Court rules woman has 73% stake in house she bought with married man

In March 2008, the pair took up a bank loan to fund the purchase of the house in Jalan Rengkam. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A woman and a married man bought a $1.7 million house together as an investment, but put the property under the man's sole name to "save costs" on stamp duties and property tax.

More than 10 years later, in divorce proceedings, the man's wife staked a claim on the Hougang house, alleging that he had bought it with the sales proceeds of their matrimonial flat.

The other buyer of the house, Ms Susan Yeow Jen Ai, then went to court, armed with years of bank records, to show that she contributed 73 per cent to its purchase and related expenses.

The High Court was persuaded and declared that she held a 73 per cent share of the house, while co-owner, Mr Ravindaranath Kalyana Ramasamy, had a 27 per cent stake.

Mr Ramasamy agreed with Ms Yeow's contention that he was holding her share in the house on trust for her.

In a written judgment on April 19, Justice Lee Sieu Kin said he was conscious of the possibility of a conspiracy between Ms Yeow and Mr Ramasamy to dilute the latter's assets.

"Having carefully analysed the evidence, which includes documentary evidence accumulated over many years, I do not see any indication that this is the case," said the judge.

Justice Lee said Ms Yeow has proven that she and Mr Ramasamy had intended for their beneficial interest in the property to be apportioned according to each person's financial contributions.

The pair met in 2003 as course mates in a Master of Business Administration programme.

In March 2008, they took up a bank loan to fund the purchase of the house in Jalan Rengkam, with Ms Yeow as a guarantor.

Ms Yeow said they had an oral agreement to sell the house and share the profits when the price hit $3.5 million.

She said they also agreed to put the house under Mr Ramasamy's sole name. She had another property and was worried about additional stamp duties and higher property tax, she said.

Ms Yeow said she has been transferring $7,000 to $10,000 every month to Mr Ramasamy to pay the mortgage. She stated her total contribution as $833,600 and Mr Ramasamy's as $310,000.

Mr Ramasamy's wife, Ms Vishnumangalam Chandrasekharan Renuka, alleged that the transfers were for losses incurred by Mr Ramasamy, who, she claimed, was making financial trades on Ms Yeow's behalf.

She said the sums could also be loans or gifts from Ms Yeow to Mr Ramasamy.

But Justice Lee said there was no credible evidence to support Ms Renuka's claims.

The judge said the weight of documentary evidence was in Ms Yeow's favour.

He added that while it may be "unwise" that the agreement was not in writing, it was "rather implausible" that the monthly transfers were anything but in service of the housing loan and expenses related to the property.

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