Four Seas Communications Bank Ltd v Eng Chuan & Company and Others

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 4 of 1980
Four Seas Communications Bank Ltd
Eng Chuan & Co and others

[1980] SGCA 7

T Kulasekaram J


F A Chua J


A P Rajah J

Civil Appeal No 4 of 1980

Court of Appeal

Landlord and Tenant–Termination of leases–Claim for possession–Rent-controlled premises–Premises leased to sole proprietorship which subsequently became partnership–Partnership later dissolved but partners other than original proprietor remained in possession of premises–Tenancy terminated–Whether remaining occupants trespassers–Whether tenancy had been created in favour of remaining occupants

The appellant bank purchased rent-controlled premises which were subject to an existing tenancy. The previous owner of the premises had leased the premises to Eng Chuan & Co. At the time of letting one Lee was the sole proprietor of Eng Chuan & Co, but four other persons later joined the partnership. Subsequently, Lee and two others withdrew from the partnership and the three remaining partners (“the respondents”) continued operating the firm. The partnership was eventually struck off the Register of Business Names, but the respondents continued to occupy the premises.

The appellant bank terminated the tenancy with notice to quit, and brought an action against the respondents to recover possession of the premises, claiming that the respondents were trespassers. The respondents argued the appellant had accepted them as tenants as they had openly occupied the premises; and continued occupation by the firm for 38 years gave them protection under the Control of Rent Act (Cap 266, 1970 Rev Ed). The district judge held the tenancy taken in the name of the firm was vested in Lee and at best, the other partners were licensees of Lee; and ruled in favour of the bank; but this decision was reversed by the High Court which found that the bank was initially quite prepared to accept the firm as its tenant irrespective of its composition until it sought legal advice when it wanted to rebuild. The bank appealed.

Held, allowing the appeal:

There was no evidence that the bank had entered into a new agreement creating a new tenancy in favour of the respondents. The only other way by which the respondents could have become the tenants of the bank was by way of a tenancy by estoppel. The respondents had not pleaded estoppel at the trial and this defence was not available to them: at [11].

South Union Co Ltd v Seng Hin Ltd [1971-1973] SLR (R) 370; [1972-1974] SLR 326 (refd)


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