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POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby JR8 » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:22 am

Sorry to hear about your experience, attending court is a ghastly experience, even when you're sure that right is on your side. 'Cold and heartless' is the least of it, you have to be prepared for the other side to try and clinically completely destroy you. That IS how the adversarial legal system works.

If a case is dismissed, or 'thrown out', it can be for many reasons.
- Pre-trial procedures weren't followed.
- There isn't enough substantive evidence to proceed upon.
- There is no material virtue in proceeding (court time is expensive).

I don't think you can take a position that the judge was partial (biased against you). The judiciary, including lawyers, can be insufferably snobby about how learned, socially elevated and indispensable their services are. But on the flip-side I have seen a judge bend over backwards to accommodate people who cannot afford a lawyer and who are representing themselves.

Maybe the judge in your case believed your case was genuine but insubstantive and you posed a real risk (via a full hearing) of failing to find remedy AND getting costs awarded against you. I.e. have you considered that he was probably doing you a favour?


--- I have had a few of instances of tenants threatening me with legal action after I have made deductions for damages against their tenancy deposits. The scenario usually begins with a super-aggressive lawyers letter threatening terminal hellfire and damnation, and within it an outline of the ex-tenants perceived case. Once you have picked yourself up off the floor and calmed yourself down, you can go back and re-read it, and consider the allegations. What I have found is that most if not all allegations can simply be rebutted by fact and evidence*.

My point is that perceptions of right and wrong, and the worthiness of a case are far from black and white.



*Tenant - 'You said you'd provide us with a new microwave, but you never did!!'
Landlord - 'I wasn't obliged to as you took the flat 'as is' and only later did you request a new microwave. However I suggested (per my e-mail dd. xx/yy/zz attached) that I would do so if you agreed to a rent increase of £25/mo, and you never replied to that'.

Tenant - 'You've made a deduction for £250 for a burn mark on the bedroom carpet. I didn't do it and how could it cost so much!!!?'
Landlord - 'There was no burn mark when you moved in, but there was when you vacated, per the check-in/out Inventory and Condition Reports (attached) that you agreed and signed. There was no other possible remedy but to replace the whole carpet in that room. Here is a copy of the invoice from that work, carried out immediately after your departure. You'll see that the cost to me was £500, but I made a 50% allowance in consideration that the carpet was [say] 3 years old, i.e as a whole it was perhaps half-way through it's useful life'.

Tenant - 'You've made a deduction for repainting the bedroom. That's ridiculous, we painted it ourselves as it was SO scruffy, so if anything it was left in a better condition than to start with!'
Landlord - 'The bedroom was originally painted in Dulux Silk 'Orchid White', the same paint used throughout the rest of the flat. You took it upon yourself, without reference to me i.e. in breach of your Tenancy Agreement, to paint it an apparent black gloss containing luminous metallic purple flakes. [etc....]

And so on. Thankfully this kind of thing rarely happens, but now and again you do get a tenant who considers any deduction as grounds for total war. On that note my suggestion to landlords is, for any deduction made, ensure it is 'just and reasonable', and thoroughly evidenced. Before you apply any deduction to a deposit imagine having to stand up and justify it to a judge. No landlord wants legal action, but if you can show you have been reasonable, even accomodative, you have nothing to fear at all. I've only had one follow up to a lawyers opening salvo and my rebuttal, and that was where the tenants father was a lawyer, and he had paid her rent/deposit (!). Roughly 'This is your last chance to pay up, or we're proceeding against you', which I could confidently simply ignore (and nothing further came of it).
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby AndrewV » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:29 am

I think nanana's case is sad. Singapore is focused on keeping civil cases out of the justice system so they have more time for corporate / government / statutory (Which is where the interest/money primarily is). You want justice? be prepared to pay for it. The society shouldn't function this way, specially since the institutions like CASE and the small courts tribunals are powerless entities without any enforcement capability

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby Primrose Hill » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:44 am

JR8 wrote:Sorry to hear about your experience, attending court is a ghastly experience, even when you're sure that right is on your side. 'Cold and heartless' is the least of it, you have to be prepared for the other side to try and clinically completely destroy you. That IS how the adversarial legal system works.

