They ignored the warning signs, even though they had had the problem before.
In the wee hours of Monday morning, Madam Chen Xiuying was on her way to the toilet when concrete pieces from her kitchen ceiling landed in front of her. The 70-year-old told Shin Min Daily News yesterday that they fell just 2m away.
Her husband, retiree Lee Zhanwu, said: "We had noticed two cracks of about 30cm before Chinese New Year but thought we would report them later on. We didn't think too much about it."
According to Mr Lee, 75, the crash in their two-room rental flat in Block 51, Marine Terrace, was so loud that their neighbour from a lower floor came to find out what was happening. "He thought that we had thrown something," said Mr Lee.
This is not the first time the couple's flat has had spalling concrete, but Mr Lee said this incident was more serious, as the chunks that fell came up to about the size of a mahjong table. Madam Chen said one slab was about an inch thick, and she was lucky it missed her.
Officers from the Housing Board visited the flat on Monday and temporary repair work was done to prevent more pieces from falling.
An HDB spokesman said: "As this is a rental flat, we will bear the full cost of repair."
Mr Lee said the HDB offered to do maintenance on the ceiling in their bedroom, as well as repair work for the kitchen. Their flat is 43 years old, and the couple have been living in it for 18 years.
This is not the first time the couple's flat has had spalling concrete, but Mr Lee said this incident was more serious, as the chunks that fell came up to about the size of a mahjong table.
The HDB's website states that spalling concrete is a common issue for older buildings. It happens when the steel bars embedded in the ceiling slab rust over time, causing the concrete cover to crack and bulge.
The HDB says home owners are responsible for the repair of any spalling concrete in their flats, but it provides a list of contractors who can be engaged.
It stressed that it is important for residents to carry out regular visual checks and repairs in their flats to keep them in good condition.
Those who need more information or assistance on the repair of spalling concrete are advised to contact the HDB.