It all depends on age for Gillman Heights

THE new laws regulating en bloc sales that kicked in last October may mean controversial collective sale tangles are unlikely to arise again.

But for Gillman Heights, where the sale process started before the rules were tweaked, the 22 minority owners’ attempt to overturn the privatised ex-HUDC estate’s sale now hinges on how the High Court rules the property’s age should be calculated.

The last day of the appeal yesterday saw the lawyers representing the different parties locking horns – mainly over how old the sprawling estate in Alexandra Road is.

Senior counsel (SC) Andre Yeap, who is acting for the sales committee, argued that the estate’s age be pegged to its date of completion in 1984. He said that although a Certificate of Strata Completion (CSC) was issued to Gillman Heights in 2002, it does not mean that “time runs afresh”.

SC Michael Hwang, who is acting for the minority owners, noted that where a CSC or temporary occupation permit was available – like in the Gillman Heights case – the property’s age must rest upon it. He added that a check with the Building and Construction Authority had showed that the 607-unit property’s status was classified as “new erections” as of Oct 23, 2002. All the structures in the estate were issued with CSCs, he emphasized, and not just for the additions to the common areas.

To ignore such certification would cause “huge uncertainty in the market”, he told the court. The approximately $20,000 each owner coughed up when the development underwent conversion into a private property was an investment, he added.

Another bone of contention was the conduct of the sales committee. Mr Hwang said regulations stipulate that the committee’s mandate to sell a property expires after one year from the day the first owner signs on the collective sales agreement.

It is “commonsensical” that the committee does not have “absolute power” to sell at any price at any time, he added.

While they were on different sides of the tussle, the minority owners seeking to scupper the deal and their opposite numbers, sat side-by-side in the packed gallery, without any signs of tension between them.

The only way to tell their allegiance: The minority owners wore T-shirts bearing the words “I love Gillman Heights”, like they had done in the previous days of hearing.

Justice Choo Han Teck will deliver his judgment at a later date.

Source : Today – 19 Mar 2008

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