Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

August 7, 2008

Man arrested for rental flat scam

Filed under: General,Legal Ground — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:45 am

WITHOUT viewing the flat to be rented, 11 people handed over hundreds of dollars each in cash deposits to the owner of a Commonwealth Drive HDB flat, in exchange for a set of keys.

But when they turned up at the three-room flat, they found it locked. None of the keys worked and the landlord could no longer be contacted.

The 11 victims, six of whom are foreigners, lost $8,250 in total.

On Tuesday evening, police arrested a 46-year-old unemployed man. If found guilty of cheating, he could be jailed up to seven years and fined.

Police believe the first tenant was cheated in March, and that there are more victims who have not come forward.

Housing agents and prospective tenants would respond to newspaper advertisements offering the suspect’s flat for rent.

He would meet the potential tenant, usually at a shopping centre, and hand over photocopies of documents including his identification card, as well as a set of two keys.

Making an excuse that he was in a rush, he would suggest that the tenant view the unit himself. Just before leaving, he would ask for a cash deposit ranging from $150 to $3,000.

Interior designer Rainer Lew, 36, was one of the 11 who handed over his money. He had met the man on Monday, a day before the suspect was nabbed.

‘I gave him $300 as a deposit. He didn’t strike me as suspicious. He even showed me his identity card which had an address that matched the unit he was renting out,’ said Mr Lew.

But when he visited the flat later, the gate was chained and padlocked. The door, which was unlocked, opened to show an unfurnished flat.

Police believe the man had an accomplice as he would sometimes meet his victims accompanied by another man whom he referred to as his brother.

They said they are closing in on this second man, and urged prospective tenants to be careful before putting down a deposit.

Tips on renting flat

THINKING of renting a flat?  To avoid falling prey to a rental scam, Mr Eric Cheng, executive director of HSR property group, suggests that tenants:

·  View the flat first to ensure it is in good condition.

·  Check that the landlord is the rightful owner by asking to see the conservancy charges bill.

·  Pay the deposit with a cheque and only after collecting the key personally. It will be easier to prove that payment was made.

·  Move in as soon as possible.

·  Engage a housing agent. Most established agencies refund deposits if anything goes wrong.

Source : Straits Times – 12 Jun 2008

June 24, 2008

Tenants cashing in on rental flats

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews,Legal Ground,Regulators,Rental News — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:50 am

Heavily subsidised HDB units, which are much in demand, are often sub-let to foreigners

SOME tenants in heavily subsidised HDB rental flats have been illegally sub-letting their homes to cash in on surging demand for cheap accommodation.

There are no official figures but tenants in some estates say that as many as one in five rental flats is rented out to foreign workers – a clear breach of HDB rules.

The flats are often leased to workers from Malaysia, China and India – who are either unaware that they are renting illegally or do so because the units are the cheapest option.

Property agents and tenants told The Straits Times that there is an increasing number of such flats put up for rent by people keen to cash in on foreign workers’ demand for cheap housing.

A Malaysian, who declined to be named, told The Straits Times that she leases a two-room HDB rental flat in Toa Payoh with a friend for $700 a month.

That could be as much as $650 more than the subsidised rent – a tidy profit for the original tenant.

Their ‘landlord’ told them to keep windows shut and not to answer the door. The 35-year-old said she knew the deal was illegal but she was ‘desperate for cheap housing’, adding in Mandarin that ‘If I didn’t rent this flat, I can’t afford anything else’.

The abuse of HDB rental flats comes amid soaring demand for such homes, which are meant for needy Singaporean families.

The waiting list has shot up by at least 30 per cent over the past few months, with about 4,000 applicants in the queue. This translates to a 15-month wait, which is double the time in 2006.

Eligible Singaporeans can apply for HDB rental flats and pay $26 to $205 for a one-roomer and $44 to $275 for a two-roomer, depending on household income and other factors. The HDB manages about 43,000 such flats and plans to add 20 per cent more.

A Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Ms Lee Bee Wah, told The Straits Times that residents had complained about the problem when she visited Teck Ghee last month.

‘People tell me their neighbours are renting their flats out. They should not be hogging the flats if they have an alternative place to stay,’ said Ms Lee.

When The Straits Times called five property agents last week, four said they had one- and two-room flats available for rent. Most of these flats would be rental units, said HDB.

And it is not just low-paid foreign workers renting such flats.

A Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia said he used to rent such flats as they were the cheapest on the market.

