Tribunal back on track
Published in NST-PROP
A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers
A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers
The landmark ruling of the Court of Appeal has to a degree levelled the playing
Since the establishment of the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims (the Tribunal) on Dec 1,
2002, many aggrieved buyers brought their cases before it and had been successful in being awarded compensation from their
However, their joys were short-lived when some developers challenged the jurisdiction of the Tribunal (to hear cases where the
sale and purchase agreements were signed prior to the creation of the Tribunal).
The High Court, which heard the matter, ruled in favour of the developers when it
delivered its judgment on Sept 4 last year. Following that decision the Attorney-General's Chambers appealed to the Court of
Appeal. Some affected buyers also appealed the same decision through lawyers that National House Buyers Association had assembled
on a pro bono basis.
On Dec 18, to the relief of buyers, the Court of Appeal ruled in their favour. Those
who had their Tribunal awards set aside by the High Court ruling last September can now look forward to getting their rightful
compensations from their defaulting developers.
Those, whose hopes of forwarding their claims to the Tribunal had been derailed by that High Court ruling, can now rekindle their
hopes and seek redress through the Tribunal. It has been announced by Minister of Housing and Local Government Datuk Seri Ong Ka
Ting, that the Tribunal will resume hearing cases in the first week of February after the relevant notices to all parties
concerned have been issued. Meanwhile, aggrieved buyers may continue to lodge their claims through the Tribunal.
The decision of the Court of Appeal indeed augurs well for buyer who can now ‘afford’ to seek legal redress if appeals to their
developers to correct their breaches of their Sale and Purchase Agreements do not yield satisfactory results.
The perception that buyers are people who should be parted from their money as quickly as possible and then discharged as having
no more value is out. In today’s market, buyers are beginning to demand for more respect of their rights and good after-sales
service and it is a welcome state of affairs that leaders in society are offering their support.
The Star – 20/12/2003 – Ong: Decision a reminder to developers - “ …should make developers more aware of their legal obligations
to buyers, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said. He said the court decision was not merely a strong
reminder to developers to be more responsible but also demonstrated that the country has laws and enforcement to deal with
developers who fail to deliver. It is in the law that they are obligated to honour promises in the sale and purchase agreement…”
The Sun – 20/12/2003 – Let housing tribunal play its role, says Ong – “.. I also like to remind the developers they must be
honest. When they have collected the money from buyers and signed the sale and purchase (agreement), they must fulfill all their
responsibilities and not try to run away…”
The Malay Mail – 22/12/2003 – Better protection for buyers – “ … Land and Cooperative Development Deputy Minister said the
Ministry had received numerous complaints about errant developers…We want to protect buyers from being cheated and at the same
time, promote responsible and quality management among developers…For the time being, Tan urged residents living in high-rise
premises to work together in protecting their rights…”
For the housing developers, particularly those defiant ones, the message is loud and clear and we sincerely hope that they are not
deaf or blind. Firstly, pay up what the Tribunal had awarded or face criminal charges with the possibility of going to jail. More
importantly, they should now fully realise that the Government is serious about fair treatment and protection of house buyers’
rights and interests and it would serve them well to toe the line.
House buyers who bought houses from errant and deceitful developers had been suffering, for too long, the bullying attitude of
their developers with little option for recourse. This landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal has to a degree level the playing
It is also hoped that with the latest show of seriousness by the government, errant developers would need to reform their customer
relations policy. They should strive for customers’ satisfaction and should give good value merchandise for what their customers
had paid for. The long end of the stick that they had been enjoying all these while had been cut short by the government.
Thus on one hand, the ball is now in the arena of the Housing Ministry to strictly enforce what the Law stipulates. On the other
hand, it is also in the arena of developers to treat their customers fairly and justly to avoid facing the Tribunal and the wrath
of its power. Developers need to place themselves in the shoes of their customers. House buyers place a lot of trust in their
developers to provide them with their purchase according to the laws. In return, developers make their profits from each buyer. It
should not surprise anyone when house buyers demand that any breach of their sale and purchase agreement be rectified. Their
purchase usually represents the largest and most important investment they will ever make.
We are seeing a small but significant step forward in the long and rugged journey towards an orderly housing industry. HBA can
sigh with relief that our efforts has begun to bear fruits. Though the revival of the Tribunal is a significant part of the
objectives of HBA, we will continue to address weaknesses facing the housing industry and will not rest here.