September 20, 2017

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Managing Partner and Chairman of ASEAN Plus Group Azman Jaafar expresses the importance of ASEAN to be a rules-based organisation as a coping strategy in response to the changing business environment, in The Jakarta Post

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Managing Partner and Chairman of ASEAN Plus Group Azman Jaafar was featured in an article published by The Jakarta Post. The article was first published on 20 September 2017. Greater Integration Vital for Asean to Benefit Business More Source: The Jakarta Post © Date: 20 September 2017 Author: Linda Yulisman Greater integration vital for ASEAN to benefit business more With sound economic fundamentals, ASEAN appears to have a promising outlook ahead. Celebrating 50 years since it was founded this year, the group has become the world’s sixth-largest economy with a combined income of US$2.55 trillion and it is estimated to expand by 5.2 percent in the coming years. Deeper economic integration, which began with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of 2015, is seen as a way for the 10-member bloc with a population of more than 500 million to further unlock its potential and better benefit business. Singapore’s senior parliamentary secretary for the ministry of education and ministry of trade an industry, Low Yen Ling, said that greater integration would provide enormous opportunities for business people across the region. “ASEAN’s journey into deepening economic integration is a continuous journey,” she said on the sidelines of ASEAN Summit 2017, organised by Singapore-based international law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing. “It will always be a work in progress, something to work on together, and that is also a reflection of the rapidly changing world, not just in ASEAN, but also outside of the region.” The Southeast Asian grouping has benefitted from the free flow of goods across its borders without tariffs in the past decade. It has also undertaken efforts to improve the ease of exporting in a wide range of sectors, such as automotive, cosmetics and medical equipment through reducing and simplifying regulations. In its latest move in August, ASEAN launched an online portal – ASEAN Solutions for Investment, Services and Trade (ASSIST) – to allow companies to voice their concerns over non-tariff measures that impede trading of good within the region. Low further said that when taking the ASEAN chairmanship next year, Singapore aimed to push for initiatives on e-commerce and the digital economyy in order to provide greater benefits for business, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises. Vice president for public sector and government practice at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, Richard Won, said that it would be crucial for ASEAN to bring a real impact to the private sector as a way to make the grouping more relevant to business. It would be, therefore, necessary for the grouping to address two critical issues faced by businesspeople, namely the cost of doing business and the regulatory environment, he added. “If we can help to reduce costs, make it easier to register business and increase trade and services, and also to have transparent rules within the bloc, that will be a dream come true for many businesses in the region,” he said. The group is working on the creation of ASEAN Single Window that will enable exporters across the region to expedite customs clearance through online exchange of information between the member countries. Since a few years ago, it has simplified the procedure for exporters seeking a certificate of origin for their products, a requirement to enjoy exemption of tariffs, through an online self-certification scheme. Deputy managing partner and chairman of ASEAN Plus Group at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Azman Jaafar acknowledged that it would be important for ASEAN to become a rules-based organisation, partly to cope with the changing business environment in the past two decades. “It is not good for us to rely on the old ways of allowing personal judgement to get in the way of decision-making for business,” he told The Jakarta Post. “If a business needs to be in a particular country, I think a rules-based economy would be very helpful instead of thinking about what we have to go to get the
September 11, 2017

External counselling services are accessible to lawyers to cope with the stress of the legal profession, shares Deputy Managing Partner Azman Jaafar with The Sunday Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Managing Partner Azman Jaafar shares with The Sunday Times that external counselling services are accessible to lawyers to cope with the stress of the legal profession. The article was first published in The Sunday Times on 10 September 2017. Law and accounting firms taking steps to tackle stress Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd Date: 10 September 2017 Author: Ng Huiwen The hours can be long but there must be a purpose to their work, say young lawyers. Mr Lee Yi Liang, 28, who practised for about a year before becoming an in-house counsel, said that young lawyers like him were made to feel like they were just moneymakers for the firm. "It is not about the hours (you put in). It must be fulfilling too, otherwise there's no impetus to continue," he said. And it is not just in the legal profession. Young accountants are also feeling the heat, and leaving the industry for the same reasons. Law and accounting firms contacted by The Sunday Times said they are aware of the stress and work-life challenges impacting the young professionals, and have processes to help them. Law firm Withers KhattarWong, for instance, has an informal "buddy system" that allows junior lawyers to consult their seniors when faced with issues, said partner Sharon Lin. The firm has 88 lawyers, of which about 30 per cent have less than five years of experience. Some of its international offices have tie-ups with independent healthcare consultants to run a confidential helpline, and this could be extended here too, she said. Employees at Big Four accounting firm PwC Singapore have access to one-on-one counselling with certified psychologists to help with work and personal problems. These sessions, which can be carried out face to face or over the phone, are free and confidential, said human capital leader Trillion So. Similarly, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing deputy managing partner Azman Jaafar stressed that lawyers have access to external counselling services. "As senior lawyers, we understand that lawyers can feel overworked and under-appreciated at times," he said. Accounting firms Ernst & Young and Deloitte Singapore have focused on creating social and sporting activities, while at mid-sized firm Straits Law Practice, ad hoc lunches and drinks allow lawyers to interact in an informal setting. And at Fortis Law Corporation, founder Patrick Tan said young lawyers, who make up about half of the firm's strength of 29, are not made to do just the "grunt work". "Our motivation is simple: If the young lawyers enjoy legal practice, acquire new skills and feel involved in the business, they will probably stay longer in the firm and in the profession," he said. Mr Z.K. Lim, who previously worked for a large local law firm, said he did have help when he was practising for a year. "I was quite lucky to have partners who would be around to guide me and help manage the stress. But much of it also came from wanting to do our best for our clients," he said. But that meant being on his toes all the time. He said: "After a year or so in practice, I was tired of not being able to 'switch off' even when I was not at work."
September 4, 2017

