Minority owners question STB’s jurisdiction on Gillman en bloc deal

Before the Strata Titles Board (STB) can decide the fate of the S$548-million Gillman Heights en bloc deal, two minority owners have questioned the Board’s jurisdiction to hear the application.

They applied this week to the STB to vacate the hearing due to start in two weeks’ time, when objections from minority owners were supposed to be heard.

But lawyer Eddee Ng of Tan Kok Quan Partnership said his clients felt there was no basis for the hearing to take place at all. “We have raised a number of legal grounds as to why we say the (sale order) application should be dismissed.”

An issue as simple as the age of the estate is one of the biggest points of contention. The former HUDC estate was built in 1984, but privatised in 2002, when the Building and Construction Authority issued the Certificate of Statutory Completion after work on additional facilities was completed.

Depending on which year is used, the majority consent needed by the sale committee would differ. Under current laws, a 90-per-cent approval is required for developments less than 10 years, while older developments only need 80 per cent.

At Gillman Heights, the consent level was 87.5 per cent of its 608 units.

The Law Ministry’s latest proposals to amend the legislation, to be debated next week in Parliament, will address such issues. One change is to make it possible to take the completion date of a privatised HUDC estate as that certified by the Housing and Development Board.

This comes too late for Gillman Heights. And mediation, which took place in June, had also failed to soothe the grievances, Mr Ng told Today.

Several issues have dogged the sale since a deal was struck with CapitaLand in February. For example, the Collective Sale Agreement (CSA), inked in June last year, had expired, and there was no valid extension in the supplemental CSA, Mr Ng said.

“Since the CSA is in fact over, the sale committee is not authorised to represent the subsidiary proprietors in making the sale order application,” he said. The sale committee lawyers, from Lee & Lee, could not be reached for comment.

Gillman Heights is one of a series of high-profile en bloc deals gone ugly. And a lawyer, who declined to be named, felt that even with the new regulations expected to kick in early next month, such messy tussles would be here to stay amid a property boom.

“The new laws would reduce the complaints over the transparency of the process,” he said. “But why are people unhappy? Because they can’t buy a replacement with the money (they’re getting).” – TODAY/fa

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 14 Sep 2007

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