Management Corporation Strata Title Plan No 2192 v Regenthill Properties Pte Ltd

JudgeLai Siu Chiu J
Judgment Date19 February 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGHC 26
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 601164 of
Date19 February 2002
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselLeo Cheng Suan (Infinitus Law Corp)
Citation[2002] SGHC 26
Defendant CounselDawn Ho (Drew & Napier)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterPleadings,'Other records',Particulars in originating summons,Words and Phrases,Construction of statute,Whether particulars sufficient to identify cause of action,Management Corporation applying for order to compel developers to hand over documents,s 39 Interpretation Act (Cap 1, 1999 Ed),s 37(4)(b) Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158, 1999 Ed),Whether management corporation failure to identify and itemise specific documents fatal to application,Applicability of s 39 of Interpretation Act (Cap 1, 1999 Ed) to relieve obligation,Statutory Interpretation,Literal or purposive approach,Whether statutory obligation on developers to hand over documents sought by management corporation,s 37(4) Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158, 1999 Ed),Civil Procedure,O 7 r 3(1) Rules of Court


The background

The plaintiffs are a body corporate constituted under the Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158), as the management corporation of the condominium building known as `Regent Park Condominium` (hereinafter referred to as `the condominium`). The defendants were the developers of the condominium.

On 6 January 1997, the temporary occupation permit (`TOP`) for the condominium was issued and the subsidiary proprietors of the subdivided building started paying contributions to the management fund set up by the defendants.
The certificate of statutory completion was issued on 2 December 1997 and the plaintiffs were constituted on 20 April 1998; the plaintiffs held their first annual general meeting on 6 May 2000.

In early January 2001, the plaintiffs and the defendants exchanged correspondence through their respective solicitors; on 11 January 2001, the plaintiffs` solicitors wrote to the defendants demanding documents pursuant to s 37(4) of the Land Titles (Strata) Act (Cap 158, 1999 Ed) (`the Act`).
By a fax dated 22 January 2001, the defendants` solicitors replied asking for particulars of the documents required to be handed over and attached therewith a list of the documents the defendants had already handed over to the plaintiffs on 5 June 2000.

On 7 February 2001, the plaintiffs` solicitors replied with a list of those documents which had not been handed over to the plaintiffs.
Reminders were sent by the plaintiffs` solicitors on 12 March 2001 and 10 April 2001. By a fax dated 11 April 2001, the defendants` solicitors informed the plaintiffs` solicitors that their clients were arranging for the following documents to be transferred over to the plaintiffs:

(1) Term contractors` servicing record/reports including correspondence:
(a) Lift maintenance 2 files
(b) Security 2 files
(c) Cleaning 1 file
(d) Landscape 1 file
(e) Swimming pool 2 files
(f) Pest control 1 file
(g) Healthcare services 1 file
(h) Fire protection 1 file
(i) Security system 1 file
(j) Intercom system 1 file
(k) Air-con maintenance 1 file
(l) Refuse removal 1 file
(2) Correspondence between subsidiary proprietors/residents and MCST (1 file)
(3) Correspondence between government agencies and MSCT (1 file)
(4) Notices and circulars to residents (1 file)
(5) Record of residents` card charges (1 file)
(6) Record of complaints (1 file)

On 23 April 2001, the plaintiffs` solicitors wrote to the defendants` solicitors requesting the documents which formed the subject matter of this originating summons; I will revert to the list of documents later.
On 25 April 2001, the defendants` solicitors replied to inquire under what provision(s) of the law the defendants were required to produce such documents to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs` solicitors replied on 19 June 2001 to say the request was made pursuant to ss 37 and 65 of the Act.

On 22 June 2001, the defendants` solicitors replied stating that in their view ss 37 and 65 of the Act were not applicable and there was no explicit duty on the defendants` part to hand over the accounting records, prior to the formation of the plaintiffs.
By their letter dated 10 July 2001, the plaintiffs` solicitors maintained that the defendants were trustees of the plaintiffs and referred to s 10(2) of the Buildings and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act (Cap 30, 2000 Ed) (`the Management Act`).

