practise their duty of care and not throw their weight around on the dissident owners even when they may get the near majority they need.

Anti-bloccers , indeed the earnest vendors too need to demand more information to make their decisions.

Informed decisions require transparency and expert advice that are not bias. Either educate ourselves or get independent professional help to evaluate the real value of your asset and the alternatives available in the negotiation.

Here is where Singaporean professionals should look at offering their voluntary services to educate the public on their rights and ways of handling their issue. Self help , the kampong spirit should be kept alive, even if the kampong disappears.

SC and those who make up that group have to be experts themselves and be willing to hear all sides of the argument regardless of their own private agenda.

Irrespective of what the CSA says, SC members are in a fiduciary position , all the indemnity in the world does not keep them safe from negligent suits , so tread with care and caution if you are on the SC.

Meanwhile as an anti-bloccer, I am sitting on the sideline enjoying this spectator sport but wary that my retirement home is not retiring with me..but so be it, if that happens I am not coming home..folks take your money and head for Perth, Florida, Spain , Switzerland, Vancouver..and simulate your Singapore lifestyle wherever you go..who needs to be in a cubicle with over 6 million other scrambling cubicle owners falling prey to greedy developers!

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