The 28-year-old finance executive rented a two-room subsidised flat in Owen Road for $550 in 2006. A similar unit on the open market would cost at least $1,000. Now, government-subsidised flats can fetch $1,000 in good locations, he added.

When The Straits Times visited Toa Payoh rental blocks last week, some tenants said they noticed an increasing number of workers from China and Bangladesh living in their blocks.

Coffeeshop worker Poh Lee Tee, 45, said her neighbour frequently rented out his flat to Indian workers, who kept her up when they came home from work.

‘But I don’t want to report my neighbours, in case I get into trouble,’ said Madam Poh.

Mr Wu Mu Song, 74, who has lived in one of the rental blocks for the past 30 years, estimated that two out of 10 flats are rented out illegally. ‘This is unfair; there are others who need these flats more,’ he said in Mandarin.

Although abuse of rental units is on the rise, Mr Wu said it was hard to catch illegal tenants as they often ignore visitors – including HDB officers.

Tenants illegally renting out their home can lose the flat and face a five-year ban from renting or buying HDB property.

The HDB recovered 17 flats in 2005 and 27 last year. The increase was due ‘to better public awareness and feedback’, it said.

It also conducts inspections at least once a year and carries out regular ‘enforcement blitzes’.

One blitz recovered 57 rental flats in three months in 2003 and 35 in a crackdown that began last year in areas like Tampines, Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh and Bukit Merah.

Anyone aware of illegal renting can contact the HDB at flw1@hdb.gov.sg. or call 6490 2410.

Source : Straits Times – 29 May 2008

Cases of illegal sub-letting

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews,Legal Ground,Rental News — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:46 am

Blk 63 TOA PAYOH LORONG 5

When The Straits Times visited this HDB rental block last week, we identified one unit where voices in a heavy Chinese accent could be heard. The windows were shut, save for a panel at the top where we could see a light and a suitcase. When we knocked on the door, the voices fell silent and, even after repeated knocks, nobody answered the door.

HDB also cited two recent case studies of tenants illegally sub-letting their rental flats.

Blk 3 JALAN BUKIT MERAH

A one-room flat at Block 3, Jalan Bukit Merah, was leased by the HDB to the tenant and her two children. An inspection in January revealed that the flat was sub-let to five Chinese nationals at a monthly rental of $900. The tenant was working in Malaysia while her two children were living with relatives.

Blk 805 KING GEORGE’S AVE

A two-room rental flat was leased to the tenant and his two children. An inspection by HDB revealed that the flat was sub-let to Chinese nationals for $800 per month. The tenant and his family were living with his mother at Chai Chee.

In the latter two cases, the units were recovered in January and February, and the tenants banned from renting HDB flats for five years.
 
What’s the penalty?

Tenants who illegally sub-let their flats will have their units recovered by HDB, and banned from buying or renting a flat from HDB for five years, while any unauthorised occupier (above 18 years old) will be barred for 2-1/2 years.

Source : Straits Times – 29 May 2008

June 16, 2008

Middleman to blame for rent owed, says firm

Filed under: General,Legal Ground,Rental News — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:28 am

THE company whose 167 workers were locked out of their Joo Chiat quarters last Wednesday says it does not owe the landlord any money.

The Sunday Times had quoted landlord Mohamed Ali as saying that Deluge Fire Protection, based in Joo Koon Crescent, owed him $23,500 in rent.

But Deluge project director Tan Ann Kiong said it has an agreement with a firm called Broadlee Construction to house its workers who are from India, Bangladesh, China and Myanmar.

Showing documents and copies of cheques paid to Broadlee and the agreement it has had with the firm since January this year, he said: ‘We paid promptly at the start of each month and we’ve never been late in payments. We have no way of knowing whether Broadlee passed on the money to this Mr Mohamed Ali and we have no dealings with him.’

The evidence from Mr Tan revealed that $99,360 had been paid to Broadlee between January and April.

According to the agreement, the monthly fee of $160 per worker also covered the cost of utilities and laundry.

They were housed in two double-storey shophouses in Joo Chiat.

Deluge is an established industry player in the construction, installation and maintenance of fire-protection systems.

When asked to comment on its workers’ complaints of poor living conditions in Joo Chiat, Mr Tan said: ‘Broadlee promised to replace some faulty equipment, such as shower heads, as well as provide extra beds for newly arrived workers. These promises were never carried out.’

Mr Tan said Deluge also paid Singapore Power Services $5,900 this month when Mr Mohamed Ali fell behind on payments ‘because we didn’t want to see our workers inconvenienced’.

