Sunday, February 1, 2009

Neighbours fight over gate and access road

Judge scolds them for bringing case to court

THEY live in sprawling houses off Holland Road. But they could not agree on a small road and a gate. They went to court and got ticked off by the judge, who felt they ‘do not know the meaning of good neighbourliness’.

Two white pillars flank the start of the access road in question, off Belmont Road. It leads to houses No 70 and No 72, Belmont Road. Both houses can be entered only through this road. The dispute was sparked off when one of the neighbours decided to construct a gate at the entrance.

This raised the ire of the other neighbour, who applied for a court injunction to stop the construction of the gate. And it drew a sharp rebuke from the High Court judge. As far as Justice Choo Han Teck was concerned, the issue was not who was right or wrong but whether this case should have come to the court in the first place.

He gave both neighbours an opportunity to try to resolve the dispute amicably but the negotiations broke down.

In his written judgment, Justice Choo said: ‘Cases like this come to court because people do not know the meaning of good neighbourliness, but I do not know whether both parties were being obtuse, or only one, and if so, which one.

‘Hence, I make no finding as to who had not been the good neighbour. ‘They were given an opportunity to resolve the quarrel amicably, even after the trial but before judgment, but they were unable to do so.’

The lawsuit was started by Mr Lian Kok Hong, the owner of No 72 Belmont Road, who had applied for an injunction to prevent his neighbours at No 70 Belmont Road, Mr Lee Choi Kheong, his wife and two children, from building a gate at the entrance of the access road.

Mr Lian claimed that the construction of the gate was a violation of his right of ‘easement’, a legal right to use the access road, which belongs to Mr Lee. At present, both neighbours have their own individual gates opening on to the access road. But their properties originally formed one plot of land.

History In 1949, the original owner divided the property into two. The access road became part of No 70 as without it, the property would have no link to a public road.

Under the original contract of the land’s sub-division, the then owner also crafted the mutual permission to use the common paths. The two pieces of land had changed ownership since 1949, with Mr Lian buying No 72 in 1994, and Mr Lee and his family buying No 70 in December 2007.
In response to Mr Lian’s lawsuit, Mr Lee and his family claimed that the construction of a common gate was not in breach of Mr Lian’s right of way to use the access road as they did not dispute his right to enter and leave through the gate.

Justice Choo found the only legal solution was to dismiss Mr Lian’s claim for an injunction, as he did not think that the creation of the common gate ’substantially interfered’ with his right of way through the access road.

Past legal tussles between neighbours over access road
December 2008
Madam Ching Mun Fong, a property developer and owner of Lee Tat Development, won an appeal to close off an access road running through her Grange Road property to Grange Heights, which sits on a property that had the right of access since 1911.

In 1999, she was fined $3,000 for defying a court order and blocking the access road, using a chain and rocks.

February 2006
Gynaecologist Dr Theresa Cheng-Wong won an appeal against business tycoon Oei Hong Leong to have an ‘implied easement’ or right of way to use his driveway to access a $11.9million house she wanted to buy, which was situated next to his at Dalvey Road.

There was a security barrier across Mr Oei’s driveway, which led to the house that Dr Cheng-Wong was eyeing.

Source: The New Paper - 1 Feb 2009

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