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Wait for housing tribunal appeal

NST-PROP 13/09/2003 By Nicholas Mun


HOUSE buyers affected by the High Court decision that the housing tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear claims involving Sale and Purchase Agreements (SPAs) entered into before Dec 1, 2002 have been advised to wait for the outcome of the appeal filed on Monday by the Attorney-General's Chambers.


According to National House Buyers Association (HBA) secretary-general Chang Kim Loong, the appeal is expected to be disposed of by the end of this year.


"It normally takes about two years before an appeal is heard. We understand that in view of public interest in this matter, an early hearing date has been sought by the Attorney-General's Chambers," Chang said.


He said the fact that Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail will personally conduct the appeal shows the seriousness of the Government in ensuring that buyers' rights are protected.


The appeal followed a statement made by Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting last Friday that the Government "will explore every avenue to ensure that the actual purpose for the setting up of the tribunal will be served".


Last Thursday, Justice Datuk Md Raus Sharif allowed an application by developers Puncakdana Sdn Bhd and Westcourt Corporation Sdn Bhd to prohibit the Tribunal from hearing claims against them stemming from SPAs signed before Dec 1 last year. The judge also quashed the awards made by the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims against the two developers.


Chang said buyers who are unwilling to wait for the outcome of the appeal can proceed with filing their claims in the civil court.


"Buyers should pool their resources and file class action suits against the developers. This would help defray the high costs of civil litigations."


He also advised buyers who are not affected by the court decision to ensure that their claims are not barred by section 16N(2) of the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 (the Act).


"Unless they are absolutely certain that they will not be caught by the provision, buyers should file their claims in the civil courts," he said.


Section 16N(2) limits the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to claims brought by buyers within 12 months from the issuance of the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation or the expiry of the defect liability period set out in the SPA.


Lawyers whom Property Times spoke to said on condition of anonymity that affected buyers wishing to seek redress in the civil courts must first withdraw their claims lodged with the tribunal. This is to comply with section 16R of the Act, which prohibits the hearing of a dispute between the same parties by both the Tribunal and the court.


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