Borneo Motors (S) Pte Ltd v William Jacks & Company (S) Pte Ltd

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date14 May 1990
Docket NumberSuit No 1651 of 1983
Date14 May 1990
Borneo Motors (S) Pte Ltd
William Jacks & Co (S) Pte Ltd

[1990] SGHC 35

L P Thean J

Suit No 1651 of 1983

High Court

Equity–Estoppel–Promissory estoppel–Payment of electricity bills–Payments made by tenant over period of more than two and a half years–Whether tenant estopped from claiming that method or manner of computation of electricity charges was incorrect–Landlord and Tenant–Rent and service charges–Apportionment–Payment for utilities–Tenant to pay electricity bill computed and rendered by landlord–Whether landlord and tenant had agreement on computation of charges–Whether tenant made overpayments to landlord under mistake of fact–Whether tenant entitled to claim overpayments from landlord

The plaintiff and defendant were tenant and landlord respectively in relation to certain premises. For the purpose of measuring electricity consumed by the plaintiff, it was agreed that the plaintiff would install an electricity meter on the premises. A representative of the defendant would read the meter monthly and render a bill to the plaintiff reflecting the charges for electricity consumed on the premises.

The plaintiff commenced action against the defendant, claiming that it had made overpayments under mistakes of fact, namely (a) that the bills rendered by the defendant were proper bills; and (b) that it was under a misconception that the units recorded in the meter had to be multiplied five times to equate the rates for such units to those charged by the Public Utilities Board (“PUB”). This claim was disputed by the defendant. According to the defendant, there had been an arrangement whereby the plaintiff would pay electricity charges computed on the basis set out in the bills, and, in any event, the plaintiff was estopped from alleging that the method or manner of calculation of the electricity charges was incorrect.

Held, dismissing the plaintiff's claim:

(1) It was not established that the units in the bills were multiplied five times because the parties were under the impression that the units recorded in the meter were required to be so multiplied in order to arrive at the rates charged by PUB. The plaintiff had failed to prove what the agreement was with reference to the calculation or computation of the electricity charges in respect of the units recorded in the meter. Accordingly, the plaintiff had not discharged the burden of proving that payments of the bills had been made under mistakes of fact: at [23].

(2) There was no factual basis for the defendant to found the defence of estoppel. There were no acts or conduct on the plaintiff's part on the basis of which the defendant had relied and suffered any detriment: at [24].

Anglo-Scottish Beer Sugar Corp Ltd v Spalding Urban District Council [1937] 2 KB 607; [1937] 3 All ER 335 (distd)

Avon County Council v Howlett [1983] 1 WLR 605; [1983] 1 All ER 1073 (distd)

Andrew Chua (Tan Kim Seng & Partners) for the plaintiff

Ng Kai Ming (PK Wong & Advani) for the defendant.

L P Thean J

1 The facts in this case, which have been agreed upon by the parties, are as follows. At all material times, the plaintiffs were the tenants and the defendants the landlords of the premises comprising the front portion of the ground floor of the building complex known as 989, Bukit Timah Road. The premises were let by the defendants to the plaintiffs for a term of three years from 1 October 1979 to 13 September 1982 under a lease made between them on 13 September 1979 and were used by the defendants as a showroom for display and sale of their motor vehicles. The terms of the lease relating to the payment for electricity and water consumed in the premises as contained in cll 4 (4) and 6 (1) are as follows:

  1. 4 (4) In the event that the Public Utilities Board install a meter suitable for measuring the quantity of electricity supplied to the premises and that within seven (7) days of the Public Utilities Board making written demand for the same to pay to the Public Utilities Board for all electricity supplied to the premises as measured by such Meter;

  2. 6 (1) The tenant shall also pay for electricity and water consumed on the premises as metered.

2 At all material times the Public Utilities Board (“PUB”) did not install, or were not able to install, separate meters for each of the defendants' tenants; two substation meters were installed by PUB to measure the consumption of electricity for the whole of the complex, 989, Bukit Timah Road, including the premises. For the purpose of measuring electricity consumed in the premises only, the plaintiffs, at their own costs and expenses and with the agreement of the defendants, installed a Seimen D22 3-Phase electricity KWHR meter (“the meter”) in the premises.

3 After the commencement of the lease, each month a representative of the defendants read the meter and thereafter the defendants rendered a bill to the plaintiffs reflecting the charges for electricity consumed in the premises. The amount of such charges was computed as follows: (a) the total number of units recorded in the meter was multiplied five times, thus arriving at a new total; (b) to the units comprised in such new total specific variable rates of charges on a descending scale were applied producing specific sums which were then aggregated to arrive at a total sum; and (c) to this total sum was added a “Govt Tax 10%”. This computation was spelled out clearly in the bill. Each month, after the receipt of the bill, the plaintiffs' manager in charge of the showroom forwarded it to the accounts department of the plaintiffs for payment, and payment was duly made by the plaintiffs to the defendants.

4 In early January 1981, the plaintiffs were informed that the building complex, 989, Bukit Timah Road had been sold to a company, Ban Lee Investments (Pte) Ltd, and that all future rents for the premises were to be paid direct to the new owner. However, by the defendants' letter of 19 January 1981, the plaintiffs were informed, among other things, as follows:

In the matter of security service, water usage and other general services which...

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2 cases
  • Borneo Motors (S) Pte Ltd v William Jacks & Co (S) Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 24 July 1992
    ......Of course, the burden was upon the plaintiffs to prove that the alleged payments, and thus the overpayments, were made under a mistake or mistakes of fact.The evidence adduced by the plaintiffs shows that one John Ewing, the property director of Inchcape Bhd, the parent company of the plaintiffs, negotiated the terms of the lease with the defendants. The written tenancy agreement set out the entire agreement between them. As there was no separate PUB meter for measuring electricity consumed on the premises, it was agreed between the parties that the plaintiffs should, on ......
  • Lek Bong Hua v Lek Boon Chye
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 24 November 1998
    ......The defendant worked in a company and sold certain goods as a sideline. The plaintiff pointed ... paid to him under a mistake of fact to repay it: Borneo Motors (S) Pte Ltd v William Jacks & Co (S) Pte Ltd ......

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