SINGAPORE - After buying a $237,000 five-room flat in 1997 with a man who was not related to her, Madam Tan Chor Hong was the only one making the mortgage payments for the past two decades.
In December 2018, co-owner Ng Cheng Hock returned from Japan after spending 18 years in prison there for drug offences.
Madam Tan, 63, said he created disturbances at the flat and sent her death threats, prompting her to apply to court for the property, now worth $450,000, to be sold.
Mr Ng, 59, said that he had agreed to be a co-owner of the flat in order to help Madam Tan - his friend's mistress - secure a roof over her head.
His only monetary contribution was an initial payment about $7,900 from his CPF account, which was 3.3 per cent of the purchase price. He was later compensated $5,000 in cash.
But he argued that his contribution towards the purchase price was 43.4 per cent, which is worth about $170,000.
Madam Tan said he should get only 5 per cent of the proceeds - about $20,000- based on their respective shareholding indicated in documents and the land titles register.
In grounds of decision on Thursday (Oct 31), the High Court granted an order for the flat to be sold, and ruled that Madam Tan was entitled to 95 per cent of the sale proceeds while Mr Ng was entitled only to 5 per cent.
Justice Pang Khang Chau said: "Mr Ng is bound by the contractual documents he signed and therefore acquired only a 5 per cent share in the flat."
The pair had bought the Woodlands flat from the Housing Board under the Joint Singles Scheme as tenants-in-common, with Madam Tan holding a 95 per cent share and Mr Ng holding a 5 per cent share.
Mr Ng claimed that Madam Tan was pregnant at the time and that his friend, identified only as "Mr Ang", wanted to provide for her.
He said Mr Ang sought his help to buy a flat with Madam Tan and agreed to pay him $5,000.
Mr Ng said it was his understanding that he and Madam Tan would own the flat "equally" and was not aware that documents stated he held only a 5 per cent stake.
He argued that, as a HDB loan of $190,100 was taken out in their joint names, he should be regarded as having contributed a further $95,050 towards the purchase.
Madam Tan disputed Mr Ng's version of events.
She said she was planning to buy a flat with her mother when the latter suddenly died.
Madam Tan said Mr Ng agreed to co-own a flat with her after she expressed concern that she and her two daughters would be left without a roof over their heads.
Justice Pang said that whether on Mr Ng's version or Madam Tan's version, the key feature was that Mr Ng's help was necessary because Madam Tan was unable to buy a flat on her own due to HDB requirements.
"Given this factual background, it was extremely unlikely that either Mr Ang or Madam Tan would have expected Mr Ng to bear responsibility for half of the mortgage loan and equally unlikely that Mr Ng would have agreed to do so."
The judge said the fact that Mr Ng moved to Japan after the purchase and made no contribution towards the loan repayment was strong evidence that the parties' understanding was that Madam Tan would be solely responsible for the loan repayment.
However, the judge turned down Madam Tan's request to be given the right to buy over Mr Ng's share at the valuation price.
Both Madam Tan and Mr Ng have filed appeals.