Monday, April 6, 2020

Malaysia too needs a Covid-19 Bill

The Star Biz

by Roger Tan

MALAYSIA should enact a law similar to the one proposed by the Singapore government to offer temporary relief to businesses, in particular SMEs and individuals who are unable to perform their contractual obligations because of the movement control order (MCO) brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

On April 1, the Singapore Ministry of Law announced that it intended to introduce the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill this week. 

The Bill will have a retrospective effect and cover contractual obligations that are to be performed on or after Feb 1,2020 and contracts that were entered into or renewed before March 25,2020. 

According to its statement, Feb 1 was used as the approximate date when the impact of Covid-19 started to be significantly felt in Singapore’s economy. 

These measures will be in place for a prescribed period, which will be six months from the commencement of the new law, expected to come into force this month itself, and may be further extended for up to a year from the commencement of the new law. 

In other words, the non-performing party’s liabilities will be suspended and non-enforceable during the prescribed period. 

Contracts covered by the Bill are: 

> Non-residential leases and licences in that if the commercial tenants or licensees are unable to pay rent for February and/or March, they may seek relief; 

> Construction and supply contracts in that the contractors will not have to pay damages for late delivery or non-performance of contractual obligations; 

> Contracts for the provision of goods and services (eg, venue, catering) for events (eg, the cancellation of weddings, business meetings) and for visitors to Singapore, domestic tourists or outbound tourists, or promotion of tourism (eg, the cancellation of cruises, hotel accommodation bookings), for example, there shall be no forfeiture of booking fees or deposits; and 

> Certain loan facilities granted by a bank or a finance company to SMEs with turnover of not more than S$100mil in the latest financial year. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Star

This letter was originally a Facebook post by Datuk Roger Tan, and is republished here with his permission. 

DURING the Christmas break, I chanced upon this 39-year-old A4-size cardboard mockup (pic) of a report on a student election held at Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC). The mockup was given to me by the editorial board of the 1980 magazine of the School of Pre-University Studies at TARC (which is now known as Tunku Abdul Rahman University College). It brought back lots of memories that I would like to share. 

The report was about the first student representative election held at TARC. In 1980, TARC comprised several schools, including the School of Pre-University Studies (SPUS). Many of the first-year SPUS (Lower Six) students studied outside TARC’s main Jalan Genting Klang campus, Kuala Lumpur, including myself; I attended the Jalan Cheras Secondary School, next to Taman Midah, KL, in 1979. All students, however, would continue their Upper Six studies on the main campus. 

Of course, without TARC, I would not have been able to do any A Level (or Higher School Certificate, HSC, as it was known then) studies at all, as I hailed from the little town of Yong Peng, Johor, and had to survive on an all-in monthly pocket money allowance of M$200. This included travelling daily from my brother’s house near Batu Caves to the Jalan Cheras Secondary School on a journey that usually took about an hour and half, including a 2km walk from the house to the main road to catch a stage bus. That explains why I was then only one third of my current size! 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Upholding the rights of house buyers

Dream house?: A young boy admiring the scale model of a housing project at a property fair in Penang last year. – Filepic
The Sunday Star

by Roger Tan

ON Tuesday , the Federal Court ruled that the housing controller has no power to waive or modify provisions of the contracts of sale as prescribed by regulations 11(1) and (2) of the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Regulations, 1989 (1989 Regulations).

The 1989 Regulations were made by the housing minister pursuant to section 24 of the parent Act, namely the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act, 1966 (Act 118).

These contracts of sale are better known in the housing industry as Schedules G, H, I and J, depending on the types of housing accommodation being developed.

The prescribed contracts of sale include provisions stipulating the time for delivery of vacant possession and they have to be strictly followed; failing which the defaulting party can be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or to a jail term not exceeding five years or to both. Further, any person who aids, abets or counsels the commission of the offence will face similar punishment upon conviction.

Hence, regulation 11(3) which came into force on April 1, 1989 and remained unamended since, allowed the controller to waive or modify the provisions of the contract of sale if he was satisfied that there were special circumstances or hardship or necessity; compliance of which with any of the said provisions was impracticable or unnecessary.

Regulation 12 then provides for any person aggrieved by the controller’s decision to appeal to the minister whose decision is final and shall not be questioned in any court.

One common modification sought by the developers to the contract of sale is to apply, before the expiry of the stipulated date fixed for handing over of vacant possession, for an extension of time (EOT) so that the developers will not be sued for late delivery and face a claim for liquidated damages (LAD) by the house buyers.

On May 14, five questions were posed to the five-member panel of the apex court namely, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, Justice Azahar Mohamed, Justice Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin (who has since retired), Justice Idrus Harun and Justice Nallini Pathmanathan. In delivering the unanimous decision of the apex court, Justice Tengku Maimun ruled that:

> the controller has no power to waive or modify any provision in the contract of sale;

> section 24 of Act 118 does not confer power on the minister to make regulations for the purpose of delegating his power to waive or modify the contract of sale to the controller; and

> regulation 11(3) is ultra vires (beyond the powers of) Act 118.

The apex court, however, declined to answer the following two questions posed by the developer, BHL Construction Sdn Bhd because the above ruling effectively meant that there was no decision by the minister:-

> whether the letter granting an extension of time after an appeal pursuant to regulation 12 must be signed personally by the minister and whether the minister could delegate his duties (signing of the letter granting the extension of time) to an officer in his ministry; and

> whether the minister having taken into consideration the interest of the purchaser is obliged to afford the purchasers a hearing prior to the minister granting the extension of time albeit there is no such provision or requirement in Act 118 or the 1989 Regulations.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

'Review fees for loan documents'

The Bar Council said it is high time for banks to review its practice of imposing fees for loan documents. (Image by Pixabay:  For illustration purposes only)

New Straits Times

Banks' practice against the law, a burden to customers, says Bar Council official 

KUALA LUMPUR: The Bar Council said it is high time for banks to review its practice of imposing fees for loan documents.

Bar Council conveyancing practice committee chairman Datuk Roger Tan said the practice was against the law and has a become a burden which consumers could do without.

He said the fee was imposed on the banks’ loan documents, which borrowers sign when taking, for example, a housing loan.

“These documents are largely standardised documents for each bank.

“The bank’s solicitors will typically download the documents from the bank’s website and, after completing the particulars relating to the borrower and the loan, print for the borrower’s signature,” said Tan.

He said banks currently charge a fee for the ‘purchase’ of these documents ranging from RM100 to RM500, even though the cost of printing the documents is borne by the solicitors.

He said that the document fee is usually passed on to the borrowers as part of the solicitor’s charges. However, Tan said that in some cases, solicitors are compelled by the banks to absorb these costs.

“This results in the borrowers having to pay additional costs when taking a loan from a bank and the solicitors getting peanuts for the professional work done especially purchasers of low- and medium-cost and affordable homes.