Construction & Infrastructure Partner Conrad Campos advises property buyers to discount the usually attractive illustrations of the development as they may be subjective, as published in The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Construction & Infrastructure Partner Conrad Compos advised that beyond mandatory particulars such as location and land tenure, which must be provided accurately, buyers should discount the usually attractive illustration or depictions of the development as they may be subjective in The Straits Times. The article was first published in The Straits Times on 3 September 2017. Hey, where's the fountain? Some condo buyers question lack of design features that had been advertised earlier Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 3 September 2017 Author: Annabeth Leow Several unit owners at Braddell condominium E Maison have raised the question of design features that had been advertised earlier but did not feature in the completed project. The topic came up at the condo's first annual general meeting (AGM) recently. While the meeting broke up over a disagreement surrounding a vote for members of the management council, several owners had voiced their disquiet about certain design features. They said a roundabout and a fountain were among features cited in marketing materials but not seen in the finished condo. But developer Top Global said at the meeting on Aug 17 that the roundabout "was not constructed as its turning radius did not comply with (regulatory) requirements". The fountain could not be provided as the area was a designated fire engine access road, it added. "We wanted the residents to form their own management council and to begin managing their estate, (that's) why we called for the AGM earlier than we needed to," a Top Global spokesman said in response to a Sunday Times query. However, the AGM did not go as planned, the spokesman said. "Owing to the disruptive activities of these select few residents, there was no way to carry on with the poll and the AGM in a proper and lawful manner," the spokesman said. Another AGM will be called in due course, he added. E Maison owners may not be alone in questioning the lack of certain design features. Snazzy sales brochures can pique interest, but sometimes the reality may be different. Lake Life, in the Jurong Lake District, was billed as a "smart" development when it hit the market in 2014. Media reports spoke of how the executive condominium could run a driverless electric shuttle bus, subject to the authorities' approval, and units could have features such as Internet appliance control. The project was popular, drawing more than 1,200 applications for its 546 units at the launch. Lake Life obtained its Temporary Operation Permit last December, but neither of the much-heralded features has turned out as some expected. The driverless shuttle is still a no-go, while the smart-home packages do not come built in. A spokesman for developer Evia Real Estate told The Sunday Times "there is likely a misperception on the provision of the smart home", which must be bought from a preferred vendor. The spokesman said: "In all marketing materials, we have mentioned that the autonomous shuttle services will be available subject to (the relevant) authority's approval." As of now, driverless vehicles are being tested only in the one-north area. "In view of the current situation", the spokesman said, the developer will provide free daily shuttle bus services to nearby MRT stations, with plans to do so until a management committee is formed at the first AGM. Accountant William Loo, 38, cited price, location and nearby amenities as the key factors that drew him to his new four-bedroom home. Still, he said, "smart-home (features) would have been fun to have". Beyond mandatory particulars such as location and land tenure, which must be provided accurately, buyers "should discount the usually attractive illustration or depictions of the development as they may be subjective", said Mr Conrad Campos, a partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing. He said developers are obliged to provide only features depicted in the showflat or models at the showroom, in the specifications they offer for the purpose of payment of the booking fee or in the sale and purchase agreement. While projects must meet all regulatory standards, developers can start selling units as soon as they have written permission to develop the land, building plan approval and a housing developer's sale licence. An Urban Redevelopment Authority spokesman said when changes must be made to meet standards, "the developers do not need to obtain consent from the purchasers". But "to minimise subsequent design changes, (Qualified Persons) should ensure that their development plans comply with all relevant agencies' requirements before the project is marketed".
August 21, 2017

