High Court overturns Strata Titles Board findings that roof, skylight of house are not common property

The High Court ruled that the skylight over the entrance of a four-storey townhouse at The Balmoral fit the legal definition of common property. PHOTO: COURT DOCUMENTS

SINGAPORE - The High Court has ruled in favour of the owner of a four-storey townhouse at The Balmoral, who argued that the management corporation (MC) should take responsibility for water leakages in his unit as they originated from areas that are common property.

The court, in a written judgment on Thursday (Jan 23), reversed the decision of the Strata Titles Board (STB), which had said a flat roof above the house and the skylight over the entrance of the house did not fit the legal definition of common property.

Homeowner Raman Dhir had appealed to the High Court after the STB dismissed his application seeking an order for the MC to rectify the faults and to reimburse him for repair works done.

The Balmoral is a 31-year old development that comprises 81 residential units, including two standalone four-storey townhouses, one of which is owned by Mr Dhir.

He said water leaked into his house from a flat roof that covers a small enclosed area, various fixed window panels that run from the second to the fourth floor, and the skylight. Termite damage resulted from the leakages, he said.

He argued that the roof, windows and skylight are common properties and the MC was responsible for repairing them and the damage caused.

The MC contended that these were not common properties and that there was insufficient evidence on the origin of the leaks.

In July last year, the STB rejected Mr Dhir's claim, saying that without an expert report, it could not conclude that the leakages came from these three areas.

The board found that the windows were common property, but not the roof and the skylight as they were for Mr Dhir's "exclusive use" and served only his unit.

But High Court judge Chan Seng Onn said the roof clearly fit the definition of common property as it was not part of the total strata area of Mr Dhir's unit.

He said the STB was wrong to conclude that the roof was exclusively used by Mr Dhir because he had used the area to install equipment such as air conditioner condensers without permission.

"A breach cannot possibly convert common property into personal property," the judge said, adding that the MC can ask Mr Dhir to rectify the breach.

The judge also said it was immaterial that the skylight served only Mr Dhir's unit, since it affected the appearance of the building and could be "enjoyed" by fellow residents, therefore satisfying the definition of common property.

Justice Chan said the board also erred in law by placing the burden of proof on Mr Dhir, when the law requires the MC to provide evidence to the contrary to rebut his claim.

He sent the case back to the board to hear and consider the case again.

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