Singapore

Man loses bid to claim strip of land next to his property

He says he acquired plot as his rambutan trees had grown roots there

A house owner who went to court, claiming a strip of land next to his University Road property belonged to him because the roots of his rambutan trees had extended into the neighbouring plot, has lost his case.

The plot of land in contention - a narrow strip of about 64.5 sq m without structures on it - is owned by property investment firm Yat Yuen Hong Company.

It is sandwiched between the house and Kheam Hock Park, which is on state land.

Mr Koh Ah Kin argued that he had acquired the neighbouring land through adverse possession, a law that allowed a person to lay claim to a piece of land if he had occupied it for 12 years without the owner's permission.

The law, sometimes referred to colloquially as "squatter's rights", was abolished on March 1, 1994. This meant Mr Koh had to prove he was in possession of the neighbouring land before March 1, 1982, at least 12 years before the law was changed.

To support his case, Mr Koh engaged an arborist to give expert evidence, in an attempt to show that the rambutan trees he had planted in 1980 are the same trees that have grown roots into the adjacent plot.

His arguments were thrown out yesterday by High Court Judge Lee Seiu Kin, who said Mr Koh has failed to show the trees were planted before March 1, 1982. In any event, Justice Lee said, the trees were on Mr Koh's property and not within the strip of land.

"I cannot see how the fact that a tree, planted by the plaintiff within his property and having some of its roots growing into the defendant's land, can constitute adverse possession," the judge added.

Mr Koh, who bought his house in 1979, filed his claim this year. The reason for Mr Koh's legal action was not stated in Justice Lee's judgment.

Yat Yuen Hong Company filed a counterclaim, demanding that Mr Koh remove the fences and walls that he had built around the strip of land.

Mr Koh made two points to argue he has been in possession of the land for at least 12 years.

He alleged that in 1980, he removed two fences on the strip of land and built a retaining wall and a new fence. He claimed he had also filled up the strip of land with soil and flattened it.

The judge also said Mr Koh was unable to produce documentary proof of the construction works. He added that Mr Koh had failed to show he had built the new fence or planted the trees before March 1, 1982, and has, therefore, failed to prove he was in possession of the land for 12 years.

The judge found that Yat Yuen Hong Company remains its owner and ordered Mr Koh to remove the fences and walls surrounding the plot.

COURT & CRIME