Thursday, March 12, 2009

Regent Court Ruling Explained

Source : The Straits Times, March 11, 2009

By K. C. Vijayan, Law Correspondent

THE difference between breaking even and making a profit was at the heart of a High Court decision to overrule the Strata Titles Board (STB) and let the Regent Court en bloc sale application proceed.

Justice Judith Prakash handed down her decision last October and released the grounds for it last week.

The legal row began when the STB rejected the estate's collective sale application in December 2007 after two objectors said they would suffer losses in the deal.

The objectors said their share of the sale proceeds would amount to $932,000; they had bought their flat for $993,000.

But Senior Counsel Hri Kumar and lawyers Gary Low and Benedict Teo from Drew & Napier argued in last October's appeal that the buyer, Regent Development, had undertaken to settle the gross difference of $93,935.75 once the sale went through.

The STB did not consider this payment and took account of only the objectors' purchase price and the en bloc sale price.

This meant the objectors would end up out of pocket, enough to abort the application, the STB ruled.

The lawyers argued that the board's approach would be 'highly prejudicial to the public interest in that it would unreasonably hinder en bloc sales'.

They said that as property prices fluctuated, it was possible to have at least one owner who bought a flat at a price below the en bloc price.

This would mean that even if 99 per cent of owners voted for the sale, it could not go through, they added.

Justice Prakash agreed and added that the Land Titles (Strata) Act empowered the STB to ensure the buyer agreed to make good any loss suffered by the objecting owner.

The STB still has to consider all the relevant evidence, including the concerns of eight other objectors besides the two referred to in the judgment, before making a decision on the en bloc application. Its hearing on the $34 million collective sale for the 49 units at the Serangoon Road site is expected later this month.

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