Saturday, August 29, 2009

En bloc sales: Help minority objectors keep their homes

I COMMEND Ms Jeannette Chong Aruldoss on her letter on Tuesday, “Questions on collective sale laws”.

Like her, I too, have reservations about the Ministry of Law’s letter, “Rights of all owners adequately protected” (Aug 21).

I live in an HUDC unit that was involved in a collective deal. The agreement was endorsed by 80 per cent of the owners. I was among the remaining 20 per cent who did not sign the agreement because my family and I like our home.

When I bought my apartment some years ago, I thought this would be my home for life. There were no collective sale laws then.

Now, we have such laws in the Land Titles (Strata) Act, which gives the 80 per cent majority owners the legal right to force me to sell my home, which I have no intention of doing.

How is my right as a minority owner “adequately protected”? I do not feel protected by the Government. And I certainly do not feel protected by the majority owners or the developer buyer. No one looks after my interest except myself. That is the reality.

The collective sale laws were drafted in favour of the majority owners. So long as they have the numbers and follow the sale procedure and regulations properly, it is a done deal.

A minority owner who objects does so at his own risk, with the prospect of crippling legal fees if his objection is unsuccessful (not to mention the emotional stress).

The laws focus only on the “procedural” aspects of the sale.

In my opinion, they do not adequately address the various forms of abuse that occur in each collective sale, such as harassment of the minority owners, especially the elderly and less literate people, to obtain the 80 per cent signatures.

The laws do not adequately address the communal problems each time a community goes through a collective sale.

It is sad to see once peaceful communities torn apart by the “en bloc” storm. Neighbours become enemies, all because of money.

The laws do not address the “en bloc raiders” problem, where speculators buy into a potential collective sale estate, sit in sale committees and stir up a collective sale frenzy so that they can maximise their investments. These profiteers have no regard for the community.

It is time the lawmakers addressed the “softer” side of the laws. I am referring to “evicting” owners from their own homes. It is time to review such laws and introduce a more human touch.
Tan Sin Liang

Source: Straits Times, 29 Aug 2009

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