Having lawyers present to 'clear your doubts' on the matter sounds good, but the crucial problem remains: to look for answers one must first know the questions.
Monday No. 9
27th August, 2007
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES OFFICIAL REPORT
(Recourse for unhappy residents)
Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law what recourse is available to unhappy residents affected by en bloc sales of their units and who cannot afford to hire legal counsel to pursue their case, especially regarding unscrupulous and intimidating practices.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law (Prof. S Jayakumar): Mr Speaker, Sir, currently, the law allows an owner who does not agree to an en bloc sale to file an objection with the Strata Titles Board. There is no fee for filing an objection; and the owner is not required to be represented by a lawyer and he may appear before the Board himself.
Besides this, any owner who at any time feels that he is being harassed or intimidated to consent to an en bloc sale may lodge a Police report.
Let me add, Sir, that my Ministry has completed our review of the en bloc sale legislation and I shall today, after the conclusion of Question Time, introduce the Land Titles (Strata) (Amendment) Bill. The changes to the legislation will be explained in detail by myself during the Second Reading of the Bill at the next sitting of the House. For now, I will just say that in addition to the proposals that we had set out in the public consultation paper and which I mentioned during the Committee of Supply, the Government has also accepted a number of additional changes that will further enhance transparency and procedural clarity, as well as offer better protection to the owners of affected developments. Sir, I believe these changes will go a considerable way to address the unscrupulous and intimidating practices that Ms Ng referred to in her Question.
Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong (Tampines): Sir, as the Minister has noted, there have been various reports of intimidation in the past by sales committee. Can I ask the Minister whether there are any provisions now or in the new Bill to ensure that the owners can oust the sales committee if the sales committee had been found to be either negligent, under-handed or unfair in its dealings, as well as not representing the interests of the owners but more of the buyers?
The second question is with regard to pending cases, such as Tampines Court which started the en bloc process at the end of 2002, before the property boom. The STB has yet to approve the sale, and the sale and purchase agreement will expire on 24th September, renewable by four months. I believe minority owners are opposing the sale and have filed their objections to STB. Can I ask the Minister, pending the review, how will these owners be affected by the changes that will be coming?
Prof. Jayakumar: I would ask her to be patient as it is just a matter of time before she reads the provisions of the Bill. As a general rule, I hope she will understand that I would like to avoid commenting on specific cases of en bloc sale because I do not have the details and it may not be proper as some of these cases may end up in court. The general rule in legislation is the prospective application. The Bill has certain provisions for transitional and savings provisions. And later if she has a look at these provisions, they provide that the amendments will apply to all developments, except those where 80% or 90% majority, based on share values, have already signed the collective and sale agreements at the time the amendments come into effect. And there are also provisions in the Bill concerning applications made to or pending before a Board at that time the amendments come into effect. So I think she has to study these proposals and I hope she will speak her mind when the Bill is read a Second time.