Co-Owner Refuses to Sell Your Singapore Property: What to Do

Last updated on February 21, 2024

man refusing to sell his property

If you jointly own a property in Singapore with another person and want to sell it, but your co-owner doesn’t, read on to find out what you can do.

Possible Ways to Sell Your Property If a Co-Owner Refuses

1. Obtain a court order for a partition of property

If you hold your property with your co-owner as tenants-in-common (i.e both owners hold separate shares in the property), it is, in theory, possible to get an order for partition so that you can own a specific part of the property and your co-owner owns the rest. This is however, seldom a practical solution for joint homeowners.

This is because if say the property is partitioned such that you own the living room and 1 bedroom, most buyers will want to be able to buy a whole unit, not just 2 rooms.

In other types of property, it may be impossible to divide the house if it will result in land plots smaller than the minimum plot size required by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Therefore, if all attempts to convince your co-owner to sell fail, you will need to apply for a court order to compel a sale.

2. Obtain a court order for sale of property

An application for a court order for the sale of a property can be made to the General Division of the High Court. It is done by way of an originating summons and supporting affidavit, which a lawyer can prepare for you.

The General Division of the High Court is empowered to order a sale of a property even where one co-owner refuses to consent to a sale. Usually, how these orders work is that co-owner A, i.e. the co-owner that refuses to sell, is given a right of first refusal to buy over the share of co-owner B, i.e. the co-owner that wishes to sell, and a deadline by which to buy it. If co-owner A does not have the will or the means to buy co-owner B’s share by the deadline, the property may then be sold on the open market and the proceeds divided between the co-owners.

This was what happened in the case of a widow whose deceased husband left 30% of his share in his HDB flat to. The remaining 70% share in the flat was owned by his brother. In that case, the widow wanted to sell the flat and have control of the sale. However, this would be unfair to the brother as the majority owner who also argued that selling the flat immediately would cause him and his family hardship.

Hence, the court ordered the sale of the flat to the brother on the basis of a right of first refusal – he was given the right to purchase the widow’s 30% share in the flat within 6 months of the court order. If he is unable to do so, then both parties will have to market the flat for sale on the open market and the sale must be completed within 9 months from the court order.

If your property is an HDB flat

If your property is an HDB flat, bear in mind that the usual selling restrictions relating to minimum occupation periods will apply as well as the usual racial and citizenship restrictions regarding to whom you can sell the flat.

For more information on these criteria, you may refer to the HDB’s website.

What will the court consider when deciding whether to order the sale of the property?

In considering whether to order the property to be sold, the court may also take into account other factors like the possible prejudice to the party resisting an order of sale and the possible financial difficulties faced by the co-owners.

For example, if the co-owners have limited financial capacities, the proceeds from the sale of this property may be insufficient for them to purchase other properties. The court might then choose not to order the sale of the property.

On the other hand, if the court observes that the joint possession of the property would no longer serve any practical purpose to the co-owners but would simply lead to more conflicts, an order might be made for the property to be sold in the open market and neither party should sell the property by themselves.

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Selling Property in an En-Bloc Sale When One Co-Owner Refuses

In a scenario where there is an application for an en-bloc or collective sale (i.e sale of two or more property units to a common purchaser) via the Land Titles (Strata) Act, a single co-owner cannot vote to sell the property if the other co-owners disagree.

This is because Singapore’s en-bloc laws require the owner of the entire property to vote on whether to agree to sell it. However, a single tenant-in-common would not be the owner of the entire interest but merely an owner of a distinct portion of the property.

Thus, all tenants-in-common of a particular property will have to agree to sell the property for their vote to count towards the threshold of consent required for a proposed en-bloc sale.

The same applies to property held by joint tenants – all the joint tenants will have to agree to sell the property for their vote to count towards the threshold of consent required for a proposed en-bloc sale.

If the co-owners (whether tenants-in-common or joint tenants) cannot agree on whether to sell their property in the en-bloc sale, then they will be considered as having abstained from voting. In other words, they will be considered as neither supporting nor opposing the sale.

What Happens in the Event of Any Outstanding Property Loan?

If you and your co-owner do not own your property outright due to an outstanding property loan, the property loan will be repaid from the sale proceeds first before the remainder is divided among the co-owners.

Should You Engage a Lawyer? 

Given the contentious nature of a property dispute between two co-owners of a home who cannot agree on whether to sell it and the typically high value of property involved, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel to guide you through the process of obtaining a court order to compel the sale of the property.

You will also need a conveyancing solicitor after you obtain the court order to complete the sale and distribute the proceeds. Many law firms can provide both these services and guide you through the entire selling process from beginning to end.

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