Teo Boon Hong v Tan Ewe Wah

JudgeT S Sinnathuray J
Judgment Date15 September 1980
Neutral Citation[1980] SGHC 21
Docket NumberDistrict Court Appeal No 93 of 1979
Date15 September 1980
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselJoseph Ang (Lee & Lee)
Citation[1980] SGHC 21
Defendant CounselMah Kok Weng (Mak, Pala, Selvadurai & Tan)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterBreach of regulations,Claim for possession,Termination of leases,Landlord convicted,Reg 26(1)(a) Environmental Public Health (Public Cleansing) Regulations 1970,Scope of s 15(1)(h) of Control of Rent Act (Cap 266),Rent-controlled premises,Reg 15 Environmental Public Health (Food Establishments) Regulations 1973,Landlord and Tenant

This appeal arises from a claim by the landlord (appellant) against the tenant (respondent) for possession of a rent-controlled premises, No 281 Changi Road. The facts are these.

The appellant purchased the premises in 1960.
In 1964 he obtained an eating house licence to operate a coffee shop at the premises. In 1966 he let the premises including the business to the respondent`s husband at a monthly rent of $220. Upon the death of her husband, in April 1975 the appellant acknowledged the respondent as the tenant.

At the hearing in the district court, the appellant gave evidence that in November 1976, on two occasions, he pleaded guilty in a magistrate`s court on charges of having committed offences under reg 26(1)(a) of the Environmental Public Health (Public Cleansing) Regulations 1970, namely that on 16 October and 5 November respectively, he did permit the footway of the premises to be obstructed with tables and chairs.
He further gave evidence that on 26 October 1978 he pleaded guilty on a charge that on 6 October 1978 he did place outside the food establishment tables and chairs in connection with the sale of food, an offence under reg 15 of the Environmental Public Health (Food Establishments) Regulations 1973. On each of the three occasions he was convicted and a fine imposed.

In his cross-examination the appellant said he did not permit anyone to place tables and chairs as alleged in the first two notices.
He also denied having placed tables and chairs as alleged in the third notice. He said the only reason he attended court, and pleaded guilty on the three occasions was because the notices were issued in his name. They were handed to him by one of the stall operators in the premises.

The one other witness for the appellant, at the hearing, was a Public Health Inspector who gave evidence of facts that made out the charge set out in the third notice.
He said he ascertained the licensee of the coffee shop to be the appellant, and as the appellant was not present, he handed the notice to someone in the premises with instructions to hand it to him. As to why the notice was issued against the appellant, the inspector explained that action is normally taken against the holder of the eating house licence. In the context he said that there are two kinds of licences, an eating house licence and a food stall licence. Where there are several food stalls in a coffee shop, the operators of the stalls would each have a food stall licence. He further explained that where his investigations showed that it was a food stall holder who had committed the offence of placing tables and chairs outside the food establishment, then he would issue the notice to that person, and not to the holder of the eating house licence.

The appellant claimed possession of the premises under s 15(1)(h) of the Control of Rent Act (Cap 266) (the Act) which reads as follows:

Where the tenant or any other person occupying the premises under him has knowingly committed a breach of any written law regulating any business carried on upon the premises or of any provision of the Environmental Public Health Act or the Local Government Integration Act or of any regulation made thereunder affecting the premises which exposes the landlord to any penalty, fine or forfeiture.

At the close of the appellant`s case, counsel for the respondent elected not to call evidence for the defence and made a submission of no case to meet.
At the end of the hearing the learned district judge having reserved judgment dismissed the appellant`s claim and hence this appeal.

One submission for the appellant was that the learned district judge was wrong in law to look behind the convictions of the appellant: that in a claim for possession under s 15(1)(h) of the Act, where there is a conviction, the facts that support the conviction must be presumed, and, the plaintiff need not adduce evidence to prove facts leading to the conviction: Tay Sai Hiang v Tan Ee Keok [1968] 1 MLJ 234 .

Counsel for the respondent, however, submitted that the evidence of the appellant that he did not commit the offences, and that he had only pleaded guilty because he was the person issued with the notices, was evidence in rebuttal of his own case, evidence that was in favour of the respondent.
He supported the learned District Judge who held, and I quote from the grounds of judgment:

... having regard to the authorities, a landlord can only be said to be exposed to conviction when facts exist which, if proved, would lead to his conviction. On the evidence adduced before the court, there was none which would support the conviction of the plaintiff.

The other submission for the appellant, in effect two-pronged, was that the learned district judge was wrong in law and in fact in holding that the breaches of the regulations had (a) not affected the premises and (b) not exposed the appellant, qua landlord, to a fine.
The district judge found, in addition to being landlord of the premises, the appellant was also the holder of an eating house licence; that the third notice was issued to the appellant as licensee of the food establishment and not as landlord of the premises; (on an assumption as...

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