Thursday, 21 September 2023

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Mother with 2 children homeless in 2 weeks?

By Leong Sze Hian and financial counselling volunteers


Legal Aid Bureau helped with divorce

Elsie (not her real name) is a 48 year old Singaporean divorcee (divorce finalised in November 2011 through assistance from the Legal Aid Bureau).

She has 2 sons, age 19 and 20 who are studying in the polytechnic. She was awarded $300 maintenance monthly for 3 years from her ex-husband, a 50 year old permanent resident who abandoned her in 2007.

To the best of her knowledge, he works as a QC supervisor with a monthly salary of about $2,800.

$4,431 arrears – HDB compulsory acquisition of 5-room flat?

She has received a letter from the HDB informing her that as she has 7 months’ arrears (mortgage monthly repayment is $633) totaling $4,431 – her 5-room HDB flat will be compulsorily acquired at 90 per cent of the HDB’s valuation of $398,000. HDB has also told her orally that the compulsory acquisition may occur in 2 weeks time.

CPF shortfall?

Her ex-husband has refused to pay anything including the $633 monthly mortgage or the shortfall on his CPF that has to be returned to his CPF account after the sale of the HDB flat (his share was only 50 % of the flat as joint-owner, but he now refuse to or claims that he is unable to make up the CPF shortfall difference as per the court order).

In November last year, the previous outstanding arrears of about $13,000 was settled in full. She has asked a real estate agent to try to sell the flat and the estimated price including COV is about $470,000.

The divorce court order is that her ex-husband’s 50 % share of the flat be transferred to her, subject to her ex-husband’s CPF utilised of about $240,000 is returned to his CPF account. She has utilised about $80,000 of her CPF inclusive of accrued interest for the HDB flat. The outstanding housing loan balance on the HDB loan is about $100,000.

Forced sale only $35,000 net proceeds?

Based on the above estimate, she may get very little cash proceeds if she is forced to sell her flat in the open market ($470,000 – $15,000 flat transaction expenses – $100,000 loan balance – $240,000 to ex-husband’s CPF – $80,000 to her CPF = $35,000). How long will $35,000 last for her and her 2 sons, if she has to rent a flat in the open market (nobody may rent a room to a divorcee with 2 teenager children), plus the fact that she will lose her $1,000 monthly income from her 2 rooms’ rental.

Will they become homeless?

No one has talked to her about what her housing options are, if the flat is compulsorily acquired. Can she apply for a HDB rental flat (the 30 months debarment period from the flat disposal applies in her case), be offered a 3-room rental flat to share with another family under the Interim Housing Scheme or a homeless shelter?

Elsie has not been working since 2008 due to medical reasons and her condition which started in 1999 has been deteriorating. She and her 2 children survives on about $1,000 a month from the renting out of 2 of her rooms. She last worked as a secretary (her highest qualification is a diploma) earning about $2,600.

As she has already taken 2 HDB loans, she is not eligible to apply for a 3rd HDB loan to enable her to take over the complete ownership of the flat from her ex-husband. She is also not able to obtain any HDB bank housing loan as she is a discharged bankrupt. She was bankrupted in 1999 for debts of about $14,000 incurred for her and her 2 sons’  living expenses, and was discharged from bankruptcy in 2003.

Seeking assistance?

She came for financial counseling (referred by TOC’s editor as she had emailed TOC for help) and we advised her to seek assistance from AWARE, SCWO and the Legal Aid Bureau. She called AWARE and SCWO, and went to the Legal Aid Bureau on 5 July, to seek help.

Thank you very much – Legal Aid Bureau

Legal Aid Bureau has opened a file for her and given her an early appointment date of 9 July.

According to Elsie, AWARE is unable to assist her as her matter relates to HDB and CPF issues arising from the divorce after the finalisation of her divorce court order, and SCWO has given her the earliest possible appointment  date of 18 July to seek legal advice from their free legal clinic.

Financial assistance?

Since her income is only about $1,000 from the rental of her 2 rooms, I asked her if she was getting any financial assistance. I also suggested that she see her MP for assistance regarding her HDB and CPF problems on her flat.

She replied that she did not get any assistance and has also not seen her MP since her divorce was finalised in November 2012 and the problems of her flat became clearer – because the last 2 times that she sought assistance from her MP – she did not receive any help. – About 2 years ago on her problem that she could not pay her son’s polytechnic tuition fees, and about a year ago about her difficulty in paying her electricity bills.

We advised her that notwithstanding her past experience – she should go and seek assistance from her MP. We also advised her to call the ComCare hotline 1800222000 to seek financial assistance (from our experience and understanding she should qualify as her income is only $1,000 from renting the 2 rooms and there are 3 persons including her 2 sons who are dependents).

Please help if you can…

Can anyone please offer any suggestions, advice or assistance to Elsie and her 2 sons?
You can write to us at [email protected] if you have any.


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