If a case is dismissed, or 'thrown out', it can be for many reasons.
- Pre-trial procedures weren't followed.
- There isn't enough substantive evidence to proceed upon.
- There is no material virtue in proceeding (court time is expensive).

I don't think you can take a position that the judge was partial (biased against you). The judiciary, including lawyers, can be insufferably snobby about how learned, socially elevated and indispensable their services are. But on the flip-side I have seen a judge bend over backwards to accommodate people who cannot afford a lawyer and who are representing themselves.

Maybe the judge in your case believed your case was genuine but insubstantive and you posed a real risk (via a full hearing) of failing to find remedy AND getting costs awarded against you. I.e. have you considered that he was probably doing you a favour?


--- I have had a few of instances of tenants threatening me with legal action after I have made deductions for damages against their tenancy deposits. The scenario usually begins with a super-aggressive lawyers letter threatening terminal hellfire and damnation, and within it an outline of the ex-tenants perceived case. Once you have picked yourself up off the floor and calmed yourself down, you can go back and re-read it, and consider the allegations. What I have found is that most if not all allegations can simply be rebutted by fact and evidence*.

My point is that perceptions of right and wrong, and the worthiness of a case are far from black and white.



*Tenant - 'You said you'd provide us with a new microwave, but you never did!!'
Landlord - 'I wasn't obliged to as you took the flat 'as is' and only later did you request a new microwave. However I suggested (per my e-mail dd. xx/yy/zz attached) that I would do so if you agreed to a rent increase of £25/mo, and you never replied to that'.

Tenant - 'You've made a deduction for £250 for a burn mark on the bedroom carpet. I didn't do it and how could it cost so much!!!?'
Landlord - 'There was no burn mark when you moved in, but there was when you vacated, per the check-in/out Inventory and Condition Reports (attached) that you agreed and signed. There was no other possible remedy but to replace the whole carpet in that room. Here is a copy of the invoice from that work, carried out immediately after your departure. You'll see that the cost to me was £500, but I made a 50% allowance in consideration that the carpet was [say] 3 years old, i.e as a whole it was perhaps half-way through it's useful life'.

Tenant - 'You've made a deduction for repainting the bedroom. That's ridiculous, we painted it ourselves as it was SO scruffy, so if anything it was left in a better condition than to start with!'
Landlord - 'The bedroom was originally painted in Dulux Silk 'Orchid White', the same paint used throughout the rest of the flat. You took it upon yourself, without reference to me i.e. in breach of your Tenancy Agreement, to paint it an apparent black gloss containing luminous metallic purple flakes. [etc....]

And so on. Thankfully this kind of thing rarely happens, but now and again you do get a tenant who considers any deduction as grounds for total war. On that note my suggestion to landlords is, for any deduction made, ensure it is 'just and reasonable', and thoroughly evidenced. Before you apply any deduction to a deposit imagine having to stand up and justify it to a judge. No landlord wants legal action, but if you can show you have been reasonable, even accomodative, you have nothing to fear at all. I've only had one follow up to a lawyers opening salvo and my rebuttal, and that was where the tenants father was a lawyer, and he had paid her rent/deposit (!). Roughly 'This is your last chance to pay up, or we're proceeding against you', which I could confidently simply ignore (and nothing further came of it).


hmmm JR8, I hear you loud and clear. Usually when I get these letters from some lawyer, I am so incensed and my previous tenants were exactly like that. Each little requests, they would want a 50% rebate of rent. And when I finally managed to kick them out, they hung on to the keys for nearly an extra month and the managing agents were crap at recovery

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby x9200 » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 12:49 pm

nanana wrote:oh by the way, the judge didn;t even give me a reason on why my case was dismissed.
He just left the room when i asked him.

I mean, even if i were to lose the case, at the very least, a judge should at least let both parties present their case in front of him?


Not necessary. If something from legal point of view is obviously wrong I believe it may end up like this. Again, not knowing any details it is hard to guess.

