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Property Watch: Make change, not war

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: We may all well remember a court case involving a hot cup of coffee and a customer who sued the coffee shop for serving hot coffee. What a preposterous case, we may cry. How do people inhabit this earth and go about their daily lives, and yet still manage to create issues out of nothing by simply complaining about normal incidents?

In the property market in Phuket, although some people are innocent wringers, we have a more than fair share of ‘vexatious litigants’: people who seem to love suing others; the cut and thrust or one year hearing delays at the courthouses; or shouting, ‘I will not settle’ and/or the classic ‘It’s not fair’ as loudly as they can.

In school, there was always an argumentative, belligerent, verbose and perhaps slightly bright, but not smart, bully. We have this person – a litigation monster – in every step of life.

Amazingly, these legal hotheads often get sucked in to starting proceedings when they don’t have a grasp of evidence, what the legal process actually involves and how, or on what basis, judgments are made.

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I have now seen such wonders emanate from these brave warriors of court complaints and notices which will assist me in writing my memoirs – and hopefully the online sales of such will generate enough money for a pint of real ale per week in my dotage.

WHO ARE THE PARTIES?

If you are an owner in an estate which has a ‘committee’, a ‘juristic person’ or a Thai company which owns assets, common area and facilities, and have an issue with management, tread carefully. Be cautious before you rush ahead and sharpen your litigation knife.

If you sue such entities, you are in fact ‘suing yourself’. You, together with other owners, are normally jointly responsible for the well-being of such an entity. The better the entity is managed and run, the smoother the meetings are, the better the chances of successful re-sales in a development.

If you serve a ‘writ’ (court complaint) on such an entity, until that case is withdrawn, settled or produces a judgment, there is a blight on that entity visible to all those who check or deal with it. Amazingly, in the heat of rage, many owners ignore this incontrovertible fact.

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WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES TO SUING YOURSELF?

If you have a problem with the accounts of a management company, demand an audit. Change the auditor. Become a director or committee member yourself and ensure the accounts are handled properly. Reserve litigation for ‘fraud’. By fraud I mean stealing money, not spending it unwisely.

If you believe management is poor, change the management. Change the management agreement, scope of services and duties of the manager. Avoid the sun-blazed entrance to the courthouse followed by the phones-out-of-the-pocket security check before entering the halls of justice.

If you and a large group of individuals feel the same way, avoid creating your own ‘class action’ John Grisham novel based action group. Such groups are adept at destroying the value of projects they believe they were set up to ‘protect’.

Use the energy you have to go sailing, play golf, eat at nice restaurants, set up businesses to employ Thais and apply it to reforming that which you are displeased with. Surely, if you all feel the same way and what you are asking for is reasonable, there is a path of compromise which can be found.

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Listen to your advisers. I don’t just mean legal advisers, although they are important too. Listen to voices of reason around you, and don’t let your own inner voice drown out people trying to shake you out of your litigation rage. Settle, settle, settle.

Property is here to be enjoyed, used and shared in the same way this beautiful island is for those who keep their eyes open, and close them when they see the Phantom Menace speedway drivers along Thekprasattri Road. Try to avoid the courthouse, and suing yourself.

Desmond Hughes has been an owner and operator of his law firm in Thailand for 12 years, and is a Senior Partner at Hughes Krupica: www.hugheskrupica.com

— Desmond Hughes

 

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