Divorce seems to be among the top reasons home owners are allowed to sell their Housing Board flats before the five-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) is up, going by anecdotal evidence.
Property agents told The Straits Times that the bulk of such special approvals are granted in divorce cases.
Financial troubles, including hardship due to the death of a breadwinner, and sickness, like the need to move close to terminally ill family members, are other reasons that are cited for wanting to let go of flats early, said HDB.
Such cases are "rare", and special permission to sell within the MOP is granted only under "exceptional circumstances". There were only 218 such cases last year - about 1 per cent of the 19,306 flats that were sold in the same period, a spokesman told The Straits Times. "As an example, some divorcees may not be eligible to retain the flat upon their divorce," she said. "Since the breakdown of the marriage is beyond the couple's control, HDB may consider allowing them to sell the flat so that they can each move on with their lives. In general, HDB will assess the family's circumstances carefully before deciding."
Home owners who are emigrating have been given similar permission to sell their flats early.
ERA Realty agent Ken Lee, 47, said: "Others might also need to relocate to be closer to their relatives for childcare or eldercare purposes."
PropNex agent James Lin, 34, said the HDB's flexibility is helpful to residents who are in genuine difficulty. "But it's good that they are strict with these approvals. If they give everyone the green light, people will abuse the system," he added.
Mr Lee agreed. He said: "It shouldn't be easy to sell one's flat early. The MOP is there to safeguard the interests of the other residents."