Court warns it is not bound by collective-sale deadlines

The court gave its reasons for dismissing the appeal of objectors to the collective sale of Goodluck Garden, a condominium in Toh Tuck Road, for $610 million to Qingjian Group.
The court gave its reasons for dismissing the appeal of objectors to the collective sale of Goodluck Garden, a condominium in Toh Tuck Road, for $610 million to Qingjian Group.PHOTO: KNIGHT FRANK

Sales committees to bear consequences for 'unrealistic timelines for court proceedings'

Singapore's top court has warned that collective sales committees and their advisers will have to "bear the consequences" when court rulings cannot be given in time for the sale of a property to be completed.

The three-judge Court of Appeal said the courts will not be pressured to meet timelines that had been mutually agreed on by the committee and the buyers.

The court, dealing with a case in which the collective sales committee sought an early hearing date, said a future sales committee that agrees to "unrealistic timelines for court proceedings" will have to bear the consequences if the timelines are not met and the deal is unhinged.

"It cannot be right that the (court) Registry is pressured to arrange for an early hearing date and the court is given a very short span of time to render its decision simply because the parties in a collective sale desired it to be so for their own private purposes," said the Court of Appeal yesterday.

"Our observations apply equally to proceedings in the High Court," wrote Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang on behalf of the court, which included Judge of Appeal Steven Chong and Justice Belinda Ang.

The court was giving its reasons for dismissing the appeal in March of objectors to the collective sale of Goodluck Garden for $610 million to Qingjian Group.

The owners of the 210-unit freehold residential development in Toh Tuck Road last November took the case to the High Court, which overruled the objectors and approved the collective-sale deal.

The objectors then appealed to the top court where a team of TSMP Law Corp lawyers, led by Mr Adrian Tan, argued their case in March.

The collective sales committee's lawyers were from Rajah & Tann and led by Mr Adrian Wong.

NOT RIGHT TO PRESSURE

It cannot be right that the (court) Registry is pressured to arrange for an early hearing date and the court is given a very short span of time to render its decision simply because the parties in a collective sale desired it to be so for their own private purposes. Our observations apply equally to proceedings in the High Court.

COURT OF APPEAL

The Appeal Court agreed with the objectors that the committee's "conduct of the collective sale left much to be desired". It said there was insufficient material to establish the sale deal was not inked in good faith under the Land Titles (Strata) Act.

In dismissing the appeal, the court made the rare move of ordering both parties to pay their own costs for the proceedings in both the High Court and Appeal Court.

It also said the committee is to pay for the cost of the application for the expedited hearing.

Judge of Appeal Tay noted that the apex court and High Court dealt with the case on "accelerated timelines" because of special conditions in the sale agreement. "We would like to highlight two points for future collective sales committees and their advisers to note," he wrote.

"First, even if all the requisite documents can be filed very quickly, an early hearing date before the Court of Appeal may not be available," he said, noting that the four-month timeline between sellers and buyers was made for their own purposes.

He added: "There is little justification for conferring priority on private matters such as this where the urgency arises only because the parties to a collective sale agree on unrealistic timelines."

It was "fortuitous" an early hearing date was available, he said.

Second, even with an early hearing date, the court "may not be able to arrive at its decision within a very compressed time span".

It was "again fortuitous" that all the objectors were defended by one set of lawyers. "We were therefore able, fortunately, to arrive at a unanimous decision at the conclusion of the hearing of the appeal on March 7, 2019, well before the privately agreed deadline of March 25, 2019."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2019, with the headline 'Court warns it is not bound by collective-sale deadlines'. Print Edition | Subscribe