VM Peer Mohamed v Great Eastern Life Assurance Co Ltd

JudgeLord Brandon of Oakbrook
Judgment Date25 February 1985
Neutral Citation[1985] SGPC 1
Docket NumberPrivy Council Appeal No 15 of
Date25 February 1985
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselRonald Bernstein QC and Kirk Reynods (Ward Bowie)
Citation[1985] SGPC 1
Defendant CounselGerald Godfrey QC and Alan Sebestyen (Coward Chance)
CourtPrivy Council
Subject MatterLandlord and Tenant,Assignment of furniture and fixtures,Whether agreement sufficed to assign tenancy of premises,Agreements for leases,Rent-controlled premises

This appeal, which has been well presented and argued on behalf of both protagonists, raises a short question of construction arising out of an agreement under seal dated 9 December 1953. The question is whether the agreement sufficed to assign to the appellant, Mr VM Peer Mohamed, a tenancy of the premises 449 East Coast Road, Singapore.

The premises were let by the landlord respondents, the Great Eastern Life Assurance Co Ltd, on an oral monthly tenancy at some time prior to 9 December 1953 and probably before 20 July 1953 to Mr D Abdullah.
The terms of the monthly tenancy did not prohibit an assignment by the tenant. On 20 July 1953 there came into force the Control of Rent Ordinance 1953 which with amendments is now comprised in the Control of Rent Act (Cap 266). The 1953 Ordinance conferred security of tenure on tenants and by an express provision, now s 4 of the Act, prohibits the payment of any premium or like sum `... as a condition of the grant, renewal, transfer or continuance of a tenancy ...`.

The agreement under seal which falls to be construed was made therefore after it had become illegal to demand or receive a sum in consideration of the assignment of a protected tenancy.
It is common ground that the tenancy of 449 East Coast Road was protected. The agreement was made between the tenant, Mr Abdullah described as the vendor of the first part, Mr Murugaiyan described as the attorney of the second part and the appellant described as the purchaser of the third part. The agreement recited, inter alia, that the vendor was `the principal tenant` of the premises 449 East Coast Road, Singapore and that the attorney had been appointed to manage the premises. The agreement also recited that `the vendor and the attorney has (sic) agreed to sell to the purchaser all fixtures and furniture in the said premises and the purchaser has agreed to purchase the same for the sum of dollars three thousand three hundred ($3,300) and it is further agreed that the vendor shall cease to be the principal tenant of the said premises ...`.

By cl 1 of the deed, expressed to be in consideration of $3,300 then paid `the vendor and the attorney hereby assign unto the purchaser all furniture and fixtures contained in the said premises and to hold the same unto the purchaser absolutely`.
The assignment only refers to the furniture and fixtures; no doubt the parties to the deed would have been anxious to avoid any appearance that the sum of $3,300 included any form of illegal payment for the assignment of a protected tenancy. By cll 2 and...

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