As for no reason given, I don't know if the judge is obliged to give one (ad-hoc, verbally). I believe he is obliged to give one upon written request filled within some strictly defined number of days after the ruling.

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby martincymru » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 2:18 pm

AndrewV wrote: institutions like CASE and the small courts tribunals are powerless entities without any enforcement capability


If this was the case then no-one would litigate. No point !

//
I am not a lawyer so correct if I am wrong; if you receive Judgement in your favour then you can, amongst other things, take their chattels, garnishee order etc. Costs a lot, hence my original posting "poor people have no real access...". But if lawyer is engaged on "no win no fee" then that's another matter.
//
Justice must be seen to be done; the Law states so (I think). I am therefore confused that Nanana had no indication at all as to why her case was dismissed. ( Note here case was reviewed then dismissed).

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby JR8 » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 2:49 pm

Primrose Hill wrote: hmmm JR8, I hear you loud and clear. Usually when I get these letters from some lawyer, I am so incensed and my previous tenants were exactly like that. Each little requests, they would want a 50% rebate of rent. And when I finally managed to kick them out, they hung on to the keys for nearly an extra month and the managing agents were crap at recovery


Each of those examples happened to me (and there are oh so many more lol), though I think that in fact the black metallic paint mentioned was '''merely''' dark purple gloss, so still like a satanic den of some kind! :)

In landlording you have to adapt to being able to expect and deal with the most unexpected. Some of the things tenants are apparently capable of defy belief. Another of my earliest tenants on a 12 month tenancy (I still remember her name, Maryhaze) asked for permission to remove a structural/load-bearing wall to 'open up the space'. Hey, being positive, at least she asked me first rather than just going ahead! :shock:

If you use a managing agent then the expectations for the tenant (and landlord, AND agent) are laid down in black and white. These days also, a tenants depo is held in escrow (Tenancy Deposit Scheme etc). An agent's job includes negotiating deductions vs that deposit. If you were outside of those arrangements then all bets are off, and it's you here vs the tenant there.

Witholding of keys is a way to try and exert leverage, and it's always a fruitless ploy. If you're in the right then simply have the lock barrels changed or re-pinned, and add the cost to any deductions. Changing the front door key to a building, that many other owners hold, each perhaps in triplicate, plus say multiple copies of Ingersol or Banham keys on the individual property door can easily add up to £hundreds. Incomprehensibly harsh in the tenant's eyes, but fair in the eyes of the law.

--- Deficiencies like say the flat being let with functioning central heating, but then suddenly in the depths of winter it packs up, can and do occur. It is not a good situation for the tenant, and obviously you have to do your best to have it fixed, but the landlord can only do what is possible. If no plumber can visit for a week*, it doesn't matter if you're the tenant, an owner-occupier, or the Queen of England, it can't be fixed for a week. That unfortunately is life, and not the landlord's lack of willing or concern. Any deductions, i.e. compensation, are thus rare, and have to be gauged against any extent to which the landlord did not fulfil their reasonable obligations. E.g. if the washing machine broke down and you were on holiday, then how much did it cost the tenant to visit the local launderette during that period?

* Observation: 'Why do all central heating boilers seem to break down on December 23rd?' :roll:
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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby martincymru » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 3:43 pm

JR8:
1. what's your opinion of inventories
2. ditto pre tenancy pre condition survey by Surveyor.

///
This post is going off track !

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby zzm9980 » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 4:34 pm

nanana wrote:oh by the way, the judge didn;t even give me a reason on why my case was dismissed.
He just left the room when i asked him.

I mean, even if i were to lose the case, at the very least, a judge should at least let both parties present their case in front of him?

@zzm9980: meaningless to you...but it was great deal that i had to go through. i was just sharing my experience that the system can be cold and heartless.


I meant meaningless because we have no context to know if the decision made was appropriate or not. Not meaningless like I don't care what happened to you. Sorry if it came across like that.

