SINGAPORE - Crowded HDB flats could soon be a thing of the past. In line with caps on private homes, the Housing Board is reducing the number of unrelated tenants allowed to rent a HDB flat.
From May 1, owners of four-room or larger HDB flats will only be able to rent out their property to a maximum of six unrelated people, down from the current limit of nine.
In a statement on Thursday (Feb 1), the HDB also announced it is cutting the number of occupants allowed in three-room and larger living quarters of HDB commercial properties, such as shophouses, from eight to six.
The changes aim to minimise the problems caused by overcrowding, and maintain “a conducive living environment” in Singapore’s public housing estates, a spokesman said.
The policy is also in line with the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s move last May which limited the occupancy cap from eight to six unrelated tenants, she added.
The old rules apply to agreements signed before May 1 this year. But from that date, the new provisions will apply once the rental arrangement is renewed, or when there are changes in the flat’s occupants.
Also, all flat owners, including commercial property owners, must get the HDB’s approval before renting out their properties, to ensure eligibility conditions are met before tenancy starts. Currently, those who own HDB commercial properties are not required to do so.
The revised cap is unlikely to have an adverse impact on landlords, due to the relatively small number of affected homeowners, property analysts said.
Of 1 million HDB homeowners, 54,000 households rented out their whole flats while 73,000 households rented out bedrooms, according to figures from Dec 31 last year.
Only 11 per cent of these landlord households have more than six tenants or occupants registered in the flat, the HDB told The Straits Times.
The two largest real estate agencies here, PropNex and ERA Realty, noted that having nine occupants in a HDB is “not common” as most owners believe having too many tenants could lead to faster wear-and-tear and affect future rentals.
But they added that the change might see a slight increase in short-term rentals.
PropNex key executive officer Lim Yong Hock said: “In some cases where a large group of tenants would rent out a whole flat, they might now have to rent two separate ones.”
ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said tenants renting out HDB shophouses may be more affected, as most of those renting out four-room or larger flats stick to six tenants or less.
But rental rates are unlikely to rise significantly, as there is “a lot of spare capacity” in both private and public housing markets, he said.
One homeowner who welcomed the move was 48-year-old housewife Judith A., who lives in Jurong, where agents said rentals to large groups tend to be more common. “I lived below a unit tenanted out to a large group – it was noisy, crowded, and felt unsafe,” she said.
ERA agent Chris Tan expects tenants to be badly hit. Of the 20 to 30 rental deals he closes a year, most in Jurong West and Buona Vista, more than half exceed six tenants. Most of these are leased by companies, especially those in service industries like nursing or car repairs.
“If the costs are too high, companies might decide not to hire so many staff altogether,” he said.
To find out more, the public can contact the HDB branch service line at 1800-225-5432, or the commercial properties enquiry line at 1800-866-3073. The lines are open from 8am to 5pm on weekdays.