On 12 July 2001, the defendants` solicitors wrote to the plaintiffs` solicitors stating that they were writing to the Commissioner of Buildings for clarification as to whether the defendants were obliged to hand over the accounting records.
However, the unhelpful reply from the Commissioner of Buildings (dated 24 July 2001) was, that this was a matter of legal interpretation best left to the solicitors to advise their clients on. On 27 July 2001, the plaintiffs` solicitors wrote requiring the defendants` solicitors to furnish the documents requested by 30 July 2001, failing which the plaintiffs would commence proceedings, as the matter had been pending since January.

On 7 August 2001, the defendants` solicitors replied, stating that the defendants would, out of goodwill, allow the plaintiffs to inspect the accounting documents at their premises but that the documents could not be transferred over as the property in the documents remained vested in the defendants.
This was not acceptable to the plaintiffs; hence, this originating summons was filed on 14 August 2001.

The documents in question

The documents requested in the plaintiffs` solicitors` letter of 23 April 2001 and in the originating summons are as follows:

(1) Accounting documents
(a) Payment vouchers TOP till May 1998
(b) Journal vouchers TOP till March 1998
(c) Cash book TOP till April 1998
(d) Cheque butts TOP till 19 October 1999
(e) Schedules (Notes of balance sheet) TOP till March 2000
(f) Bank statements - Multi-link TOP till October 1999
(g) Bank statements - Current TOP till April 1998
(h) Bank correspondence TOP till June 2000
(i) Financial statements TOP till March 1998
(j) Invoice/statement TOP till March 2000
(k) Official receipts TOP till May 1998
(l) Accounts receivable - interest computation TOP till June 1999
(m) Audit reports / Adjustment report TOP till April 1998
(n) Income tax file TOP till Y/A 1997
(o) Fixed deposits slip/statements TOP till May 1998
(p) Documents under ss 54 & 59 of the Act TOP till June 2000
(q) Bank-in-slips TOP till May 1998
(2) Final defects list

The issue

The only issue in this case is whether the defendants were obliged, on a true interpretation of s 37(4) of the Act, to hand over to the plaintiffs the accounting documents as well as the final defects list.

Preliminary objections

Before I deal with s 37(4) of the Act, I need to address two (2) preliminary objections which the defendants raised. First, they referred to O 7 r 3(1) of the Rules of Court which states:

Every originating summons must include a statement of the questions on which the plaintiff seeks the determination or direction of the Court or, as the case may be, a concise statement of the relief or remedy claimed in the proceedings begun by the originating summons with sufficient particulars to identify the cause or causes of action in respect of which the plaintiff claims that relief or remedy. [Emphasis is counsel`s.]

The defendants contended that the plaintiffs had failed to provide sufficient particulars with regard to the relief sought as the originating summons did not identify the specific documents, which were required of the defendants.
Instead, they submitted, this originating summons only stated very vaguely and broadly the documents which the plaintiffs wanted and, on this ground alone, the application ought to be dismissed.

I was unable to agree with this contention.
In my view, the plaintiffs, in listing down the types of accounting documents which they required, had given sufficient particulars to identify the cause of action in the originating summons. It would be most unreasonable to require the plaintiffs to further itemise every single specific document in the categories which they had listed, as the plaintiffs could not be expected to be able to identify specific documents which were not in their possession.

The second objection which the defendants made was, that the application was premature.
Sections 37(8) and 65(2) of the Act provide penal sanctions to be imposed if there was any contravention of ss 37(4) and 65(1) respectively. In this regard, s 39 of the Interpretation Act (Cap 1, 1999 Ed) states that:

The imposition of a penalty by any written law, in the absence of express provision to the contrary, shall not relieve any

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