Sunday, 14 October 2007

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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Anonymous said...

Dr. Minority,

Are you sure you will not consider a second profession as a lawyer? Take this as a compliment, because I think you have all the criteria to be a top-knotch lawyer with a great deal of positive conscience and common sense!

YOu are doing a thankless job educating the masses on this controversial issue and I for one living abroad have been well educated and indeed grateful for your succinct interpretation of the legal amendments and the law pertaining to this aspect.

Most laws are not retrospective otherwise the mayhem caused could be rather drastic. The HT case is going to set some real precedence in the law and I will not be surprised that all the legal assistants are having nightmares doing the getting up right now in the respective offices.

The cost to the pockets of all involved could be rather interesting. In the end the mighty dollar will win the case because who wants to cough up exorbitant fees to get the finer points of the law dragged out in court unless there are lots to gain from it.

In this case, HPPL with all its private equity backing of foreign dollars,will always have the upper hand to employ the largest, most thorough legal team to do the leg work for them. Whether they win or lose the deal, it is no skin off their noses, there are lots of other condos to raid.

The 80% pro-sellers will also feel their anticipated profits being drained by expensive legal fees that I will be quite sure they will want it all quickly settled.

The minority anti-enbloccers, will not want to carry on the battle if it involves personal expenditure and long drawn uncertain legal suits while living in a hostile environment being ostracised by their neighbours. So this battle of the wills is all about money and who is the more powerful.

I hope this case will bring to light to all of us who own condo airspace to re-think about what we are giving up and selling.

Currently, reading Bill Bryson's book 'A short History of Nearly Everything'. It is all about the universe and how small earth is, and while we struggle over the price of our condo airspace, we forget that down below where our condos are built on, is alot of magma, uncertain liquid that could well explode in our faces.Or one bit of some meteor hits earth, and any could be large enough to disintegrate a tiny island, what then? One powerful shake and we all fall down like HUmpty Dumpty, so when we see this furore in the light of a greater universe beyond us, everything becomes rather ridiculous and futile.

Thanks for this very precise observation of the legal process. The law is an ass that could be beaten to death, manipulate to suit anyone , it is all about who calls the shots. It is a fuss that should never have happened if this piece of legislation was better thought out and all the ensuing conflicts anticipated.

Dr Minority said...

Hi rebelrouser,

Your points are astute - especially how money (or rather, costs) will be the deciding factor in the upcoming HT application to STB. Do have a read at Justice Choo's judgment :)