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby JR8 » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 6:27 pm

martincymru wrote:JR8:
1. what's your opinion of inventories
2. ditto pre tenancy pre condition survey by Surveyor.
This post is going off track !


1) Vital. Back home a landlord usually pays for the inventory 'check-in', and the tenant pays for the 'check-out' (or vice versa, I forget now). But it's usually called an 'Inventory and condition report'. The overall cost isn't that much, in London a professional inventory clerk may be £100 each/side for a comprehensive job together with photos. There is a lot that can go wrong damage-wise, and there are many things a tenant can seek to hide or claim 'was damaged/was already like that etc*100' when they moved in. Having it documented avoids any doubt. Inventory clerks know precisely every nook and cranny to inspect and document. Things an average landlord or tenant might not have even thought of. And both sides regard them as impartial arbiters. The first time you have a place thrashed (i.e. c1/2 trashed) you will be relieved you had a proper inventory drawn up and signed at the outset.

Beware that not all inventories are the same. Some are done by the landlord himself. Some might be a template he has not changed one bit in ten years. Some are done by lettings agents, for whom it is a pretty thankless and unpaid task. That's why I opt as above. The clerks are not 'surveyors' as such, but they often can be professionals (Association of Independent Inventory Clerks - http://www.theaiic.co.uk/). Both parties should be present or at least invited to both the check-in and out. This should mean there is very little room for dispute over such matters in future.

Note: the costs of an inventory can also be taken as a tax deduction against rental income.

2) Pre-condition survey. Prior to a purchase or let? If the former I'd rather get a builder in and pay him £100 for an hour to give the place a candid once over, than the latter paying maybe £1,000 to a surveyor who ties everything up in 'this is just an opinion, and I'm not liable for it's accuracy'. The 'biggies' you want to spot back home are subsidence, rising-damp, and dry rot. They are reasonably straight-forward to identify if you have a basic idea what to look for. Using a builder has the second advantage, that you can ask him to ballpark an estimate to remedy any material issues. You can then use that as grounds to tailor any final bid on a place.

Hope that covers it! :)
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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby bro75 » Fri, 09 Jan 2015 11:46 am

Champerty is banned in singapore but this may change in the future.

http://www.singaporelawreview.org/2013/ ... singapore/

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby x9200 » Fri, 09 Jan 2015 12:18 pm

JR8 wrote:
martincymru wrote:JR8:
1. what's your opinion of inventories
2. ditto pre tenancy pre condition survey by Surveyor.
This post is going off track !


1) Vital. [..]Inventory clerks know precisely every nook and cranny to inspect and document. Things an average landlord or tenant might not have even thought of. And both sides regard them as impartial arbiters. The first time you have a place thrashed (i.e. c1/2 trashed) you will be relieved you had a proper inventory drawn up and signed at the outset.

There is always an area that could be disputed and I think one very common in Singapore is about what could be considered fair wear and tear.
Roughly 5-7y ago when the boom started in the residential developments many of the new built apartments were of very poor quality and it might have shown very nasty way. For example, in my old place, when I accidently dropped pliers on the parquet floor there was not a single scratch/mark on it. In the new one, it created a well visible dent. Now, I always (so far) develop a good relationship with the LLs so it did not matter, but I am curious how the local courts would handle such issues for an average Joe.

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby JR8 » Fri, 09 Jan 2015 8:07 pm

It's an unusually subjective matter, and so rather invites disputes. Having a professional inventory yields an impartial survey of what is, and what isn't 'Fair Wear and Tear' (i.e. 'Reasonable').

One problem I'm conscious of here is that many rentals seem to be 'Mom and Pop' ventures. Added to that many properties have been the landlord's former homes. Furthermore, plenty of places are new or recently built, and as you highlight the interiors are done to look spiffy, despite the cheap-as-chips quality of the materials and fit-out.

