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The Enbloc Story June 17, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
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Yesterday the ST devoted two articles to this matter.

Now after reading the articles, one would most probably come to the conclusion that most of the people who are fighting against enbloc are doing it for the sake of the money. Notice how a large portion of the article keeps talking about the crazy movements in the property market and the fact that most of the people quoted, be they property agents, lawyers or lay people are all harping on the issue of money. Therefore, the ST has simplified the issue of Enbloc into one of dollars and cents.

Such a law is indeed “Uniquely Singapore”; no where in the world would there be such a law which forces people out of their homes just because 80% of your neighbours vote to do so. As can be seen, this is a clear cut example of the “Tyranny of the Majority”. The rational for such a draconian law is this; cold hearted pragmatism. To free up land for development, such a law is passed to allow the big players to acquire estates and eventually develop them into a more profitable one. So once again the rights of the individual, namely the right to own a home, is put in jeopardy, all in the name of Economic progress. 

Therefore in such instances, it is of no surprise that there will be people objecting to the sale of their homes, especially if they have no intention to move out or downgrade in the first place.  As one person said,

‘When you look at it, we made a lot of money,’ she said. ‘But it’s a roof over your head. You can’t just look at it in terms of profit.’

Regretably, such information has been buried in the report by all that talk about people being unhappy with the money.  However given ST’s track record, it is not inconceivable that such a situation has taken place. It is trite knowledge the ST reports are an indication of the government’s stand on issues and as the government is for such legislation it is not unexpected that ST will try to paint the issue in terms of $.

Furthermore, buried in a part of the article is a piece of information which is particularly worrying;

Overshadowing all this is his unhappiness about the way in which his parents were badgered into signing up for the collective sale.

‘Both my parents are hawkers and don’t have much education. The sales committee came down to talk to them when they were working at the busiest time and chased them to sign,’ he said.

‘We were not even given the full details until after we signed.’

 There are some implications with regards to the above. First you have a draconian law which forces you out of your home; then you have a situation by which the law has been abused! Furthermore as the law now stands, those who feel that they have been misled into the agreement will have no recourse before the Strata Title Board, which approves the sale. There is little or no safeguard protecting the rights of even the majority! Thus it is entirely possible that there could be a situation whereby lay people sign the Collective Sale Agreement without knowing any better given the fact that they have no idea about the legal mumbo jumbo, and having done that even should they realise that something is amiss they have no avenue of recourse that will not expose them to a law suit (since they can be sued for backing out of a contract). To put it in stronger terms, once you are “conned” into signing there is precious little recourse for you. Oh there is still a recourse; you could go to the court, as long as you have the money to do so. Most people tend to be fatalistic or cash strapped; much akin to the situation faced by the two people who paid Durai damages rather than fight the fella in court. Furthermore, a look at the recent Enbloc disputes (Horizon Towers, etc) show that the big names are often supported big law firms; thus increasing the financial barrier should one decide to seek recourse.

Therefore, while it is heartening that there is an attempt by parliament to tighten the laws, it still does not change the fact that this particular legislation is rather draconian due to the fact that it forces people out of their homes.  I daresay if such an enbloc legislation was widened to include HDB flats there will be a greater uproar over this issue. And given the fact that Singapore is land scarce it is entirely possible that one day such a situation could happen. A precedent has been set. For all you know, even entire streets could be enbloced!

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