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Another big victory for house buyers in Country Garden Danga Bay case

Yesterday (April 13), the Federal Court dismissed the leave applications brought by Country Garden Danga Bay Sdn Bhd (CGDB) against a group of seven unit purchasers of Country Garden Danga Bay, Johor Bahru.

Previously, CGDB’s judicial review applications were heard on July 17, 2019, whereupon the High Court dismissed CGDB’s application for an Order for Certiorari to quash the Housing Tribunal awards granted to the buyers earlier.

On July 6, 2021, the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed CGDB’s appeal and upheld the decision of the High Court and the award by the Housing Tribunal, in line with what the Courts had interpreted.

Essentially, CGDB sought to challenge the decision of the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claim, which allowed the claim for late delivery interest.

Amongst others, CGDB contended the purchasers’ claims were filed out of time by virtue of Section 16N(2) of the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 (HDA).

CGDB took the position that the deadline to file claims for late delivery interest was 12 months from the date of issuance of certificate of completion and compliance, as opposed to 12 months from the expiry of the defect liability period (DLP).

Furthermore, CGDB contended the deadline to deliver vacant possession should not be based on the dates of booking fee payments.

In the course of submission, CGDB’s counsel attempted to persuade the Court to revisit the Federal Court’s decisions of Westcourt Corporation Sdn Bhd v Tribunal Tuntutan Pembeli Rumah and PJD Regency v Tribunal Tuntutan Pembeli Rumah.

In response, the counsel acting for the purchasers, Viola De Cruz and Claudia Silva, submitted the Westcourt and PJD Regency had deliberated the issues raised by CGDB.

Additionally, it was submitted that the purpose of the HDA would be defeated if a limitation was fixed in such a narrow sense over Section 16N(2) of the HDA.

The Federal Court panel of judges, comprising Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan and Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, unanimously dismissed CGDB’s leave applications.

The Federal Court held the questions raised by CGDB had been decided in past cases of the same court and the present applications did not warrant a revisit of those decisions.

The National House Buyers’ Association (HBA), represented by Albert Soo and Koh Kean Kang, held a watching brief on the case.

HBA wishes to congratulate the purchasers for the victory as the Federal Court’s decision has reaffirmed the long-held principle that purchasers of housing developments have 36 months from the date of delivery of vacant possession to bring a claim at the Housing Tribunal for late delivery interest (12 months + 24 months DLP), as long as their claims are based on the sale and purchase agreements between the homebuyers and the developers.

The issues have been resolutely determined by a myriad of past case laws and revisiting the same issues would merely muddy the waters and be a disservice to established principles of law.

HBA would also like to reiterate the HDA is designed to protect purchasers and is a social legislation. This is reflected in the Federal Court’s earlier decisions which held that the protection of homebuyers must be the “paramount consideration” in matters concerning developers and purchasers.

We would also like to thank the Federal Court for steadfastly upholding the rights of house purchasers.

Datuk Chang Kim Loong (pictured) is the honorary secretary-general for the National House Buyers Association (HBA).

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