The Chinese media reported on Wednesday (20 Mar) that a 4-room HDB flat was allegedly used to house a total of 24 tenants, four times the maximum allowed by HDB.
Presently, 4-room HDB flats can only have a maximum of 6 tenants, with an average of 2 persons to a room.
Reporters went to the unit in block 403 at Pandan Gardens and found that the 4-room flat has 3 double-decker bunk beds crammed into each bedroom, housing at least 18 people in the 3 bedrooms. In one of the bedrooms, 8 people were seen living inside and the living room was also illegally partitioned into two more rooms and rented to two couples, giving a total of 24.
Clothing were seen hanging haphazardly everywhere from the beds and ceiling with barely enough space to move around.
A tenant told a reporter that to avoid getting caught, the landlord imposed strict rules, barring the tenants from answering the door, cooking in the flat, and hanging their clothes out to dry. He said, “We have to always keep the windows tightly shut… At night we try not to turn on the lights.”
The tenants were said to have been mainly introduced through work agents, and the illegal subletting had gone on for about four years.
Another tenant said he did not know who actually owns the flat. Apparently, all matters, including rent, were handled by one tenant who also lived in the same flat.
According to HDB’s website, flat owner who rents their flat out need to ensure that only legal tenants are staying in the flat. The number of tenants also cannot exceed the maximum number allowed. For 1 and 2-room flats, it’s four people while for 3-room and above is six.
Owners must also ensure that their tenants do not further rent out the flat to others. Also, the owners will have to pay a higher property tax.
Other requirements include: The minimum rental period for each tenant must be 6 months per application. The flats cannot be rented out on a short-term basis.
HDB said on its website, “Our flats are meant for homeowners to live in. The terms and conditions help ensure a conducive and harmonious living environment in HDB estates. Singaporean citizens have to meet all the eligibility conditions and obtain our written approval by submitting an online application.”
“We take a very serious view of unauthorised rental and will not hesitate to take action against errant flat owners who flout the rules. Even if you have obtained approval to rent out your flat, you should conduct regular checks to ensure that the rules and regulations are met,” it added.
“We conduct regular checks to take enforcement action against unauthorised rentals. We also carry out targeted investigations on suspected cases of unauthorised rentals when we receive feedback from the public.”
Meanwhile, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong had told Parliament that only 70 illegal subletting cases were dealt with in the 3 years from 2014 to 2016, giving an average of 23 cases a year.
In any case, the alleged illegal subletting at block 403 of Pandan Gardens went unnoticed for 4 long years.
HDB is currently investigating the case.