SINGAPORE - Mr Mohammed Dawood Mohamed Jamaludin did not think twice when he was offered an opportunity to buy a house on freehold land which costs just RM208,000 ($81,890) in Taman Bukit Kempas, Johor Bahru.
After receiving a windfall from the sale of his 3-room flat in Boon Lay in 1994, he agreed to buy the JB house and was ushered to meet a member of the staff from MBF bank to arrange a loan.
As the house was designated a "Bumi Lot," the staff advised him to use the name of an unknown Malaysian woman, Ms Noraulhuda Zainal, as the buyer to ensure he gets a loan.
"I paid a deposit of RM20,000 and agreed to pay RM1,800 in monthly installments afterwards.
"The bank staff said, after five years, the name of the owner would be changed to mine," said Mr Dawood, 68, a father of two and grandfather of two, recalling the buying process in 1994.
He worked as a cleaner and lived in the house for five years. He spent $30,000 in renovations for the two-storey house with four rooms.
"Every weekend, I will come back to Kempas with my wife and sometimes my kids. I loved the house as it had a garden where I could grow various plants.
"I paid the RM1,800 installments every month, but had a few difficulties paying for a few months, said Mr Dawood.
He claimed to have paid more than RM160,000 in deposit and monthly installments over five years.
But the joy of living in his own home changed when Ms Noraulhuda kept pressuring him to vacate the home as "someone wanted to rent" and the rental income can be used to lighten the burden of paying the monthly installments.
"I remembered agreeing as it would make it easier for me to meet the monthly installments," he added when Berita Harian met him in his Jurong West home.
After a few months, Mr Dawood had a big shock as Ms Noraulhuda, without consulting him, told him that the house had been sold.
"Two weeks later, I visited my home in JB but found that I couldn't even enter as the padlocks had been changed."
"Then, someone came out of the house and told me to go, saying that I have nothing more to do with this house," said Mr Dawood, recalling the incident in 2001.
Unhappy with this treatment, he tried to contact Ms Noraulhuda but failed. He also tried to meet the bank staff that had processed his loan application, but the bank itself was closed.
After realising that he had been cheated, Mr Dawood tried to engage several lawyers to settle his matter but it was all in vain.
Then, the house was sold by the bank as the new owners of the house failed to pay their monthly installments.
Again, the house changed hands, making the situation even more complicated.
"I have engaged five different lawyers but all of them said there was nothing they can do. Some asked for payment without doing anything for my case. When I called them, they said they were overseas or were in a meeting.
"One lawyer only met me for five minutes in a coffeeshop," said Mr Dawood, who paid $18,000 to the five lawyers.
He has made four police reports in Johor Bahru, but the police advised him to take legal action against Ms Noraulhuda through his own lawyers.
Three weeks ago, a lawyer told him he can own the house again, providing he pays RM400,000.
"This matter caused a huge headache. The previous case was not even settled, but now the lawyer told me to buy back my own house?" said Mr Dawood, irritated that he once decided to use another person's name to buy the house.
"I've realised my own mistake. If they can swap it with a 'non-Bumi' lot with the price of RM300,000 maybe I will buy as I really like the house."
'Nothing much he can do': Lawyer
There isn't much Mr Mohamed Dawood Mohamed Jamaludin can do to claim ownership to the semi-detached house in Taman Bukit Kempas that was bought under a Malaysian woman's name nearly 20 years ago.
The fundamental problem lies in the fact that the house sits on a designated bumiputera lot. This means the house can only be bought by or transferred to a Malaysian who is of ethnic Malay origin.
To complicate matters, the RM208,000 (S$81,567) house was bought under a personal agreement, and the property has changed hands three times.
Mr Pusphalatha Naidu, from solicitors and lawyers Puspha Naidu in JB, confirmed this when Berita Harian approached him to comment on Mr Dawood's chances of regaining ownership of the home which he bought using a Malaysian woman's name in 1994.
The housing loan amounting to RM194,000 was under the name of a woman, Ms Noraulhuda Zainal, but the monthly installments of RM1,800 were paid by Mr Dawood.
Mr Dawood stopped paying the monthly installments after five years as the house was sold to someone else by that time.
"He doesn't have a straightforward case as the 'Bumi lot' house was bought under the name of a Malaysian woman. This is the pursuant's fault.
"No lawyer will take up the case as the ownership of the house is difficult to prove. The other problem is the fact that the house is a designated 'Bumi lot' and cannot be bought or transferred to a foreigner.
"We also found that the house changed hands several times, and that the bank auctioned the house as the second owner could not meet the monthly installments.
"It has been bought by someone else. The case will get more complicated every day, if he wants to pursue," added Mr Puspha Naidu, one of the five lawyers Mr Dawood engaged for his case.
According to Mr Puspha, all the lawyers, including himself, cannot help as the Malaysian property laws clearly state that foreigners cannot own houses that are designated for bumiputeras. According to The Straits Times report on Sept 25, 2013, the bumiputeras, mostly ethnic Malays and indigenous tribes of Sabah and Sarawak, form almost 68 per cent of the population.
"This is complicated even more by the new regulations recently passed by the Malaysian government that foreigners can only buy houses costing RM500,000 and upwards.
"This is the current law. If the house owners want to sell the house to a foreigner with the price of RM500,000, would Mr Dawood be willing to buy the house?" asked Mr Puspha, while stating that this case could be a lesson for foreigners when buying property in Malaysia.
According to Mr Puspha, Mr Dawood has tried to claim the RM165,000 he allegedly paid to MBF bank as monthly installments and deposits for the house.