The affected workers have since moved to temporary quarters in Sungei Kadut after Deluge received a notice from the Urban Redevelopment Authority that the quarters were not sanctioned for housing foreign workers.

Mr Tan said: ‘We trusted Broadlee to have obtained all the necessary approvals.’

When The Straits Times called Broadlee, a person, who did not want to be named and claimed he was the former owner, said it had stopped acting as a middleman between companies and landlords.

Mr Mohamed Ali could not be reached to explain why he insisted that Deluge owed him money even though it had no formal agreement with him.

Deluge is now building its own workers’ dormitory at a site off Chin Bee Drive. The facility, which can house up to 500 workers, will be completed in six months and managed by Deluge itself.

Said Mr Tan: ‘Our previous arrangement with Broadlee seemed to cater to our needs at first, but look what happened in the end.

‘It’s better to have our own place to house our workers.’

Source : Straits Times – 23 May 2008

June 11, 2008

TOP? TOP of what?

Filed under: General,Legal Ground — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:08 am

Where do you see this?

On anything that refers to a building under construction, ranging from hoardings to property advertisements.

What does it mean?

When a building is completed, its owners will apply for a Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC), but this takes some time to obtain.

In the meantime, the owners can ask the Building and Construction Authority to issue a Temporary Occupation Permit, or TOP, for the building. This allows them to occupy the building even before the CSC is received.

During construction, developers often provide an estimated TOP date, which indicates the year – and sometimes even the month – when the building is expected to be completed.

Why is it important?

No one can move into a building, whether office or residential, until it has obtained the TOP.

For many homebuyers, the TOP date also marks the deadline by which they have to pay up the bulk of their home loans. Under some schemes, buyers pay an upfront deposit of 20 per cent of the home’s purchase price, with the rest payable upon the TOP date.

So you want to use the term. Just say…

‘We’re getting married this year but our condo will obtain the TOP only in 2010, so in the meantime, we have to find another place to live in.’

Source : Sunday Times – 18 May 2008

Regent Garden owners file appeal despite sale completion

Filed under: General,Legal Ground — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:51 am

ONE of Singapore’s most unusual collective sale disputes, over Regent Garden, is now headed for the Court of Appeal even though the sale was completed yesterday.

Last month, the High Court ruled that the $34 million sale of the West Coast Road condo to Allgreen Properties must go ahead.

But now, the owners of 23 out of the 31 Regent Garden apartments have filed papers to take the case to Singapore’s highest court – the Court of Appeal.

They cannot overturn the sale now that it has been completed, but they want the court to rule on certain ‘burning’ questions, and they might seek remedies if they succeed.

They say other people involved in collective sales might be interested in getting answers to these questions.

These majority owners, including owners of two units who did not join the appeal, had earlier sought to overturn the $34 million deal, claiming among other things that their condo had been undervalued.

In a statement, the sale committee said: ‘These questions include whether, in a situation where a minority of owners object to a proposed collective sale, an intending buyer is permitted to go behind the backs of the majority owners and reach a side deal with the minority owners.’

A spokesman for the majority owners said the ’side deal’ referred to the fact that six of the owners who had opposed the sale had received an extra $2 million, divided between them, in return for withdrawing their objections.

Those appealing also want to know whether these minority owners are entitled to retain the extra payments without sharing the sum with the majority owners in accordance with the distribution arrangements in the sale agreement.

Yesterday, all the owners at Regent Garden completed their sale, which means they would each have pocketed a large part of their proceeds, which range from slightly over $700,000 to $1.4 million.

The remaining 5 per cent of their proceeds is due to be released to them when they vacate their homes.

In a statement released yesterday evening, Allgreen described the appeal as ‘curious’, given that the sale and purchase of Regent Garden had been completed earlier yesterday.

‘Allgreen intends to vigorously contest the appeal, and all claims and allegations made by the appellants,’ it said.

Source : Straits Times – 17 May 2008

June 10, 2008

What kind of paperwork deserves that much money for property agents?

Filed under: General,Legal Ground — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:07 am

I WRITE to join Mr Patrick Sio’s discussion on the contentious issue of the 1 per cent property sales commission. Let me state that I am all for real estate agents who deserve their due. If a buyer has commissioned an agent to represent them as they have no time to look for a HDB flat and are in need of the agent, by all means, the agent has earned it. An independent buyer’s position, however, is completely different.

