Mar 3, 2010

Co-owner loses fight to stop collective sale

By Selina Lum

A MAN did not want to sell his apartment in a proposed collective sale, but his wife wanted to - and had signed on the dotted line to say yes.

The sale of the Joo Chiat property thus hung in limbo for three years while the lone dissenter, Mr Goh Teh Lee, 52, took his fight all the way to the highest court in the land.

En route, the couple divorced.

Yesterday, he lost the battle. The Court of Appeal threw out his case, paving the way for the sale.

The court, comprising Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang and V. K. Rajah, were unanimous in deciding that Mr Goh, as a co-owner, did not have the right - known in legal parlance as locus standi - to be heard in court, since he and his now ex-wife had to act as one in the en bloc sale.

Despite being told this, Mr Goh, who represented himself in court, insisted he had a strong case for objecting to the sale on the basis of procedural irregularities and unfairness.

But Justice Chao remarked: 'We are extremely doubtful that your case is strong. Most, if not all, of the points you raised are without merit.'

Justice Rajah piped in: 'And we are being polite.'

The property in question comprised 24 apartments in a four-storey block known as Koon Seng House and nine pre-war terrace houses on one plot of land. The collective sale was mooted at a residents' meeting in November 2006, when the Gohs were going through their divorce.

The sales proceeds, $21.12 million, were to be divided equally among the 33 units. The terrace houses were owned by a single owner, and the apartments, by different individuals.

Mr Goh asserted that there were discrepancies in the collective sale agreement, such as dodgy signatures.

He contended that the deal was not transparent as the minutes of the first meeting were not circulated to all owners and that the sale committee had acted too hastily by appointing the property agent and lawyer for the deal on the same night the panel was formed.

He also alleged that the majority owners made false declarations to the Strata Titles Board (STB).

The STB disagreed and ordered the sale in December 2008. Mr Goh appealed to the High Court to reverse the decision.

When the High Court also ruled against him, he went to the Court of Appeal.

While he was not ordered to pay legal costs, Mr Goh will have to pay $3,000 for the sales committee's expenses for the appeal.

The appeals court also ruled that if he does not sign the sales papers, the Registrar of Supreme Court will sign them on his behalf.