by Leong Sze Hian, Lee Mei Hwee and Alex Lew

Mrs Tay (not her real name) has been the owner, together with her daughter, of a 3-room HDB flat for 16 years.

In 2005, she and her daughter were asked to select a replacement flat under the Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

Although her husband, a Malaysian working in Malaysia was not staying with her, she casually asked the HDB SERS officers whether he needs to be listed as an occupier.

She was advised that although it was not necessary, she may like to include him as he would occasionally come to stay with them, even though he did not even have a long-term visit pass.

In January this year, her new replacement flat was ready and they went to collect their keys.

During the keys collection, she casually enquired as to whether she should take her daughter’s name out, leaving herself and her son as the flat owners, because her daughter is married and living in Australia.

She was advised to fill a new form, to take her daughter’s name out, as she may want to buy her own flat in the future.

So, whilst completing the new form, they answered ‘yes’ truthfully to the question that her Malaysian husband had bought a property in Malaysia after the SERS announcement in 2005.

They were then told that they had breached the condition that no listed occupier are allowed to buy a private property in Singapore or a foreign country.

They have no flat now, and were compensated with $192,000 for having given up her flat under SERS.

A 3-room resale flat in her area now cost more than $400,000.

They have appealed to their Member of Parliament and HDB over the last six months or so, but to no avail.

Their last letter of appeal to HDB in July, ended with the following sentence:-

“We (my son, my husband and myself) can and want to serve and contribute to Singapore for many more years. This is our home, we love what we are doing, which is beneficial to society. So, please look into our request favourably, and grant us the home which we are about to lose”.

Even at the new flat keys collection, the Malaysian husband is also not absolutely required to be listed as an occupier, as the flat’s owners are Mrs Tay and her son.

There was also some confusion as Mrs Tay’s daughter wrote that in a letter from the HDB on the SERS replacement flat, it was advised that owners of private property were not eligible for a HDB loan. So, one may have been confused into thinking that it was alright to own a private property to get a SERS flat, but not a HDB loan only.

In fact, owners of a HDB flat for more than five years have been allowed to own private property at the same time provided they stay in the HDB flat. So, since this was the rule at the time of the SERS in 2005, wouldn’t it be confusing as some may not realize that a new condition on private property ownership was imposed.

If you take a person’s flat away and give him/her a new replacement, is it fair to impose this new condition, which would not be there had  he/she continued to own the flat, if not for being “forced” to En-Bloc?

Her husband has given up his ownership of the Malaysian property to appeal to the HDB, but has been rejected.

Mrs Tay is a Malaysian who has been a permanent resident in Singapore for about 20 years. Mrs Tay has actively contributed to Singapore in that period of time, especially in helping to care for children with special needs.

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