All renovation projects are being put on hold amid the ‘circuit breaker’ measures in Singapore, forcing many homeowners to live in half-renovated homes or find a temporary place to stay.
Several homeowners shared their stories with 99.co – a real estate portal – saying that they have to pay compensation to their buyers as they have to postpone the handover until the renovation at their new homes is completed.
One of the homeowners is Julie Lim, who has scheduled to handover her Pasir Ris executive HDB flat to her buyer by 30 May. She had planned to move into her new five-room resale flat in Punggol after completing the handover, but her plan has been impeded following the ‘circuit breaker’ measures.
In the 99.co’s article, it was highlighted that the seller will need to pay compensation – in the form of rent – to the buyer if the handover cannot be completed on time. Although HDB permits a maximum of three months’ extension on a flat’s completion date, the rent negotiation between the buyer and seller is beyond HDB’s control.
In Ms Lim’s case, she has to choose whether to pay S$2,300 of rent per month to her buyer for an extension of stay in Pasir Ris flat and the utilities of two households, or pay for temporary accommodation, storage, and movers.
“Why do I have to pay when I did not intentionally delay my renovation? Some people can hardly survive day by day, what more additional rent?” she then suggested a standstill on all housing transactions or a compulsory three-month extension during the ‘circuit breaker’.
Meanwhile, homeowner Phyllis Oh shared that her appeal to delay the completion of her flat’s transaction was denied. Mrs Oh is a single mother who lives with her three children and a helper in a four-room flat in Hougang. The family was scheduled to move out by 16 May and move into a five-room flat which also situated in Hougang.
She claimed that she has started paying for the renovation and mortgage before the renovation was even started, but now the renovation progress hit a pause button due to the country’s ‘circuit breaker’.
“My buyers are asking for $2,200 per month; they are renting and have to incur their own costs, too. But I will not be able to afford this amount. Furthermore, the minimum period to rent a home in the private market is usually three months,” said Mrs Oh.
On the other hand, a married couple Muhammad Sufiyan and Siti Nabilah decided to move into their three-room HDB BTO (Build-to-Order) flat in Bedok on 7 April despite the unfinished renovation work.
They have to live in such conditions where there is no kitchen, ceiling fan, and carpentry, while the floors are covered with cardboard. Mr Sufiyan described the unfinished HDB flat has leftover cement all over it, while fine dust is constantly falling from the walls and ceilings.
“Now that the circuit breaker has been extended, we are hoping for leniency on renovating the essentials like the kitchen and electrical points. How else will we survive an additional month?” Ms Nabilah questioned.
HDB’s and property agents’ points of view
In response to queries from 99.co, HDB clarified that there is no subsidy in place at the moment for homeowners who are forced to extend their completion period amid the ‘circuit breaker’, adding that homeowners who are facing difficulties can contact HDB for further assistance.
Meanwhile, one property agent – not identified in the article – advised that Ms Lim’s suggestion to impose a standstill or compulsory three-month extension might work for Ms Lim but not for the majority of unaffected parties.
The agent suggested a case-by-case approach in which the authorities can provide a subsidy or a guide on the rental cost. This way, the buyer can still get paid and the seller will not have to pay a high amount of compensation.
“The least they can do is set up specific hotlines for common issues that have arisen during the circuit breaker. The issue now is that no one has spoken about this and the issue is left hanging in the air,” the agent remarked.
Another property agent, Stuart Chng from the Navis Living Group of OrangeTee opined that HDB cannot be made responsible to carry the burden of costs for the situation that is “an act of God”.
Mr Chng believes that it would be fair for both buyers and sellers to seek their own compromise in this situation. He advised those who are facing such situations to “give some and take some” and come to a compromise.
Netizens shared they face the same experiences, urged the Govt to take considerations
The stories of the homeowners have led some netizens to voice out their own struggles of having to live in unfinished accommodation or to pay compensation to their buyers following the ‘circuit breaker’ in Singapore.
One netizen claimed of having the same situation as Ms Lim’s case, indicating that it is sad to see that affected homeowners are left with no other option than to make a new agreement with the buyer. The netizen understood that it is an “act of God” but opined that the Government should also step in to help affected homeowners at times like this.
Another netizen wrote that the ‘circuit breaker’ period has caused him to be constantly in worry and feeling lost. He highlighted the most worrying part now is that the renovation companies can only proceed to finish their work after 1 June.
One user commented that he faced the same situation as the married couple’s case. The user was told by HDB to rent a flat or move in with family but he worries that he may put his mother – who has asthma – and his niece’s newborn baby at risk of being infected with the virus as he is an essential worker.
He said that HDB cannot help him and instead asked him to contact the Ministry of Trade and Industry for his request to fix the toilet, kitchen sink and the exposed wires in his half-renovated house.
One netizen with the username Izham questioned on why home-renovation workers are not essential workers amid the ‘circuit breaker’ period. He noted that he has to pay S$5,000 of rent to his buyer as he cannot move into his new house due to his children’s safety.
One netizen named Radiah Binti Rahmat shared that her family managed to move out of their house at Yishun before the ‘circuit breaker’ took place. They have been living with family relatives but both Ms Radiah and her husband are running out of money as they have paid the deposit for the new house. She hopes that the Government will take consideration to allow contractors and designers to return to work as the family needs their new home.
Meanwhile, one netizen wrote that his house-renovation was put on hold but he has a place to stay as he is renting a place. He is thankful that his landlord agreed to extend the rental payment beyond his contract.