Developer loses suit against couple over building of lofts

SINGAPORE - A condominium developer has lost a bid for damages of about $760,000 from a couple whom it claimed had built two unauthorised lofts in their penthouse apartment.

The High Court, in a written judgment published yesterday, found that developer Macly Assets had given written permission for the timber lofts to be built.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin threw out Macly's claim that Mr and Mrs Andrew Loke had breached the sale and purchase agreement of their flat by building the lofts without written consent.

The developer had blamed the couple for its delay in obtaining the certificate of statutory completion from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

This meant that a sum of $5 million, paid by the flat buyers and held in a stakeholding account, was tied up longer than it should have been when it could have been used for other purposes, Macly alleged.

Mr Loke, 42, a financial controller, and his 37-year-old teacher wife bought the 60 sq m flat at Thomson V Two in Sin Ming Road in May 2007.

After the temporary occupation permit for the project was granted in May 2012, Mr Loke applied to renovate their unit and was issued a permit by the developer.

The works included the building of two 7 sq m decks, one above the hall and the other over a bedroom.

In January last year, BCA officers visiting the unit to check other defects noticed the lofts and told Mr Loke that the structures did not comply with regulations.

In March last year, Macly's lawyers wrote to the couple saying that the issuance of the certificate was held up due to the lofts and gave them 30 days to take necessary measures.

Mr Loke met representatives from Macly and BCA but the matter could not be resolved.

Months later, in May, Macly sued the couple and sought an injunction to remove the lofts.

A series of communications followed between the couple and the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the BCA, which ordered the lofts to be demolished.

Finally, in September last year, after the couple carried out some works to the decks, BCA found that they complied with regulations and lifted the demolition order.

Macly got the certificate for the project in November. In its lawsuit, it sought losses arising from the delay in the funds being released.

Mr Loke testified that he had submitted plans to build the lofts but was told by an employee of the developer's managing agent to change the words "loft floors" to "storage area". Mr Loke said he did so and was given the renovation permit, which led him to believe that permission had been granted.

Justice Lee said in his judgment that Mr Loke's account was supported by the documents. He found that Mr Loke submitted clear plans for the lofts and in accepting them, the developer had given written consent under the agreement.