SINGAPORE - If you think that parking in a landed estate is both convenient and free, you might want to think again and perhaps explore some other avenues for parking.
That is because some roads in Singapore are private roads - as with Jalan Mas Puteh in Clementi, for example.
One driver who parked there recently returned to find his vehicle clamped by frustrated residents, who then demanded that he pay $500 to have it released.
He vented his anger on Stomp, questioning the right of the residents to target his car.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA), which manages the country's traffic network, says that it does not have jurisdiction over private land.
Its concern is with how private roads are connected to the main road network.
Other agencies, including the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Building and Construction Authority (BCA), also say that they do not oversee private land.
In theory, this means that residents can set their own rules for how such private roads can be used - which would include putting wheelclamps on vehicles parked improperly.
Signs warning drivers that they risk having their cars wheelclamped if they park in non-designated areas are also common in these private estates.
Lawyers like Rodyk & Davidson partner Lee Liat Yeang noted that it is clear that the public should not enter a private road unless they have business with the residents, just like how access rules apply at condominiums.
The total number of private roads in Singapore, however, is not known.
Aside from those in front of landed homes or shophouses, they are created when developers carve out a road network on acquired land, such as in a condo or cluster housing development.
The Straits Times also understands that the roads within the Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore are privately owned and maintained.
There are also signs warning of the risk of being wheelclamped on their roads.
In the case of these private roads, the owners own the land.
But the legal area becomes greyer in the case of Jalan Mas Puteh, as it appears that the residents do not own the road.
SLA records show that the owner of the private road is a firm called Right Traders - which has now been struck off.
This means that the road is now vested in the Official Receiver as mandated by the Companies Act, said Rodyk's Mr Lee, but it is not owned by the state.
What the owners of the eight terraced homes in the cul-de-sac have is the right to use the road to gain entry to their homes in what is known as an easement right.
"It is essentially a licence to the right of access and use to the road, out of the necessity to gain access to the house," noted lawyer Robson Lee.
What also complicates the issue here is that the right comes with conditions: the home owners are responsible for maintaining the road unless it is "taken over and maintained by the Public Works Department and the Ministry of the Environment".
Lawyers would not be drawn into whether these home owners would indeed be able to impose parking penalties, under a strict interpretation of the law.
But that is of little consolation to the driver whose car was clamped in Jalan Mas Puteh. The residents said they have spent about $2,000 installing signs indicating that the road is private property.
A resident, who wanted to be known only as Roger, said the owners had consulted the LTA on dealing with trespassing vehicles. "The LTA said it's up to us to come up with our rules to address this issue," he said.
"We don't want to charge anyone for parking fees - they're not even supposed to park here."
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