Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tampines Court Owners File Appeal

Source : The Straits Times, Jul 16, 2008

ANGRY owners at Tampines Court have opened up two fronts in their battle to save their estate's $405 million collective sale.

One bid saw the sales committee lodge a High Court appeal to overturn a ruling by the Strata Titles Board (STB), while some owners made a direct plea to National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

The 10 or so owners went to a weekly Meet-The-People session on Monday night to voice their concerns to Mr Mah, the MP for the Tampines ward.

The Straits Times understands that Mr Mah, in his capacity as a local MP, has agreed to appeal to the STB on the owners' behalf to bring forward a crucial hearing date.

The timing of that hearing - scheduled to let some sale objectors have a say - is also at the centre of the sales committee's legal appeal.

The committee wants the High Court to overturn an STB ruling on when the hearing should be held.

The board said on Friday the hearing should go ahead as planned on Aug 7.

The date, however, comes after the sales agreement legally expires on July 25. If the hearing is held on Aug 7, the sale cannot be done as scheduled on July 25, effectively killing it.

Two sales committee members said in an affidavit filed on Monday that the STB failed to take into account that any hearing after July 25 'will be academic', as the sales agreement would expire and the buyers were unlikely to extend the deadline.

The buyers - Far East Organization and Frasers Centrepoint - have already said they 'are ready to complete the deal', but 'the onus was upon the vendors to secure the STB order within the agreed timeframe'.

The estate's tight deadline stemmed from a sales committee decision to delay lodging its application for STB approval of the sale until Jan 7 this year although all the necessary conditions had already been met as early as July 25 last year.

It told the board that it wanted to await the outcome of legal challenges over the contentious Gillman Heights sale, as this could have a bearing on the fate of the Tampines Court deal.

As it turned out, the High Court last month cleared the way for the Gillman Heights deal and, in so doing, removed any potential obstacle to the Tampines Court sale as well.

Some owners told The Straits Times that they felt this deadline mess was the STB's fault.

Madam Irene Cheang said it was the board's duty to see the sale through within the six-month guideline, and that it had been inefficient in processing the sale.

STB registrar Bryan Chew stood by the board's decision on the date of the hearing.

The time needed to get a sale approved depends on a variety of factors, including the number of objectors, the size of the estate and the complexity of the case, he said.

'This is not the first time that we've taken more than six months,' he added.

The STB said it had pencilled in the Aug 7 date after listening to sale objectors from June 16 to 18 and 'taking into account the availability of all parties and the board'.

It has become a nerve-wracking time for the owners, as many have committed themselves to other properties.

Owner K. Balasubramaniam, 55, said residents could lose about $200,000 should the sale fail. He said the average open market value of a typical unit was $500,000 - while each owner would get about $700,000 should the sale go through.

Lawyers for the majority and minority owners declined to comment.

The Straits Times understands that there will be a High Court hearing this afternoon. It will be closed to the public.

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