It's like buying a car new from a showroom then letting it to a stranger for three years. How ever much the driver takes care of it, in the eyes of the owner it is going to be returned appearing wrecked. I experienced this once here, where the walls in a condo had been white-washed in the cheapest - well, whitewash. I didn't even know white-wash still existed! This meant that if you took a clean damp cloth to wipe off say a finger-print or speck of gravy, within about three rubs of the cloth you were through to the previous layer of paint (in that case a pinkish magnolia colour) underneath. So was it unreasonable that there were a few finger-prints on the walls, well no (IMHO) since the cheapo finish wouldn't bear them being removed. Back home you can get washable paint, such as 'vinyl matt, and vinyl silk' etc, in fact it's almost the default standard. They will withstand a lot, but of course cost more to buy.

I currently let my own home out. I designed and spec'd everything in it, from the walls/floorplan, kitchen and bathrooms, down to the last nail, window-latch, to the precise design, material and finish of the numeral on the front door (oh yes! :)). I previously lived there for about 5-6 years, had the place entirely repainted before I left, and as far as I am concerned I left it in pretty much as-new condition. No chips in the bath enamel, no stains on the limestone bathroom floors or carpets, no scratches in the timber flooring/etc. But I live in dread of seeing it again knowing the state it will be in. The problem there is probably not that the tenants have necessarily been over-harsh, at least by the standards of the average tenant, but that that property really is 'my architectural baby' :?

It's hard to impossible to take a legal case based upon he said-she said. That's why I suggested the value of getting proper inventories. I think your approach of having a channel of communications with the LL is a good idea, at least to the extent that it is possible. Being regarded as a responsible professional rather than some anonymous bank account can only help.

Excessive W+T requires unreasonable dilapidations. But unless the damage that is incorrectly suggested is egregious or obvious/extreme, I can't see it having much traction on it's own. Who takes a court case for the sake of $500, esp if you're a foreigner, and double especially if you're leaving the country? In parallel with other matters within a wider dispute perhaps it would have more chance.
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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby nanana » Fri, 09 Jan 2015 10:08 pm

Primrose Hill wrote:
JR8 wrote:Sorry to hear about your experience, attending court is a ghastly experience, even when you're sure that right is on your side. 'Cold and heartless' is the least of it, you have to be prepared for the other side to try and clinically completely destroy you. That IS how the adversarial legal system works.


Exactly, JR8. They indeed completely destroyed me clinically, psychologically.
And yes to the snobbish attitudes of those lawyers too.

Put the decision of my case aside, if the judge really thought that there was no point to continue with my case, they could have just send me a letter and say "ohh! i had read through all the submissions, but decided to dismiss your case". wouldn't that be better to save everyone's time? instead of setting a hearing date for me but didn't even allow me to speak to defend on my case? where is the HEARING part of the COURT HEARING? Even if you wanna shoot me, shoot me with a reason. i can't even have a closure.

I went to the court with the mentality that even if i were to lose, I would still give my best to defend myself. BUT, i wasnt even given that chance! and the whole system of one party to produce one submission, then the other party to hand in a reply-submission, then it was back to me again to write up a submssion based on the other party's submssions, then again, waiting for other party's reply on my second submission...was really ridiculous...it was like ding-dong -ding -dong, getting back and forth never ends. and at the end, the judge didn't even read all of those shit.

argh! SMS! when is the next round of gathering? really makes my blood boil when i think of it. need some beer too cool down! :mrgreen:

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sat, 10 Jan 2015 7:00 pm

nanana wrote:
argh! SMS! when is the next round of gathering? really makes my blood boil when i think of it. need some beer too cool down! :mrgreen:


Was wondering when somebody was going to suggest that! Somebody give us some Friday dates...... :mrgreen:

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Re: POOR PEOPLE HAVE NO ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Postby JR8 » Sat, 10 Jan 2015 8:45 pm

How about working to a plan of the last xDay (Friday/Saturday/??) of each 2nd, 3rd or xth month? Adjusted in advance as might be required, in a common sense way, to avoid mega-holidays?

Outline local 2015 calendar here...
http://www.officeholidays.com/calendars ... =Singapore

SMS you probably have an idea for the 'xth' frequency that would get a critical+ mass. Unless the idea of ad hoc floating two dates maybe a week apart works better of course... :)
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