HDB Investigating Vacant BTO Listings, Violators Of Minimum Occupation Rule Face Up To S$50K Fine

HDB Investigates Vacant BTO Listings That May Not Have Met Minimum Occupation Period

The topic of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats being put up for sale or rent after being left vacant for years has been a hot one lately.

In a Facebook post, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee re-emphasised that flat owners must physically occupy their units for a minimum of five years before reselling or renting them out.

HDB vacant flats MOP

Source: Desmond Lee on Facebook

In line with recent reports of vacant BTO flats, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) has confirmed that they are investigating some cases to determine whether they are in violation of the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) rules.

If they find that the owner has not resided in the unit during the MOP, owners may face a fine of up to S$50,000. HDB may also “compulsorily acquire” their flat.

HDB reminds owners to fulfil MOP before reselling or renting out BTO

On Thursday (22 Dec), HDB issued a reminder on Facebook that flat owners have to fulfil the MOP before they can sell or rent out their flats.

HDB flats MOP

Source: Housing & Development Board on Facebook

During the MOP, owners cannot purchase any other residential properties.

The standard MOP for most flats is five years, whereas it’s 10 years for Prime Location Public Housing Flats.

The policy’s purpose was to guard the flats against “misuse” as they are primarily for owner occupation, the post wrote.

Flats bought from the resale market are also subject to this rule.

Additionally, the post stated that actions can be taken against homeowners who flout the rules.

They include written warnings, a penalty of up to S$50,000, and compulsory acquisition of said flats.

As an extra safeguard, HDB may also inspect flats being resold to identify signs of whether they were lived in.

In cases where no such signs are detected, HDB may withhold the resale application and commence investigations.

HDB has taken action against 53 cases since 2017

Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported that HDB has enforced action against 53 such cases between 2017 and November this year.

21 of the flat owners who did not fulfil their full MOP term had their units compulsorily acquired by HDB.

The remaining cases received either financial penalties or warnings.

They will also be debarred for five years, during which they cannot buy a flat with a CPF Housing Grant.

Further restrictions include being barred from taking over a flat by changing its ownership or renting public rental flats.

HDB will put up units they have reacquired for sale as sale of balance flats.

Multiple listings of ‘vacant’ BTO flats online

The issue of ‘vacant’ resale  HDB flats came to light with the discovery of suspicious listings on property sites.

One user linked a HardwareZone forum post below Mr Lee’s Facebook post, which contained multiple listings of seemingly bare homes.

While most of the listings have since been removed, one can still see the photos via screenshots.

There are tell-tale signs that the units have never been resided in, such as a lack of kitchen fittings and floorings, as well as stoves and toilet seats that are still wrapped in plastic.

Only one such property remains on the website — a 3-bedroom flat at 29 Ghim Moh Edge.

HDB vacant flats MOP

Source: PropertyGuru

Although it is unclear if the unit was ever resided in, it has no visible kitchen or light fittings and contains little furniture.

Previously, Shin Min Daily News reported that a listed 3-bedroom flat at 505A Yishun Street 51 appeared to have been unoccupied for eight years.

Like the aforementioned listings, its toilet seat still had plastic wrapping and the floor had yet to be tiled.

HDB has urged the public to call its toll-free hotline at 1800-555-6370 if they encounter a suspicious listing or suspect a flat is being “misused”.

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Featured image adapted from PropertyGuru and @maxoh on Unsplash, for illustration purposes only.

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