If HDB holds educational seminars for buyers to help them with the resale purchasing process, that clearly shows and means that buyers are empowered to act on their own and have a right to represent themselves, in which case, why should the sellers’ agents be paid a commission by independent buyers in order to make up for what agents say is a loss in profit as they are not selling a multi-million dollar private property? As reported on May 8, ‘Fee dispute: PropNex drops lawsuit against couple’, agents say the 1 per cent commission is practised by them due to the ‘lower prices of HDB flats, which translates into a lower commission’.

Saying that independent buyers should pay the 1 per cent commission in order to make up for the lower commission they make on HDB flats is like saying we should all pay a $2,000 airfare regardless or whether we are travelling to Los Angeles or Bali so that the airline company can make up for the ‘loss’ in profit. What’s the rationale behind that? It is utterly ridiculous and a blatant perversion of financial integrity.

The fact that agents say the 1 per cent commission is due them in order to boost their earnings on a lower-priced sale already betrays their position. In which case, how can the same agent represent both seller and the independent buyer?

Then there are reports of agents who refuse to sell it to independent buyers without the commission. These agents are practically extorting money from buyers who end up being blackmailed into signing the commission agreement. What recourse do independent buyers have when they are coerced in this manner? None.

The difference between the definition of a commission or service fee and that of an admin fee is huge. They cannot be the same. Does the service of a form filler command a fee of thousands? How much paperwork is there really? Please.

If, for example, having to fill in names and details, say five times over, in a 25-page document equals to a lot of paperwork and I get thousands for that, I think we need to seriously consider making an executive profession out of this prestigious task that seems so difficult it’s beyond the mental capacity of any independent HDB flat buyer. We must be a nation of HDB dwellers who do not know how to write even our own names.

And what services do they render that justify them a commission that equals twice, thrice, four times that of what an average Singaporean may earn in a month? I found this comment on a blog: ‘If a lawyer gets $3k for helping a client buy or sell a $3mil house, why should the agent earn $30k for helping the client buy or sell the same house?’

Even conveyancing lawyers do not represent both the seller and buyer. And these agents are not even required to have relevant qualifications. If they were to be paid by the hour, independent buyers would be paying them by the thousands. That’s a $1,000-$5,000/hr job. Even Donald Trump has to do a lot more than ‘paperwork’ to earn that kind of a salary. Never mind that agents submit part of the ‘paperwork’ online these days in less than 15 minutes.

I cannot understand this – why haven’t there been laws instituted to regulate this 1 per cent commission issue despite it being raised for a few years already? Are we waiting incredulously for the real estate agent associations whose own interests are at stake to address this issue? What can be done to create a movement to begin this?

I hope to see an article with a comparison between other nations and Singapore in this area. It is an issue that is in dire need of regulation. The silence and inaction of those in leadership positions who have been empowered to create the much-needed legislation in this area is very disappointing.

Source : Straits Times – 13 May 2008

To pay or not to pay

Filed under: General,Legal Ground — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:00 am

ONE week after The Straits Times reported that housing agency PropNex was suing two independent home buyers for not paying its agent a fee, the firm withdrew its case.

The agent, Mr Ricky Low Yong Sern, had been hired by the seller of a $400,000 terrace house in Whampoa which marketing specialist Loh Yi Min and his wife, polytechnic lecturer Ariel Wee, bought last year. The couple had acted on their own without hiring an agent. They refused to sign the commission agreement to pay Mr Loh a fee equivalent to 1 per cent of the price of the property, which was classified as an HDB flat. Mr Low claimed he was entitled to the commission or a fee commensurate with the services that he said he had provided.

PropNex dropped its landmark suit as part of a confidential deal both sides reached through mediation last Tuesday. Given that the sum at stake – about $4,000 or less – would have been dwarfed by the roughly $10,000-per-day cost of a trial, it was surprising the case went as far as it did.

But the case is not unique in the HDB resale market, where a growing proportion of buyers and sellers is transacting without agents. Last year, 3.6 per cent – or 1,060 people – submitted their applications through the HDB’s e-Resale system, which caters to buyers and sellers without agents. This figure has been creeping up – it was 2 per cent in 2003 and 3 per cent in 2005.

Growing awareness of consumer rights has given momentum to the debate over whether independent buyers need to pay a fee to sellers’ agents. Adding to the controversy are rogue agents who mislead buyers into signing commission forms at the last minute by claiming it is a ‘rule’.

