High Court clears owners' panel over en bloc sale

Last May, some 82 per cent of Shunfu Ville owners agreed to sell the privatised HUDC estate to Qingjian Realty. Five owners objected.
Last May, some 82 per cent of Shunfu Ville owners agreed to sell the privatised HUDC estate to Qingjian Realty. Five owners objected.ST FILE PHOTO

It says Shunfu Ville decision was made in good faith; two owners turning to Court of Appeal

The High Court cleared the sale committee behind the collective sale of Shunfu Ville estate, noting that the move was done in good faith and sparked by the inability of the ageing residents to keep up with maintenance payments in the ageing estate.

Explaining the court's decision to overrule the Strata Titles Board which had stopped the sale last September, Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah held the committee had "properly made" the application, obtaining the requisite 80 per cent consent and complying with the Land Titles ( Strata) Act.

"In relation to the conduct of the sale committee and its agents, I found that there was no breach of the duty of good faith, no founded allegations of bias, and no undue influence or pressure exerted on the subsidiary proprietors of the property," he added among other reasons in judgment grounds issued last week.

Last May, some 82 per cent of Shunfu Ville owners agreed to sell the 358-unit privatised Housing and Urban Development Company estate to Qingjian Realty.

Each unit owner of the property stood to get an average $1.78 million, after they had agreed to lower the reserve price from $688 million to $638 million. But five owners objected - given that owners can object on grounds such as financial loss, even after the sale committee gets the requisite percentage of owners' approval - which led the sale committee to seek the go ahead from the High Court.

Of the original five objectors, two withdrew, one settled her case, leaving two who argued the committee "breached its duty of even-handedness by preferring the interests" of the consenting owners.

The committee, represented by Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, lawyers Valerie Ang and Vithyashree, countered that it acted fairly to all owners, "whether consenting or otherwise, providing them with updated information and being fully transparent with them".

Judicial Commissioner Aedit found " nothing alleged by the (objectors) was substantiated" to show any material breach by the sale committee.

He added that the first objector's claim that some owners were hounded into agreeing to the sale was not backed by evidence.

He noted some of the allegations of pressure related to discussion about the possible impact of the collective sale not going through but clarified that forecasts of returns or lack thereof are to be expected.

"What is not permitted is anything that goes beyond the presentation of arguments for and against the sale: certainly threats of violence or anything of that nature would be clearly beyond the pale."

The two objectors, Mr R. Jayakumar and Mr Simon Mahendran, are appealing to the Court of Appeal.

Last week, the committee obtained approval from the court for the appeal to be heard in April in order for the outcome to be known before the contractual deadline.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline 'High Court clears owners' panel over en bloc sale'. Print Edition | Subscribe