Man Sued His Mother for a Condo Unit in Simei But Eventually Lost the Case

Housing-related news has been all the rage recently, ranging from a reduction in BTO project delays to higher home prices to a Singaporean couple who built a holiday house in Hokkaido, Japan.

Some may view housing as a “forever home” while others view it as an investment.

Unfortunately, a home-sweet-home can also turn into a nightmare by being a catalyst for an ugly familial dispute.

A family who purchased a private property in Singapore experienced this first-hand.

Purchase of the Disputed Property

The dispute found its roots more than a decade ago. Mr Tondo Satrio and Madam Yong Njo Siong are a couple and in 2011, Mr Satrio came into an eye-wateringly large sum of money, RMB 158 million (~S$30 million) after selling some of his business in China.

Mr Satrio, the key financial controller in the family, had decreed that Mr Cheng Ao, his second son, and himself would receive RMB 45.35 million (~S$8.8 million) each, with his wife Madam Yong and their first child receiving RMB 12.75 (~S$2.5 million) million each.

In 2011, Madam Yong (mother) and Mr Cheng (son) purchased a unit at Tropical Spring for about $1.5 million with both mother and son listed as the owners of the unit, registered as tenants in common in equal shares.

Tropical Spring is a condominium complex in Simei.

Image: Google Maps (@Joseph Foo)

Man Sued Mother for Her Share of Condo Unit and She Counter-sued for Money

Fast-forward to 2022 and Mr Cheng was suing Madam Yong for her 50% stake in the Tropical Spring apartment.

Mr Cheng argued that his mother held the apartment on trust for him. Holding the property on trust means that the true benefit of the property lies with the beneficiary (Mr Cheng in this case), regardless of the name on the legal documents (Madam Yong was listed as a co-owner here).

This would mean that Mr Cheng effectively owns the entire condominium apartment.

Madam Yong was also no sitting duck and had counter-sued her second son arguing that the funds Mr Cheng used to pay for his 50% share of the condo came from her late husband’s assets meant for her. She also claimed for the remaining RMB 8.75 million (~S$1.7 million) left for her.

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The Court Rules That the Mother Owns the House

Mothers are typically viewed as the mistresses of the house and this was the literal outcome in this case.

In the 24-page written judgment by Justice Philip Jeyaretnam, the High Court found in Madam Yong’s favour and declared that 100% of the beneficial interest in the condo unit belonged to her.

Justice Philip Jeyaretnam elaborated in his judgment that the evidence showed that funds earmarked by Madam Yong’s late husband and controlled by Mr Cheng were “directly or indirectly” used to purchase the condominium.

This was a complete turn of tables against Mr Cheng—this outcome was the exact opposite of what Mr Cheng would have wanted, since he wanted the whole cheese when he initially had half the cheese, but after this court case, he won’t even have half the cheese.

Good thing that Madam Yong had the receipts needed to convince the judge that the property rightfully belonged to her. And just to be clear, we’re not referring to literal receipts that you receive from your taxi uncle.

However, it was not joy all around for Madam Yong as the court found against her on the issue of recovering the balance moneys, noting that her arguments made to recover this sum were “sketchy”.

Guess you win some and lose some.

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Featured Image: Google Maps (@Joseph Foo)