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HomesingaporeWoman faces eviction from flat after allegedly owing HDB at least S$106,000...

Woman faces eviction from flat after allegedly owing HDB at least S$106,000 in mortgage arrears

SINGAPORE: A woman is facing eviction from a flat she bought in 2001, after allegedly failing to pay her mortgage for many years, with the Housing Board (HDB) alleging that she would have owed around S$106,000 (US$77,800) by May 2020.

Ms Jasmine Gowrimani Daniel turned to the district court to contest her eviction from her flat by HDB, but her attempts were dismissed in a judgment made available on Friday (Nov 3).

THE CASE

According to the judgment dated Oct 20 by District Judge Jonathan Toh Jun Hian, Ms Daniel bought the flat in April 2001 and obtained a loan from HDB to do so.

In 2003 and 2004, she applied for and was granted temporary deferment of her payment obligations. She was also granted temporary reductions of her monthly mortgage payments in 2004 and 2005.

In September 2009, HDB served a notice of intention to compulsorily acquire the flat under the Housing and Development Act, which was in force at the time, because Ms Daniel had failed to keep up with her mortgage payments.

She objected in a letter of response, explaining that she had difficult personal circumstances but did not deny that her mortgage payments were in arrears.

HDB then responded in November 2009, allowing Ms Daniel time to sell the flat in the open market or to keep the flat by paying S$1,200 a month from December 2009.

The sequence of events in the judgment then skipped forward several years to August 2016, when HDB sent Ms Daniel a letter informing her that she was in arrears of S$63,123.87.

HDB made a written demand for Ms Daniel to either pay the arrears by Aug 30, 2016, or enter into an instalment plan for S$2,100 per month.

Ms Daniel did not pay the arrears and no alternative agreement was reached, said Judge Toh.

HDB issued a fresh notice in June 2017 to acquire the flat under the HDB Act. According to HDB, Ms Daniel was in arrears of S$72,024.37 at the time, or six years and two months’ worth of mortgage arrears.

Ms Daniel then appealed to the Minister of National Development. In a letter in October 2019, she alleged that HDB had “entrapped” her and asked that the Ministry of National Development (MND) mediate and work out a payment plan.

Judge Toh said MND attempted to do so. Ms Daniel, HDB and MND exchanged correspondence between October 2019 and January 2020 for payment plan proposals, but no agreement was reached.

Eventually, MND rejected Ms Daniel’s appeal in a letter dated Jan 17, 2020.

In the letter, MND noted that Ms Daniel’s proposed payment plan would not settle her arrears, which by May 2020 would be S$106,254, within a reasonable period of three years.

MND also noted that it was unclear whether Ms Daniel would draw an income that would allow her to sustain the required monthly payments.

MND gave Ms Daniel six months to sell her flat on the open market, failing which HDB would proceed with its compulsory acquisition.

Ms Daniel sought extensions of time to sell the flat, and MND gave her until Oct 17, 2020, to do so, said Judge Toh.

On Oct 17, 2020, Ms Daniel instead wrote to HDB, stating her intention to give notice of redemption, presumably to pay off her mortgage loan in full.

She issued a series of emails raising disputes about the mortgage loan amounts, and HDB responded and explained the various calculations and charges, Judge Toh said.

MND then sent a letter dated Jan 8, 2021, saying that HDB would proceed with the compulsory acquisition and that MND’s decision on Ms Daniel’s appeal was final.

On Aug 26, 2021, HDB notified the relevant town council that the property had been vested. HDB issued a “notice to take possession” to Ms Daniel, telling her that the flat had been vested and giving her notice to remove her furniture and belongings.

HDB said it would take possession after 30 days, and that items found in the flat after that time would be deemed abandoned. HDB would dispose of the items without reference to Ms Daniel, it said.

After Ms Daniel contested the compulsory acquisition and asked for more time, HDB gave her until Oct 8, 2021.

She wrote to HDB on Oct 8, 2021, stating her intention to hand over the flat in three months on Jan 8, 2022. She said she would pay holding over charges until then.

THE SCHEDULED EVICTION

HDB responded on Oct 13, 2021, saying they had scheduled an eviction on Oct 27, 2021, at 10am. They told her that they had prepared a one-room rental flat as her next accommodation.

Ms Daniel responded asking for the basis of the eviction and for an appointment to see the head of HDB’s legal department.

When the day of the scheduled eviction came on Oct 27, 2021, Ms Daniel had yet to remove all her personal belongings from the flat. 

HDB and Ms Daniel each placed a separate padlock on the main gate to the flat, Judge Toh said.

HDB gave Ms Daniel notices to collect her items, granting her access to the flat on some dates, but she did not retrieve all her belongings from the flat.

Ms Daniel then filed applications to the court. Among other things, she asked the court to set aside HDB’s eviction, possession of the flat and notices for her to collect items left at the flat.

In the alternative, Ms Daniel asked for an extension of time to deliver vacant possession of the flat. In the interim, she asked to be at liberty to access the flat and its contents without interference from HDB.

Judge Toh said what Ms Daniel was really applying for was a judicial review of HDB’s decisions, over which the district court “simply has no jurisdiction”.

Judge Toh said her application should be struck out in its entirety, with costs.

“It disclosed no reasonable cause of action in the district court because it is obviously unsustainable – Ms Daniel is asking the court to do something it does not have jurisdiction over. For the same reason, it is frivolous and vexatious and an abuse of process,” said Judge Toh.

He ordered Ms Daniel to pay costs to HDB. Ms Daniel has appealed against all of Judge Toh’s orders.

HDB agreed to Ms Daniel’s request to “remain status quo” with regard to the flat, in that HDB would not throw Ms Daniel’s items away from the flat until Ms Daniel’s appeal was complete.

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