S'pore man, 42, charged after allegedly packing 39 migrant workers into two shophouses

SINGAPORE - A 42-year-old Singaporean has been charged with 11 counts for abetting employers to house migrant workers in unacceptable accommodation, which allegedly involved packing 39 of them into two shophouses.

Lau Liang Thye has also been charged with one count of illegally employing a migrant worker without a valid work pass and three counts for the unauthorised development of private residential units into dormitory accommodation.

Another Singaporean man, Tay Kim Kiat, 58, faces three charges, which include converting a private residential unit to provide unauthorised dormitory accommodation and for permitting Lau to provide dormitory accommodation at another two units.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a joint statement on Tuesday (Oct 5) that they inspected a pair of three-storey shophouses in Lorong 23 Geylang on Dec 3, 2018.

A total of 39 occupants were found to be living on the two premises that had been partitioned.

Investigations revealed that Lau had rented the second and third floors of the two premises from Tay and sublet them to other tenants, including 22 migrant workers.

In addition, Lau had allegedly sublet partitioned rooms on the rooftop of the two premises without Tay's knowledge.

The 39 tenants found residing on the two premises had exceeded URA's occupancy cap rules of no more than six unrelated occupants at each of the premises.

The migrant workers' employers were ordered to relocate all affected workers to proper and approved accommodation within two weeks, the agencies said.

Lau also allegedly employed one of his tenants, Zhu Guangpeng, a 46-year-old Chinese national, as a housekeeper and rent collector in exchange for a reduction in his rent when Zhu did not have a valid work pass to do so.

Under URA's regulations, private residential properties are subject to an occupancy cap of six unrelated people. All occupants must also stay for a minimum of three consecutive months.

Home owners should ensure their properties are not used for unauthorised purposes.

Those who have rented out their residential properties should verify the names of work pass holders registered to be residing at their addresses using the Foreign Worker Tenant Enquiry Service.

They should physically check their premises periodically for fire hazards and overcrowding.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012, employers are required to ensure that their migrant workers reside in acceptable accommodation that complies with the various statutory requirements.

Employers who fail to do so can be fined up to $10,000, or jailed for up to 12 months, or both, for each charge.

Migrant workers who have accommodation issues can report the matter to MOM at 6438-5122 or call the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) helpline at 6536-2692.

Note: The story has been updated for accuracy.

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