For many seniors in Singapore, a Housing and Development Board (HDB) is more than a roof over their heads. It can also double up as a source of retirement income in their silver years.
Take, for example, Madam Peggy Wong. After the 66-year-old's transport business was hit by a financial slowdown in 2015, she decided to rent out a room in her five-room flat in Toa Payoh to supplement her income. Now semi-retired, Madam Wong spends her free time upgrading herself with beauty and wellness skills.
"I live with my son, but he's usually away because he does a lot of volunteer work overseas. When my employment situation changed, I decided that renting out a room was a good idea. I could get some extra cash and have some company when my son is away," she said.
Renting out your room
Seniors who own a three-room or larger flat can follow Madam Wong's lead by renting out a spare room for additional income.
All you need to do is submit an application to obtain HDB's approval to rent out your room. The application can be submitted through an e-Service on HDB InfoWEB or at the closest HDB Branch.
The number of bedrooms that you can rent out depends on your flat type. If you own a three-room flat, you may rent out one bedroom, leaving the other bedroom for yourself. Owners of four-room or larger flats can rent out two bedrooms. There should be no more than six occupants living in a flat at any time.
The minimum rental period for a tenant renting a bedroom is six months, and up to a maximum of three years if he or she is Singaporean or Malaysian. For tenants of other nationalities, the maximum rental period is two years. As the flat owner renting out rooms, you must continue to live in the flat during the period of rental.
Renting out your HDB flat
You can also rent out your entire flat if you wish to. This option is most suitable if you own a flat and plan to live with your children or other family members. The option to rent out an entire flat is only open to Singaporean flat owners who have fulfilled the five-year minimum occupation period.
Mr Victor Goh, 70, is a flat owner who took up this option of renting out his flat. He used to live alone in a three-room flat until his younger brother invited him to move in with his family in 2012. Mr Goh accepted the invitation and submitted his application to rent out his flat to HDB.
"My brother's family is big and there is never a dull moment living at his place. I enjoy the company, and am able to use the rental from my flat for my living expenses and to add to my retirement savings," he said.
Peace of mind and companionship in golden years
Aside from supplementing their monthly incomes, renting out a bedroom or moving in with family while renting out their flat helps seniors to build more meaningful relationships and widen their social circle.
Having rented out her spare bedroom for the past four years, Madam Wong still keeps in touch with her tenants and has forged close friendships with some of them.
Mr Goh shares a similar experience of living a more enriching life. The 70-year-old says his brother and sister-in-law have been a great help, driving him to his medical appointments, and he returns the favour by treating the family to sumptuous dinners occasionally. The time spent together as a family was something that did not occur as frequently when he lived alone.
"I have no regrets about renting out my flat. Rather than living alone in a three-room flat, I now have family around to share my ups and downs with. I also have the freedom to enjoy the things I like to do, without having to worry too much about money."