United Overseas Bank Ltd v Chia Kin Tuck

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeV K Rajah J
Judgment Date25 May 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] SGHC 87
Citation[2006] SGHC 87
Subject MatterPriority,Debt and Recovery,Whether judgment creditor's writ of seizure and sale against mortgaged property creating security interest having priority over mortgagee's power of sale of mortgaged property where such power of sale arising after judgment creditor's writ of seizure and sale against mortgaged property registered,Sections 73, 135 Land Titles Act (Cap 157, 2004 Rev Ed)
Plaintiff CounselKannan Ramesh and Kanyakumari d/o Veerasamy (Tan Kok Quan Partnership)
Defendant CounselKoh Tien Hua (Harry Elias Partnership)
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 1648 of (Registrar's Appeal No 18 of 2006)
Date25 May 2006
Published date26 May 2006

25 May 2006

V K Rajah J:

1 The plaintiff granted Mdm Chua Lan (“the mortgagor”) banking facilities of $1.3m secured by a legal mortgage over 2 Pebble Lane, Singapore 437551 (“the mortgaged property”).

2 On 22 April 2005, soon after the mortgagor defaulted on her loan obligations, the plaintiff demanded payment of the entire outstanding amount. On 13 May 2005, notice of the plaintiff’s intention to exercise its statutory power of entry into possession of the mortgaged property pursuant to s 75(2) of the Land Titles Act (Cap 157, 2004 Rev Ed) (“LTA”) was served on the mortgagor. On 9 June 2005, vacant possession of the mortgaged property was voluntarily surrendered by the mortgagor to the plaintiff. The very next day, on 10 June 2005, the mortgagor was adjudged a bankrupt.

3 When the plaintiff attempted to sell the mortgaged property qua mortgagee, it was challenged by the defendant, a judgment creditor of the mortgagor who had registered a writ of seizure and sale (“WSS”) on 22 February 2005. The WSS was registered against the mortgaged property on 10 March 2005 by the defendant, pursuant to a judgment dated 4 January 2005 (“the Judgment”). The Judgment requires that the mortgagor, inter alia, pay a sum of $1m to the defendant. As a result of the defendant’s objections, the plaintiff did not proceed with an auction scheduled for 31 August 2005.

4 The aborted auction sale prompted a flurry of correspondence between the defendant, the plaintiff, the bailiff of the Subordinate Courts (“the bailiff”) and the official assignee (on behalf of the bankrupt), culminating in a contretemps, the essence of which turned upon whether the plaintiff, the official assignee or the bailiff ought to conduct the sale of the mortgaged property. The defendant initially maintained that the official assignee ought to assume responsibility for the sale of the mortgaged property. The official assignee, however, declined the invitation, drawing the defendant’s attention to s 76(3) of the Bankruptcy Act (Cap 20, 2000 Rev Ed) (“BA”); the official assignee thus took the position that a secured creditor has an unfettered right to deal with secured property upon the bankruptcy of the debtor.

5 The defendant, however, disagreed with the official assignee’s stance. He steadfastly maintained that he had a prior right to conduct the sale of the mortgaged property vis-à -vis the plaintiff qua mortgagee.

6 To surmount this impasse the plaintiff commenced the instant proceedings seeking, inter alia, a declaration acknowledging its prior right to conduct the sale of the mortgaged property notwithstanding the registration of the WSS. The application was heard on 12 January 2006 by an assistant registrar. She granted the plaintiff the relief it sought, including an indemnity against any losses sustained by the plaintiff as a consequence of the defendant’s conduct in procuring the issuance of a notice of seizure of the mortgaged property on 17 August 2005. The indemnity was intended to cover any losses between the date of the aborted auction (31 August 2005) and the date the bailiff returned possession of the property to the plaintiff. In her brief grounds recorded in the notes of evidence, the assistant registrar observed:

… I am mystified as to why the defendant has been so insistent on being the one to sell the property, when he concedes that the bank has priority to the proceeds. He makes allusions to some possibility of unfair preference or sale at an undervalue, but does not go so far as to allege this against the bank, and indeed, such an allegation would be completely unsubstantiated.

