Painful times for owners of untenanted properties

Mr Tan (centre) posing for a group shot at the ERA conference yesterday with (from left) Mr Chu, Mr Chua, key executive officer Eugene Lim and chief operating officer Doris Ong.
Mr Tan (centre) posing for a group shot at the ERA conference yesterday with (from left) Mr Chu, Mr Chua, key executive officer Eugene Lim and chief operating officer Doris Ong. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

They still have to pay property tax and maintenance fees, minister told at dialogue with ERA agents

The pain of paying property tax on untenanted property was among several issues ERA property agents raised with Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan- Jin at the company's Asia-Pacific Business Conference yesterday.

ERA chief operating officer Marcus Chu raised the issue in a dialogue with the minister held at Marina Bay Sands about the rising number of properties for which owners cannot find tenants.

Prior to 2014, there was a concession which provided a tax refund for the owner of a vacant property.

These owners are now hit by a triple whammy: not having the tax refund, not having tenants and still having to pay maintenance fees despite having bought the properties when the policy providing tax refunds was in place, said Mr Chu.

Mr Tan noted these concerns but said owners of an investment property are likely to be in the higher income segment of the population. The Government has to balance the Budget, drawing its income from various forms of taxes, he said.

"We hear the concerns on this front, and this is something which the Ministry of Finance will closely look at. And should there be a need for us to perhaps step in with various relief efforts, we will do that."

Another issue raised was the perceived contradiction between the Government's encouragement of entrepreneurship and the fact that for the self-employed, only 70 per cent of annual income is typically recognised when they apply for bank loans.

Mr Tan said the issue was a "fair concern", adding it is "feedback we can certainly put forward to the Monetary Authority of Singapore to see if we could be more calibrated".

In his closing message, Mr Tan urged the 2,000-strong crowd of property agents to look out for the well-being of their clients and to advise them when they "over-extend" when buying a property.

"One of the very common problems I do see among my residents with financial issues, is that they over-extended on a property which they could not sustain... You make a real difference to their quality of life by the quality of advice you provide," he said

Yesterday's conference also marked the company's 35th anniversary. ERA chief executive Jack Chua said that last year, ERA closed 52,897 deals, with a total value of about $19 billion. "Compared with 2015's performance, ERA has successfully gained a higher market share in some segments despite the bearish market conditions. We closed 6,787 more transactions last year, and our 15.6 per cent growth rate is two times higher than the market's 6.7 per cent."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Painful times for owners of untenanted properties'. Print Edition | Subscribe