“HDB flat buyers – owners or lessees?” Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han shares her views on The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han shares her views in The Straits Times on the differences between the terms lessee, tenant, and owner and how it applies to HDB flat owners. The article was first published in The Straits Times on 21 August 2017. HDB flat buyers - owners or lessees? Debate goes beyond semantics Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 21 August 2017 Author: Ng Jun Sen Lessee. Tenant. Owner. When it comes to Housing Board flats, these plain terms seem to befuddle many. What exactly should an HDB flat buyer be known as? Over the past two months, this discussion has been playing out in The Straits Times' Forum pages and online. Clearly, flat buyers are flat owners, with the right to sell, rent and renovate, within guidelines and for the tenure of their lease, said the HDB. But some people seized on the qualifiers - for the length of the lease. Does that not mean that a more accurate term for HDB flat owners is "lessees", they wonder. It also did not help that some HDB webpages and documents refer to flat buyers as "lessees" and the HDB as "lessor". This is not just a tussle over semantics. It goes to the heart of a longstanding debate over whether HDB flat owners can be called that when they have to return their homes to the state when their leases expire, and when rules over what they can or cannot do with their homes are generally more circumscribed than those for owners of private leasehold property. The question first arose on June 24 when a reader, Mr Larry Leong, wrote in to query the HDB on the terms it apparently used to refer to him. "While applying to rent out my HDB flat, I noticed that the Housing Board referred to me as a 'tenant', and my potential tenant as a 'sub-tenant'," said Mr Leong, adding that he had paid for his flat fully. "Can we have some clarity on whether HDB dwellers are tenants or real home owners for 99 years?" In its reply three weeks later, the HDB clarified that the term "tenants" refers only to those who rent public rental flats from it. Purchasers of HDB flats are owners of their property, its director of branch operations Lim Lea Lea stated categorically. She said: "Flat owners enjoy rights to exclusive possession of the flat during the tenure of the flat lease. They can sell, let out and renovate their flats, within the guidelines specified in the lease and Housing and Development Act." The board also said "the name of each HDB flat owner is reflected in the title deed, the original of which is kept with the Singapore Land Authority, as part of the central and comprehensive record for all properties in Singapore. This confirms his or her ownership of the property." But others remained unsure. Mr Andrew Seow Chwee Guan wrote in a letter dated July 20 that a duplicate lease of an HDB flat he holds "was executed by me and my spouse many years ago as a lessee in the presence of a lessor - an HDB representative". He added: "My understanding is that HDB purchasers are lessees and the HDB is the lessor. "There is a distinct difference between owners and lessees." In its latest reply published on Aug 14, the HDB said the leasehold system allows the land to be recycled and redeveloped, and is common around the world. It reiterated that leasehold property buyers are owners too, albeit for the length of the lease they hold. "During this period of ownership, they can decide to live in the flat, renovate it, rent it out or even sell it once they meet the eligibility conditions. They can decide on the selling price or rental rate of the flat, and they get to keep the proceeds from these transactions. "These are rights and benefits that only a flat owner can enjoy." However, experts have also pointed out that, unlike private property owners, HDB flat buyers cannot initiate collective sales of their homes, unless picked under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme. On the flip side, HDB flat buyers are entitled to more benefits, including subsidised prices. Given the way the terms owner and lessee seem to be used interchangeably at times, should HDB then change its nomenclature for a buyer to "lessee" to avoid misunderstandings? Some argue that the term "owner" implies a person has possession of the property in perpetuity. They are in favour of the term "lessee", which they say states clearly that there is a lifespan to the possession of the property. "Lessee" is a more precise term, say property lawyers such as Ms Sandra Han of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, though the word "owner" is still accurate. Acknowledging that the topic is "quite tricky", she added: "The term 'owner' is quite nebulous and is used very generally." Ms Tay Huey Ying, head of research and consultancy at property consultancy JLL Singapore, said ownership is typically implied for long-term leases of, say, more than 60 years. At any rate, the Government will likely not be keen to give up the use of the term, say real estate watchers like Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at ZACD Group. The word "owner" connotes rootedness and identity, unlike "lessee", and this is why the authorities would prefer to stick to the earlier term, he said. "In referring to buyers as owners, it is a case of HDB trying to have its cake and eat it too," he said. Ms Tay said it is more fruitful for the debate to focus on raising awareness of lease expiry. In fact, she said "ownership" has the advantage of allowing residents to feel that they have a stake in society and want to contribute actively to the country. "With some leases running down, what is more important is to educate purchasers on what leasehold means," she said.