PRs who no longer need to stay in their flats should sell them instead of subletting, says HDB
By Joanne Chan
SINGAPORE – Singapore permanent residents (PRs) who want to rent out their public flats will now face stricter subletting rules, such as a shorter rental period of one year.
The Housing and Development Board (HDB) announced several revisions yesterday, which take immediate effect, to “reinforce the policy intent of providing HDB flats as homes to the SPRs and to deter those who are buying the flats for rental yield or investment purposes”.
Singapore citizen homeowners will not be affected by the changes.
Previously, all flat owners – both Singaporeans and PRs – who meet the minimum occupation period could apply to rent out their flats for a period of three years. They could then ask for an extension, with no cap on the number of renewals, or the total period of subletting.
Under the new rules, when the new one-year rental period expires for PRs, any extension will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and approval will be granted only if there are extenuating reasons, said the HDB.
In addition, PRs can now only rent out their flats for a total period not exceeding five years.
For PR homeowners already renting out their flats, the HDB said they would be allowed to see out the three-year agreement, after which they would be subject to the new rules.
Said the HDB: “If the SPR families no longer need the flats for their own occupation, they should sell the flat instead of subletting them.”
As of April, 49,190 flats are owned by Singapore PRs. Of this number, 2,142 owners currently sublet their flats, making up just 5 per cent of the total approved sublet cases.
However, property firm ERA said its figures showed that more PRs are renting out their HDB flats, and this might have prompted the revision of the rules.
ERA Key Executive Officer Eugene Lim said the new rules are “just to put a check on the potential numbers of PR households that would actually consider renting out their flats”.
Another market watcher, Dennis Wee Group Senior Manager of Research and Consultancy Lee Sze Teck, felt the changes better fit the housing needs of PRs.
“PRs may only be here for work-related purposes … one year is good enough for them.”
Chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development Lee Bee Wah supported the changes, saying that PRs should not be “entitled to the same privileges or benefits that Singapore-born citizens enjoy”.
She added: “This will also resolve some of the concerns residents have pertaining to an influx of strangers and foreigners in their neighbourhoods as a result of their neighbours subletting their flats freely.”
The changes come two days after the Manpower Ministry tightened the criteria for work pass holders to sponsor dependents, as part of plans to moderate the growth of Singapore’s non-resident population.
As for the impact on the rental market, PropNex CEO Mohamed Ismail said that PRs held too small a share of the HDB sublet pie for the move to have a significant impact on rental supply and prices. JOANNE CHAN