Outgoing Turf City master tenant has legal rights to evict sub-tenants

Business operators caught up in the messy changeover of landlords at Turf City Mall have been left in limbo once again.

The court has discharged an earlier injunction, which stopped the outgoing landlord from evicting existing sub-tenants who wanted to stay on.

With the latest turn of events, outgoing master tenant, Singapore Agro Agricultural (SAA) said it now has the right to evict sub-tenants or licensees who are still running their business at Turf City Mall after their leases expired on January 31.

And sub-tenants are also liable to pay damages, which according to the law, can amount to double rent.

In a statement, SAA said it does not condone the conduct of businesses wrongfully holding over their units in breach of the law.

But it added that it sees little to be gained in seeking to evict them at this stage, so long as the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which owns the site at Turf City Mall, does not require SAA to return the site with vacated premises.

SAA’s lease ends on February 29.

It wanted the tenants out by January 31 so that it can clear the site before handing it back to SLA.

SLA said it has urged SAA to take a reasonable approach to facilitate a smooth transition for businesses.

SLA said it has shared with SAA a list of sub-tenants who have signed agreements with the new master tenant Cogent, to continue operating at the premises.

It told SAA that it is not required to return the site as vacant premises for units that are currently occupied by sub-tenants who are continuing their business operations under the new master tenants.

New landlord, SH Cogent Logistics, whose lease starts on March 1, was granted an injunction to allow existing sub-tenants to continue operating throughout February, and for fixtures to be left untouched.

At the start of February, businesses found their electricity supply cut off, rubbish bins removed and toilets left uncleaned.

Utilities were restored on February 3 after SLA stepped in to warn outgoing master tenant SAA twice about safety, hygiene and security concerns.

In a statement, Cogent said it plans to appeal the discharge of the injunction.

The case will also go to trial.

Currently, about half the rentable space at Turf City Mall is still occupied.

Owner of Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten, Jackie Barkhams, said she has already made contingency plans in the event she is forced to leave.

This includes taking lessons outdoors to the Bird Park or Singapore Zoo.

But she noted that “whatever disagreements between the two landlords should be fought out in court, and not with the sub-tenants.”

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 24 Feb 2012

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