If there is no evidence that a 'squatter' paying ground rent is entitled to stay on the land permanently, then he needs only to be compensated reasonably for his house, Justice Chan Seng Onn had said.
He added that the law to repossess such land is clear.
The case has a precedent. In 1973, a landowner successfully evicted someone who bought an attap house on his land and paid $3 ground rent per month.
The judge had concluded that the landowner should be allowed to recover possession of the land, provided he made reasonable compensation to the defendant.
Lawyers said the latest case was a throwback to more than 50 years ago when it was a practice for some landowners to allow others to build houses on their land and reside in these houses, provided they continued to pay rent for the land as ground tenants.
Mr Patrick Tan, a lawyer who handles property cases, said it is very rare to find people paying ground rent in Singapore now.
'Most of the time now, a landowner will own both the structure on the land and the land. Developers, for example, will buy both the property and land when a place goes en bloc,' he said.
He added that the case is 'archaic and complicated' and that, in the past, the only way for a tenant to lay claim to the land was to prove he had an 'interest', that is, had developed roots and ownership there over a very long period.
Another property lawyer, who declined to be named, said the practice of ground rent dates back to the time of slums when it would have cost landowners nothing to allow a tenant to beautify and improve their land by squatting on it and building a house.
Source: Sunday Times, 11 Jul 2010