Bank Negara Indonesia v Hoalim Philip

JudgeLord Salmon
Judgment Date14 May 1973
Neutral Citation[1973] SGPC 1
Citation[1973] SGPC 1
Defendant CounselYR Jumabhoy (C Butcher & Simon Burns)
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselHE Francis QC and PJ Pillet (Coward Chance)
Date14 May 1973
Docket NumberPrivy Council Appeal No 17 of 1972
CourtPrivy Council
Subject MatterRent-controlled premises,Promissory estoppel,Premises undergoing substantial demolition and reconstruction,Recovery of possession,Equity,Estoppel,Whether landlord estopped from subsequently serving a notice to quit on tenant,Landlord assuring tenant that latter will not be asked to leave premises for as long as he carried on his profession there,Whether premises constituting new building for purposes of rent control legislation,Landlord and Tenant,Section 2 Control of Rent Ordinance (Cap 242, 1955 Rev Ed)

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of Appeal in Singapore dismissing an appeal by the plaintiffs in the action from a judgment of Chua J in the High Court of Singapore.

The claim in the action, by the present appellants as plaintiffs, was for possession of the front room on the third floor of a building owned by the appellants and known as no 3 Malacca Street, Singapore, together with mesne profits from 1 March 1969.
This room was occupied by the respondent as a tenant of the appellants; the appellants claimed that the tenancy was a monthly tenancy and that it had been validly determined by a notice to quit expiring on 28 February 1969. The respondent did not dispute the service of a notice to quit but relied upon two defences. First, he claimed protection under the Control of Rent Ordinance 1953; secondly, he set up an agreement, or understanding, made or entered into in 1958 between himself and one Lee Cheng Kiat, predecessor of the appellants, and claimed that the appellants were estopped from claiming possession of the premises against him.

The relevant facts are largely undisputed.
The respondent, who is an advocate and solicitor had, since 1945, occupied for the purpose of his profession the front portion of the first floor of no 3 Malacca Street. He was a monthly tenant, paying a rent of $147.40 per month. The building was an old building consisting of a ground floor, first floor and second floor: it was owned by Lee Cheng Kiat. In 1957 the appellants entered into negotiation for the purchase of the building and it was conveyed to them in July 1959. It is not disputed that the various steps taken and negotiations carried on with regard to the building during this period were so carried on and taken on behalf of the appellants.

During 1958 extensive alterations were carried out to the building, costing, as the appellants claimed, $306,656.89.
The landlord requested the respondent to vacate the room occupied by him but he refused to do so. In October 1958 the roof of the building was taken off so that rain came through and flooded the respondent`s office: he threatened proceedings unless steps were taken to abate the nuisance. Thereupon two representatives of the landlord came to see him and asked him to move to the rear of the first floor so that work could be done in the front. They told him that, when the new third floor was ready, he could move to the front portion of it. They gave him an assurance, as the judge found, that he would have the same protection under the Control of Rent Ordinance as he had on the first floor and that the appellants would not ask him to leave the premises for as long as he was practising his profession there. On these assurances the respondent agreed to move from the front part of the first floor. He went first to the back portion of that floor and remained there for about three months. Then he moved to the front portion of the third floor.

On 12 January 1961 the respondent was served with a notice to quit, accompanied by a letter from the appellants` solicitors informing him that the appellants were willing to grant a new tenancy at a rent of $517 per month.
Negotiations took place, as a result of which he agreed to pay a rent of $280 per month and sign a lease for three years. A three year lease under seal was in fact prepared and executed to take effect from 1 March 1961. It contained a covenant by the respondent to yield up the demised premises at the determination of the tenancy. After the expiry of the three year term the respondent continued in possession as a monthly tenant until, as previously stated, the appellants served a notice to quit on 13 January 1969, expiring on 28 February 1969.

The first question is whether the respondent was protected under the Control of Rent Ordinance 1953.
This Ordinance applied to premises defined, by s 2, in the following terms:

`premises` means any dwellinghouse ... office ... and any other building ... in which persons are employed or work and any part of any such building let or sublet separately ... but does not include any new building built or completed after 7 September 1947.

The question is whether, after the alterations made in 1958, no 3 Malacca Street became a `new building`.
Whether an old building which has been altered, or reconstructed, becomes thereby a new building is a question of fact and degree - see Eastern Realty Co v Chan Hua Seng [1967] 2 MLJ 195 per Wee Chong Jin CJ and Kai Nam v Ma Kam Chan [1956] AC 358.

In the present case, the foundation of the old building and the lateral walls remained, but the

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