The minimum occupation period is counted from the time the owner collects the keys, but does not include the time the owner has not lived in the flat.
Non-compliance can result in compulsory repossession, a fine of up to $50,000 or a written warning.
The repossessed flat will be sold as a surplus HDB flat and the owner will not be able to purchase a subsidised HDB flat or apply for a rental HDB flat for the next five years.
At first glance, I thought this law was unreasonable.
However, on reflection, I really understand why Singapore can achieve such a feat as Home Ownership Scheme (HOS).
The BTO HDB flats were originally built for those who really need a home, and not only are the prices low, but there are many exemptions.
It would be very unfair to those who are in need of a home but are not given a place if they do not live in it even though they are receiving state benefits. This is why the majority of Singaporeans are in favour of this law.
A recent case of illegal sale of HDB flats has attracted public attention.
The five-bedroom HDB flat in Block 505A, Shun 51 Street, with a total area of 1,206 square feet, was put up for sale on the property sales platform PropertyGuru for $690,000.
The HDB flat is not only empty, the living room is not tiled or fitted with light fixtures, but even the plastic wrapping of the toilet seat has not been removed.
The HDB flat, which was completed in 2014, was purchased by a couple for less than $400,000, but has been left vacant as they live with their family in a landed property.
This is clearly a breach of the minimum residence age, so the HDB flat has now been renovated inside and is full of life. There is no accurate news on the exact findings of the investigation as to how the punishment will be meted out.
In response, National Development Minister Lee Chee Seng posted on Facebook that HDB flat owners who pre-purchase their flats must move in themselves and cannot leave them vacant for five years before reselling them on the open market. If the owner is unable to meet the Minimum Occupation Period, the flat must be returned to HDB, after which HDB will list it as a surplus HDB flat and open it up for other buyers to apply.
HDB also said that it has been investigating vacant HDB flats that are open for sale in the market.
The authority also conducts about 500 spot checks every month to ensure that there are no irregularities such as illegal renting of HDB flats, and stressed that it will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any irregularities.
From 2017 to November 2022 a total of 53 HDB flat owners were dealt with by HDB enforcement for failing to personally occupy their flats during the minimum residence period, of which 21 flats were compulsorily repossessed and the remaining owners were issued with written warnings or fined.
In the HDB resale process, the HDB will send officers to inspect the flats upon receipt of resale applications.
If signs of unoccupancy are found, the resale application will be put on hold and an in-depth investigation will be conducted, including interviews with the owner, neighbours, the seller and the housing agent, as well as a review of documents and records to prove the occupancy of the flat.
There are, of course, some exceptions, such as financial difficulties, divorce or death of the owner while not having lived in the flat for the minimum number of years, and the HDB will allow the owner to resell or rent the flat, depending on the circumstances.