Although the law does not stipulate who should pay the fee and how much is payable, it is common for sellers to pay their agents a sum equivalent to 2 per cent of the property’s price, while buyers foot 1 per cent. If both sellers and buyers are represented by agents in an HDB flat transaction, both parties pay the fee to their own agents. This practice is known as co-broking.

Questions crop up when buyers act on their own – which is more common than sellers acting on their own. Many agents hired by sellers then try to claim a 1 per cent cut from buyers. This fee, peculiar to the HDB resale market, is levied because the quantum of commission on HDB deals is lower than that for private property deals, says the Institute of Estate Agents.

Agents and agencies cite other arguments:

Firstly, by advertising a property for sale, helping the buyer to make contact with its owner and negotiating the deal, the seller’s agent provides a service to the buyer.

Secondly, when the deal is inked, the seller’s agent has to do paperwork for the buyer, such as filling up the sale and purchase agreement and submitting the document.

Thirdly, since this 1 per cent fee is ‘market practice’, it is up to independent buyers to declare upfront they do not wish to pay it. If the buyer seals a deal without bringing up the matter, he would be tacitly agreeing a fee is payable.

But in the absence of a written commission agreement between an independent buyer and the seller’s agent, these arguments hold little weight, say lawyers. Under Singapore law, commission deals can be verbal, so refusing to sign a form does not solve the problem. The bigger question is whether both sides are aware of the commission and agree that it should be paid at all.

Drew & Napier director Hri Kumar says that while the courts will take note of the prevailing ‘market practice’, an agent will find it difficult to prove that the buyer was aware of this ‘practice’ if the buyer is a layman.

Ramdas & Wong consultant Ellen Lee says the agents – deemed the ‘experts’ in this scenario – are obliged to inform the buyer upfront that they are levying a fee. ‘If someone doesn’t know (about the fee), he doesn’t even know that he should say he is not paying it.’

But the buyer who is informed of such a fee and does not intend to pay has to object to it at the earliest possible instance. If he does not, he can be said to have agreed implicitly to pay, says Mr Freddi Lim, a partner at Trinity Law Corporation.

Awareness aside, what kind of acts can be considered ’services’ that sellers’ agents render buyers? The lawyers found it unlikely that introducing a buyer to a seller could be considered a service. Ms Lee points out that the seller’s agent places a property ad and makes contact with potential buyers because he is duty-bound to market the home on behalf of his client. His role as a liaison does not give him an inherent right to claim a fee from the buyer. However, if that potential buyer subsequently asks the agent to, say, recommend suitable properties, he may be said to be soliciting the agent’s services.

The question of whether handling paperwork constitutes a service to buyers is less clear-cut. This is because only one set of sale and purchase documents needs to be submitted to the Housing Board for the resale of a flat. Although the HDB does not stipulate which party should submit the form, the design of its online application system – through which most applications are made – places the burden of submission on the seller’s agent if the buyer is not represented by an agent. This often means that sellers’ agents fill up the form and submit the applications for both parties.

Assuming that the independent buyer has done his own checks to make sure he qualifies to buy the particular apartment, it is questionable whether a fee can be levied for such paperwork. Infinitus Law Corporation director Leo Cheng Suan, for example, feels such paperwork is simply part and parcel of the steps needed to complete a deal.

The HDB says: ‘The submission mode should not be misused by housing agents as a basis for charging commissions (which), like payment for all types of services, are subject to negotiation.’

A large part of the validity of housing agents’ claims hinges on what the agents disclose and when they do so in the dealings leading up to a sale. Unfortunately, many agents today produce commission payment slips only after a purchase is sealed. As Ms Wee says after settling her lawsuit with PropNex: ‘Agents should state clearly the services they are providing to justify the fee they are charging.’

Until that happens, the industry will continue to be dogged by doubts over the ethics of its rank and file.

Source : Straits Times – 13 May 2008

May 12, 2008

Fee dispute: PropNex drops lawsuit against couple

Filed under: Agency News,General,Legal Ground — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:07 am

PROPERTY company PropNex is dropping its lawsuit against a couple who refused to pay the seller’s agent the 1 per cent commission after buying a home.

Both sides reached an agreement after a mediation session on Tuesday, which PropNex said yielded a ‘win-win’ conclusion. They declined to disclose the terms of the settlement.

If the case had gone to trial, it would have turned the spotlight on the contentious issue of whether home buyers should pay a fee to sellers’ agents.

