Lim Bio Hiong Roger v City Developments Ltd

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date16 December 1999
Neutral Citation[1999] SGCA 86
Citation[1999] SGCA 86
Plaintiff CounselDavinder Singh SC and Tan Cheng Yew (Tan Cheng Yew & Partners)
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselK Shanmugam SC and Muralidharan Pillai (Allen & Gledhill)
Date16 December 1999
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 67 of 1999
Subject MatterDischarge,Sale of land,Words and Phrases,Relevance of expert evidence in determining industry usage and practice,'Built-in area',Land,Meaning of 'built-in' area,Contract,Rules governing construction of contract,Whether different from 'built-up' area,Meaning of 'built-in' area of property,Whether developer in breach for shortfall in 'built-in' area of property,Contract for sale of land,Breach

(delivering the grounds of decision of the court): This appeal arose out of the decision of Rubin J (`the trial judge`) in which he dismissed the appellant`s claim against the respondent (`CDL`) for damages on account of breach of contract/warranty or misrepresentation as to the size of the `built-in` area of the house which the appellant (`Lim`) had bought from CDL. At the conclusion of the hearing, we dismissed the appeal and we now give our reasons.

The facts

CDL is a large, public-listed company whose primary business is that of property development. Lim is a computer engineer holding a degree in physics. Up to the time of the trial, he had owned, at one time or another, at least eight properties. His wife was and is a real estate agent and he was and is a director in his wife`s real estate agency.

In 1994, CDL was developing a site at Fifth Ave/Sixth Ave, off Bukit Timah Road. It was named `Avenue Villas` (`the project`) and consisted of eight detached houses. At the time, the construction of the project had yet to begin. CDL marketed the project by way of a sales brochure. To enable potential buyers to perceive what they were buying, they were also invited to view miniature models of the houses at its marketing office.

On 3 October 1994, Lim viewed the miniature models of the project at CDL`s marketing office. He was handed a copy of the sales brochure, together with a price list which was enclosed therein.

On 11 November 1994, Lim decided to purchase the house which was numbered as No 28 Avenue Villas (`the property`). The property was indicated as a `Type A` bungalow in the brochure. He paid a 10% booking fee and was granted an option to purchase the property for $8,648,000. He was given a 5% discount on the listed price. The option identified the property by reference to the brochure. The appellant`s wife acted as broker for the transaction. She received the commission for the same.

The floor plan of the property was set out in the brochure and the `built-in` area of each floor was stated in square metres. The total `built-in` area of the property was stated to be 873 sq m. However, in the price list, it was stated that the `built-up` area of the property was 873 sq m; there was no mention of any `built-in` area.

Lim subsequently exercised the option by executing a sales and purchase agreement (the `S & P agreement`) on 6 December 1994. The appellant contended that since the brochure was incorporated into the option, the contract would include the term that the `built-in` area of the property would be 873 sq m. This point was not in dispute.

The project was completed sometime in early January 1997. On 25 January 1997, Lim took possession of the property. He said he was immediately struck by the smallness of the interior of the house as one of the considerations that made him buy the house was that the `built-in` area was to be 873 sq m. However, he did nothing about that but complained about other things. Sometime later, his conveyancing solicitors engaged an architect (not known who he was) to measure the `built-in` area of the property based on the architect`s plans given to Lim on handing over. Subsequently, he was informed by his solicitors that there was a shortfall of 11% in the built-in area of the property.

On 17 April 1997, Lim`s solicitors wrote to CDL`s solicitors, informing them of the shortfall of 11% in the `built-in` area, and also stating that while he would complete the transaction, it was without prejudice to his rights to claim for damages for the same. On 29 May 1997, Lim wrote to CDL and asked for an explanation for the shortfall. On 1 July 1997, CDL`s solicitors replied, enclosing their surveyor`s letter which stated that the `built-up` area of the property was 866.9 sq m.

On 10 October 1997, Lim wrote to CDL`s solicitors asking for the joint appointment of a neutral surveyor to determine the exact `built-in` area with a view to entering into a discussion for a solution. On 29 October 1997, the CDL`s solicitors replied stating, inter alia:

Any representation as to the total built-in area made in our clients` brochure is subject to the disclaimer clause in the said brochure ... We are instructed that in practice the terms `built-up` and `built-in` are used interchangeably to denote the area of a building built for exclusive usage and enjoyment of the owner.



CDL stated that it could not agree to the proposal for a joint appointment of a surveyor at that stage but asked Lim to furnish the results of the final survey which was then being carried out by his surveyor.

Two surveys were commissioned and carried out on behalf of Lim. The first was done sometime in September 1997 by Mr Anthony Lim who reported that the built-in area of the property was only 570.3 sq m, and that included only the floor areas covered by a roof and enclosed by four walls. We ought to add that in fact Lim directed Anthony Lim to measure `built-in` in that manner. The second was by Mr Wang Yu Yang (Wang) of M/s Wang Surveyors. In his report, Wang stated that the `built-in` area of the property was 571.56 sq m. He excluded ancillary areas such as terraces, balconies and patios from the computation of the `built-in` area. At that time, none of those reports were furnished by Lim to CDL.

On 20 November 1997, Lim instituted this action to claim for damages on account of the shortfall in the `built-in` area.

The decision below

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5 cases
  • Leow Tiak Cheow & Another v Pan-United Industries Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 October 2002
    ...Century Regional Developments Ltd v Estate of Seow Khoon Seng [1997] 3 SLR 761 (not flld) Lim Bio Hiong Roger v City Developments Ltd [2000] 1 SLR 289 (not flld) Judgment Cur Adv Vult GROUNDS OF DECISION Introduction 1. Leow Tiak Cheow, the first plaintiff, was the beneficial shareholder of......
  • MAE Engineering Ltd v Fire-Stop Marketing Services Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 23 November 2004
    ...construed in their ordinary and natural meaning, unless the context requires otherwise (see Lim Bio Hiong Roger v City Developments Ltd [2000] 1 SLR 289 at 18 Counsel for MAE submitted that on a true and proper construction of the sub-contract, payment ought to have been calculated on the b......
  • MAE Engineering Ltd v Fire-Stop Marketing Services Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 23 November 2004
    ...construed in their ordinary and natural meaning, unless the context requires otherwise (see Lim Bio Hiong Roger v City Developments Ltd [2000] 1 SLR 289 at 18 Counsel for MAE submitted that on a true and proper construction of the sub-contract, payment ought to have been calculated on the b......
  • National Parks Board v CST Cleaning & Trading Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 1 April 2008
    ...meaning of the words ought to be given effect unless the context indicates otherwise. In Lim Bio Hiong Roger v City Developments Ltd [2000] 1 SLR 289 the Court of Appeal at [25] referred to its own decision in Pacific Century v Regional Developments Ltd v Estate of Seow Khoon Seng [1997 ] 3......
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