In late June, the Court of Appeal in Singapore handed down the decision in Chan Yuen Lan v See Fong Mun. The case concerns a claim by the husband in a long-standing marriage, Mr See, for an interest in property held in the sole name of his wife, Madam Chan.
Mdm Chan had contributed her life savings of $250,000 to the purchase of property worth some millions of dollars at the date of trial. Mr See argued that her contribution was simply a loan and that Mdm Chan had wanted to be the owner, so that she could tell her friends that she held the title. As between themselves, he said, she should acknowledge Mr See as the true owner of the property. On Mr See’s evidence, this was done by way of power of attorney in his favour, that embodied this acknowledgement.
At the time of the purchase in 1983, Mr See had taken a lover. Mdm Chan argued that she needed the property as financial security because of Mr See’s infidelity, and not because of a desire to brag to her friends. She said that Mr See had agreed to her holding the title in her name to appease her over his affair and his infidelity.
This case again raises the issue of women’s status before the courts and the underlying assumptions about property across the common law world.
I have just returned from a stimulating couple of days at Bond University on the Gold Coast, which hosted the 12th Australasian Property Law Teachers’ Association Conference. The conference saw a stimulating mix of papers and ongoing discussions amongst the delegates from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK.
In 2011 Queensland updated its legislation concerning dividing fences disputes, introducing the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 (‘Act’). The Act significantly overhauls the earlier Dividing Fences Act particularly through the introduction of a jurisdiction concerning trees.
Looking through the Act recently, I was noticed that the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘QCAT’) had jurisdiction not only over trees that dropped branches onto neighbours’ land or those which posed a danger to the neighbours. Under s66, QCAT may also make an order relating to ‘interference that is an obstruction of sunlight or a view’. This raises the question of the basis on which such an order may be made. In particular I am interested in whether this creates, by implication, a property right.
In a recent post on the Volokh Conspiracy, it was reported that law professors in the US were rebelling against a text book publisher’s new pricing policy.
Under the new approach, dubbed CasebookConnect, students must return the casebook after the class ends. Students receive access to a digital copy of the casebook available from AspenLaw’s website, but they must return the physical book. Meanwhile, students pay full cost, as the price of CasebookConnect is the same as the traditional price of a new physical book.
I have been interested for some time in the limitations of our understanding of property – particularly our understanding of property in land (see here and here for an example). At the heart of this is what I see as a fundamental conflict between the individualism of the notion of dominion over land and broader concerns of ecological and social sustainability.
For lawyers, part of the challenge in explaining the connection between property and sustainability is our tendency immediately to think of sustainability as environmental law. For the lawyer, the difference between environmental law and land law is fundamental: one is public law, the other is private. In this post I will try to outline how I see sustainability as an issue central to how we conceptualise property.