Monday, 27 August 2007

Parliament Debates Land Titles (Strata) (Amendment) Bill

Over 400 suggestions from 100 submissions. Result - 30 proposed amendments to the Land Titles (Strata) Act.

News have started to trickle in and you can find details on CondoSingapore forum, here and here. The idea, according to Prof Jayakumar, is to make the enbloc sale more transparent, fairer and clearer. Debate is to continue next month, with the Amendment Bill gazetted by October 2007.

Some of the proposed amendments are listed below. I've noted in blue those that were in the original amendment proposal outlined in Mar 2007:-

  • Requirement for sales committee to be formally appointed in a general meeting, and SC members have to declare any vested interests related to the deal
  • Sales committee required to conduct a general meeting to discuss appointment of lawyer, agent, property consultant
  • Providing updates on bids received and how sales proceeds will be divided
  • 'Cooling period' of 5 days after the CSA is signed, in case owners changed their minds. Can only be done once.
  • Owners' voting rights to be decided by the area of their flats in addition to share values
  • Every home owner must have a lawyer explain their legal rights in the CSA
  • Having a lawyer present to clarify doubts when owners sign the CSA and key terms and clauses to be listed upfront in the legal document
  • Lawyer to be witness to the signing of the CSA
  • STB to be given power to increase the amount minority owners get from sale proceeds for (say) renovation costs done recently
An excellent point raised by Philip Fong of Harry Elias Partnership is to implement a code of best practices: "There are no regulations as to how much information is actually given to the owners, so they know enough to raise questions. So in that sense, what I think would be worthwhile to consider is for the appropriate authority to come up with a code of best practices and if there are deviations from these practices, then they must be justified by the sales committee."

Some initial observations - unless there are more proposed amendments to be rolled out in the near future, it looks like (a) the emphasis is on transparency issues more than fairness issues (b) the 10 year arbitrary margin for triggering 80% enbloc consensus remains unchanged, despite many home owners hoping that something will be done about the senseless destruction of their homes. What MinLaw needs to remember is that the primary drive, the main reason for having enbloc sales, is the idea of urban renewal in the first place (which necessitates looking at the 10 year mark), and not the idea of profiteering (which would necessitate looking at transparency issues).

I'll continue to update you on the Parliament's discussion of the Amendment Bill as and when information comes in.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Minority,

Thanks again for keeping the current info. up to date for someone like me who is living abroad and still ploughing through the CSA!

What strikes me most about the transparency issue in my CSA and all current info record is none of the SC members have even divulged their contact number or email for any owner to ask relevant questions about the whole issue.

I mean we are supplied with more info on buying a car , TV or Ipod than selling our own home here!! And what right do we give them to proceed on our behalf when only a mere meeting on a weekend afternoon would suffice to surrender to them (esp those who were absent at the meeting like me) our authority to proceed without any form of written authorisation!

We know little about their capability, their background , I have not a clue what they look like , their ulterior motive in wanting to be on an SC knowing full well how Singaporeans are so wary of volunteering themselves for any communal service!

What then constitutes 'best practice' if there is little effective communication between the SC members and the Vendors?

At this moment , I want to know how many dissenters versus consenters are there, where is the contact list and I want to initiate communication with them so that we could form a consolidated group to query effectively the SC as well as the professionals they employ on our behalf.

There is a lack of a formal effective communication chain or conduit to address and express all the problems and issues that affect residents and tenants which need to be aired and resolved. Such high-handedness is certainly the greatest hindrance to effective mediation and communication. It is about time Singaporeans learn the art of mediation and communication with regard to such a sensitive issue.

I would like to see far more stringent guidelines set up for communication between SC, the professional bodies they employ and the Vendors and their tenants.

Transparency must surely begin with a clear line of communication and information and we are getting minimal information from what appears to be a gestapo group of insiduous shadows lurking behind trying to get us to sign and sign away our roof!

Furthermore, I would like the parliament to tell us exactly why this law was first promulgated since Singaporeans over the last 50 years are now properly housed .
Those laws that originated to justify redevelopment of old dilapidated pre-war houses under Rent Control Act have made way for the thousands of blocks of HDB flats to house 90% of the population , now why do we need to demolish private condos that cost far more to build than HDB flats, and most newer than HDB blocks to be demolished and in its place another similar more densely populated private block to rise ?

Rules, legislation and laws must surely evolve to keep up with the needs and demands of the citizens that make up the country especially those that contributed most to the well being of the country.

Do we need a law that demolishes our home every 10 to 20 years? What is the point of having 99 year leases or freehold leases if the home is liable to be subjected to re-development?

What is re-development for?
Should not the law address that more importantly?

Should re-development be defined to also encompass refurbishment of an existing estate rather than demolishing a proper good one just to take advantage of a higher density ratio to profit greedy developers and speculators?

What are the ramifications of such a law that literally changes the real value of 'freehold' or 999 year leases or for that matter just 99 year leases.

In time are we looking at effectively 20 year leases that means shorter ([presumably more affordable loans given how exorbitant they would become in the future) mortgages , or maybe we will now have a breed of Singaporeans who could only afford to rent !

Such a law would only encourage devious developers to cut corners and build filmsy paper thin high rise blocks which could well tumble with a little ripple from Indonesian earthquakes?

Should'nt the law makers rethink about the rationale and policy behind this seemingly ridiculous set of laws?

Anonymous said...

i agree fully and the question? when will the answers come? with this enbloc going at this rate, buildings will not be made to last for more than 10 yrs. it literally becomes disposable once the lifespan is up.