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Property-related disputes and how they can be prevented

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One of the most common disputes in Singapore are property-related. These disputes typically occur when two or more parties claim to have vested interests in the property and cannot agree on the ownership of the property or how the property rights should be executed. Property-related disputes have caused business, partners, friends, family members and neighbours to turn on each other and resulted in them suing each other.

In Singapore, resolving such disputes by way of court proceedings can lead to heavy losses in both time and money. In most occasions, these disputes have led to the limited usage and enjoyment of properties that are rightfully owned, frustration, and, in worst case scenarios, the loss of the disputed property.

This article focuses on identifying some of these property disputes and briefly discusses how the respective disputes can be avoided.

  1. Disputes related to inherited property

Disputes over inherited property are one of the most common types of property disputes. Such disputes typically occur as a property is passed to the next generation, as certain family members may be dissatisfied with the share that they inherit.

The best way to prevent disputes related to inherited property is to for the property owner to make a Will. As a Will maker, you should ensure that the Will is updated on a regular basis and is in line with your intentions and wishes and the legal requirements of Singapore.

That said, disputes may still arise as a Will can be contested in a court of law. To prevent one’s Will from being disregarded by the court, the Will maker is advised to:-

  • Engage a solicitor or a professional Will Writing company to prepare the Will.
  • Carefully select the executor(s) and witnesses to the making and signing of the Will.
  • Ensure that none of the beneficiaries are present during the making and signing of the Will.
  1. Disputes relating to the title of the property

The title of a property refers to the ownership of the property. Having a good title to a property therefore means that one is entitled to the property and has the right to use and possess the property. Title of property disputes are normally traced back to the time when the property was purchased. Third-party claims, co-ownership, and the right to access a property can also lead to the title of property disputes.

When a property is owned by co-owners, a dispute may arise when the property is sold and one of the co-owners wants to receive an amount more than what he is entitled to. Additionally, a failure by a party to honour their part of a contract after receiving an advance payment may also lead to a dispute.

Disputes relating to the title of the property can often be avoided by entering into a contract between the owners prior to the purchase (stating the respective shares in the sale proceeds in the event of the sale) and/or carrying out a thorough investigation into the title of the property.

  1. Delayed transfer of property

Disputes concerning the delayed transfer of property typically arise when a contractor delays the delivery of the property or the transfer of the possession of the property. Common causes of such delay are land title disputes, transfer of a project from one contractor to another, and fallacious complaints against buyers aimed at getting buyers to pay a higher sum.

To prevent such disputes from occurring, one is advised to:

  • Only enter into a contract with a BCA licensed or certified builder or developer who has clearly outlined and approved plans in place.
  • Thoroughly check the terms of the contract before signing it and ensure no “hidden costs” and if possible, include a Liquidated Damage clause for delay.
  • Thoroughly investigate the title of the land and the property before purchasing it.
  • Investigate the constructors or developers to see if they have the ability to complete projects. In carrying out this investigation, one is advised to find out whether there is any pending litigation against the constructor or developer, and the number of projects that have been successfully completed by the constructor or developer.
  • Monitor the construction progress of the work by regular physical inspection and having a copy of the construction timetable from the constructor.
  1. Joint venture property disputes

Disputes also arise on property ownership of properties owned by a joint venture. For instance, when a joint venture is terminated or when a partnership comes to an end, disputes may arise when determining the ownership of a property or properties that were acquired by the joint venture company.

Parties are advised to have a properly drafted joint venture agreement governing the relationship between parties involved in the joint venture, as this is the best way to prevent such disputes. The agreement should how properties acquired in the course of the joint venture will be divided between the parties involved when the joint venture comes to an end.

  1. Tenancy Disputes

Tenancy disputes are disputes between tenants and landlords, with examples including disputes relating to rent reviews, commercial lease renewals, and whether a landlord is entitled to repossess the property. For instance, disputes may occur when landlords unreasonably increase the rent of the property or when tenants fail or refuse to pay their rent. Other causes of such disputes include damage caused to the leased property and breaches of the tenancy agreement by either party.

As such, expectations from each party should be clearly stated when tenants and landlords enter into tenancy agreements. Furthermore, rent records and any other financial documents related to the rent should be kept separately from other records.

Conclusion

Given the costly and time-consuming nature of property-related disputes, it is important to anticipate potential disputes and take measures to prevent, or at least minimise, the occurrence of such disputes.