7 The defendant appealed against the decision of the assistant registrar. The appeal was heard by me on 6 March 2006. Once again, the defendant attacked neither the validity nor the enforceability of the mortgage. No cogent allegations were made; nor was any concrete evidence adduced indicating that the plaintiff would breach obligations qua mortgagee should it have carriage of the sale. The principal argument raised was that the defendant had priority, given that the WSS was registered prior to the mortgagor’s debt falling due to the plaintiff. While acknowledging that the plaintiff had a prior right to the sale proceeds from the mortgaged property, counsel for the defendant nevertheless adamantly insisted that there was a real and valid distinction between the right to sell the mortgaged property and the right to retain sale proceeds. I dismissed the defendant’s appeal but varied the direction by the assistant registrar requiring that the defendant pay interest. The defendant now appeals against the whole of my decision.

8 To explain my grounds of decision, I begin by examining a judgment creditor’s interest in a property that has been bound by a registered WSS.

The interest of an execution creditor

9 The procurement of a monetary judgment, unless expressly provided by statute, does not create any property rights (ambulatory or otherwise), let alone any security rights. It merely presages a...

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7 cases
  • Peter Low LLC v Higgins, Danial Patrick
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 16 March 2018
    ...process in Singapore by recalling the following remarks by V K Rajah J (as he then was) in United Overseas Bank Ltd v Chia Kin Tuck [2006] 3 SLR(R) 322 at [12]–[14]: … It bears reiteration that the common law position in relation to the interest(s) of a judgment creditor is not altered by t......
  • Chan Lung Kien v Chan Shwe Ching
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 10 July 2017
    ...and interest in the property remains with the debtor until the execution sale takes place: United Overseas Bank Ltd v Chia Kin Tuck [2006] 3 SLR(R) 322 at [14]. In my view, neither the judgment creditor nor the sheriff is entitled to seek either partition of the property seized under a WSS ......
  • Chain Land Elevator Corp v FB Industries Pte Ltd and others
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 7 January 2020
    ...did not sever a joint tenancy because it did not have the effect required by Ho Wai Kwan. In United Overseas Bank Ltd v Chia Kin Tuck [2006] 3 SLR(R) 322 (“Chia Kin Tuck”) the court held that the registration of a WSS did not vest in the judgment creditor any interest in the land, since the......
  • ITronic Holdings Pte Ltd v Tan Swee Leon
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 25 October 2017
    ...1 SLR 174 (folld) Rasmachayana Sulistyo, Re [2005] 1 SLR(R) 483; [2005] 1 SLR 483 (refd) United Overseas Bank Ltd v Chia Kin Tuck [2006] 3 SLR(R) 322; [2006] 3 SLR 322 (folld) Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Lim Chor Pee [2006] 2 SLR(R) 370; [2006] 2 SLR 370 (refd) Wong Kwei Cheong v ABN-AMRO Bank N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2022, March 2022
    • 1 March 2022
    ...Singapore Air Charter Pte Ltd v Peter Low & Choo LLC [2020] 2 SLR 1399 at [59]–[60], citing United Overseas Bank Ltd v Chia Kin Tuck [2006] 3 SLR(R) 322 at [10]. 127 Singapore Air Charter Pte Ltd v Peter Low & Choo LLC [2020] 2 SLR 1399 at [60]–[61]. 128 Singapore Air Charter Pte Ltd v Pete......
  • Land Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2020, December 2020
    • 1 December 2020
    ...Peter Low & Choo LLC [2020] 2 SLR 1399 at [43]. 23 Singapore Air Charter Pte Ltd v Peter Low & Choo LLC [2020] 2 SLR 1399 at [52]. 24 [2006] 3 SLR(R) 322. 25 [2020] SGHC 252. 26 Act 27 of 1993. 27 Cap 163, 1996 Rev Ed. 28 See also Balwant Singh v Double L & T Pte Ltd [1996] 2 SLR(R) 7 at [2......

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