Court Orders MCST To Approve Renovations

January 1, 2024

gray concrete walls with broken floor


In the legal dispute of [2022] SGHC 280, the unit owner (referred to as the “Owner”) had undertaken extensive renovations involving the removal of balcony sliding doors, installation of aluminium frame glass windows, and replacement of an air-conditioner condenser on the external wall of the building (collectively referred to as the “Works”). The Management Corporation of the Strata Title Plan (MCST) argued that these renovations were unapproved and raised concerns about their impact on the building’s façade and structural integrity. However, the Owner contended that similar works had been carried out on other parts of the unit approximately 18 years prior to the current dispute.

Before the commencement of the Works, the MCST had established by-laws stipulating that certain renovation works required prior approval. The Court had to assess whether the Works adhered to these by-laws and whether they had a detrimental impact on the building’s aesthetics and structure.

The Court’s examination of the property’s appearance revealed that the removal of the balcony sliding doors did not visibly affect the building’s façade from a reasonable vantage point. Notably, the lack of uniformity in the appearance of the building was evident, with at least six other units having made alterations to their external façades. This raised questions about the MCST’s consistency in enforcing its regulations, especially given that it was time-barred from pursuing action against these other units.

While the installation of aluminium frame glass windows did influence the building’s façade by reflecting more sunlight and creating a sense of enclosure, the Court noted that 19 other units had similar modifications. This undermined the MCST’s objection based on the uniformity of the building’s façade, making it indefensible.

Concerning the replacement of the air-conditioner compressor on the external wall, the Owner was not alone in this regard, as at least six other units had undertaken similar replacements. The Court once again found that the MCST’s objection lacked validity due to the pre-existing lack of uniformity among the units.

In summary, the Court determined that while the Owner had breached the newly established by-laws, the MCST’s refusal to approve the Works was unjustifiable. The Court ordered the MCST to approve the Works, emphasizing the inconsistency in the enforcement of regulations and the pre-existing lack of uniformity among units.

The legal backdrop for such disputes is provided by section 37(3) of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act 2004 (BMSMA). This section mandates that works affecting the appearance of a building within a strata title plan must obtain MCST approval. Sections 37(3) and 37(4) of the BMSMA outline the conditions under which such approval can be granted, emphasizing considerations related to the appearance and structural integrity of the building. Sections 37(3) and 37(4) are reproduced below:-

Improvements and additions to lots

  1. –(1)…

(3)  Except pursuant to an authority granted under subsection (4) by the management corporation or permitted under section 37A, a subsidiary proprietor of a lot that is comprised in a strata title plan must not effect any other improvement in or upon the lot for the subsidiary proprietor’s benefit which affects the appearance of any building comprised in the strata title plan.

(4)  A management corporation may, at the request of a subsidiary proprietor of any lot comprised in its strata title plan and upon such terms as it considers appropriate, authorise the subsidiary proprietor to effect any improvement in or upon the subsidiary proprietor’s lot mentioned in subsection (3) if the management corporation is satisfied that the improvement in or upon the lot —

(a)          will not detract from the appearance of any of the buildings comprised in the strata title plan or will be in keeping with the rest of the buildings; and

(b)          will not affect the structural integrity of any of the buildings comprised in the strata title plan.

This case underscores the importance of unit owners seeking MCST approval before undertaking renovation works. It highlights the necessity for owners to stay informed about the latest by-laws governing their property. In instances where approval is denied, and the owner believes there are valid grounds for the renovations, the owner may seek the Singapore Court’s guidance on the matter. This legal precedent serves as a reminder for property owners to navigate the intricacies of regulations and approvals diligently to avoid legal complications.

Here at Sim Mong Teck & Partners, our experienced conveyancing team have a wealth of experience and knowledge on property related matters. This allows us to provide you with sound and practical advice on your queries.

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