PropNex associate director Ricky Low Yong Sern, who was the only agent handling the sale of a terrace house in Whampoa last year, had sought about $4,000 in commission or a service fee from the buyers, marketing specialist Loh Yi Min, 29, and his wife Ariel Wee, a 33-year-old polytechnic lecturer.

The couple bought the house – built over 30 years ago and classified as a Housing Board flat – for $400,000 in April last year. They did so without hiring an agent.

According to court documents, PropNex’s Mr Low claimed that he had provided services to them.

But the buyers refused to sign the commission agreement, saying they had not agreed to pay him a fee.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said of the first such lawsuit initiated by his company: ‘It has been amicably settled, so we are withdrawing the case. PropNex initiated this on the grounds that a fair amount of work has been done by the agent to start off with. This negotiated settlement takes into consideration both parties’ views.’

Ms Wee, however, called for rules requiring property agents to state clearly what services they were providing independent buyers that would justify the commission.

‘And we really need to see whether the same agent can represent both the buyer and seller – it’s a complete conflict of interest,’ she added.

The issue of commissions payable by buyers who deal without agents has been hotly debated in recent years. The law does not fix agents’ fees, but most property sellers pay their agents a commission of 2 per cent of the selling price, while buyers foot 1 per cent.

Many agents marketing HDB flats also charge independent buyers a 1 per cent fee, but this is not practised for transactions involving private property.

This difference, say agents, comes from the lower prices of HDB flats, which translates into a lower commission. The sale of HDB flats involves more paperwork, they add.

Disputes arise when sellers’ agents tell independent buyers about the commission only just before sale papers are signed.

Agents, on their part, say independent buyers often leave the sellers’ agents to handle the paperwork but refuse to pay a service fee.

Source : Straits Times – 8 May 2008

May 9, 2008

Family fights over 2 houses worth millions

Filed under: General,Legal Ground,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:41 am

Wife of man who killed himself in US jail faces off against in-laws

A FAMILY is locked in a court tussle over two properties worth millions three years after a Singaporean businessman killed himself while awaiting trial for killing his adopted son.

One house – in Margate Road off Mountbatten Road – was in the name of Charles Loo Chay Loo, who was taken off life support three months after he tried to end his life in a San Francisco prison. He was then 51.

The registered owner of the other house – in Seraya Lane off Haig Road – was Loo’s wife, Madam Wendy Chen Tsui Yu, 55.

But Charles’ mother, Madam Tan Chan Tee, 80, and his older brother, Mr Loo Chay Sit, 57, say they paid for the houses and are the actual owners.

Charles and his wife were only holding the properties in trust for them, they claim.

The case to determine who owns the properties opened in the High Court yesterday and is fixed for a 10-day trial.

Lawyer Low Chai Chong, representing the Loos, said the Margate Road property was bought by the elder brother for $195,000 in 1978. As MrLoo and his wife were going through a divorce then, the family put the property in Charles’ name instead, he said.

Noting that Charles was only 21 then, he added: ‘He did not pay for the house or make any contribution towards the purchase price.’

No formal documents were drawn up and Madam Tan kept the title deeds.

MrLoo lived on the property until Charles and his wife moved in when they got married in 1980.

As for the Seraya Lane property, Mr Low said it was acquired in 1975 by Madam Tan and her sister-in-law. In 1987, Madam Tan paid $788,000 to buy over her sister-in-law’s share.

The house was later transferred to Madam Chen’s name as Charles had convinced his mother, who already owned one property, that she would have to pay additional taxes on it.

In 1993, he and his wife left for the US. Mr Low claimed they were fleeing from the police for their roles in share transactions. But Madam Chen’s lawyer, Mr Chia Kok Khun, disputed this, saying they moved to the US to meet their son’s special education needs.

In September 2004, a depressed Charles allegedly stabbed his 17-year-old son to death.

Mr Chia said Mr Loo started court action to stake his claim on the Margate Road house in April 2005, while Charles was still in a coma.

In March 2006, he won a court declaration that the house was held in trust for him. He transferred the property to his name and sold it within six months for $4.8million.

In January last year, Madam Tan took similar steps and got a default judgment against Madam Chen for the Seraya Lane house.

Around this time, Madam Chen found out about both judgments and took court action to have them set aside.

But by then, the Margate Road house had already been sold and MrLoo failed to pay the sales proceeds into court as ordered. Only $2.4 million of the proceeds remain, the court heard.

Mr Chia argued that Madam Tan and Mr Loo have not been able to produce documentary proof that they paid for the properties.

Source : Straits Times – 6 May 2008

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