Expiry dates on property not an unexpected concept

The Housing Board's letter (HDB buyers are home owners, not tenants; July 19) has predictably attracted spirited responses from affected "tenant-owners".

Earlier generations who had hoped that their descendants could continue living on their property would be disappointed.

"Carpe diem" or "seize the day" is the motto now.

Even a lay person would be aware that any lease would expire on a certain date.

The concept of 99-year lease, which is common in Singapore, is of relatively recent origin, replacing earlier "freehold" and/or 999-year leases.

But shorter-term lease is not without precedent here.

In 1915, the Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co department store bought land at the corner of Flint Street and Battery Road from the Flint family on a 50-year lease. In 1962, it decided to close its business, citing its lease running out and poor business as reasons. Maybank Tower occupies the site today.

Those who have dealt in stocks will be aware that contract statements from the Singapore Exchange routinely carry the caveat "warrants, total shareholder returns and rights have a limited life span, and will become worthless on expiry date".

It is difficult to argue and accept that leases are different.

Narayana Narayana

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Expiry dates on property not an unexpected concept'. Print Edition | Subscribe