Rental flats: HDB to weed out errant tenants

Rental flats: HDB to weed out errant tenants 

It will conduct more checks to identify those who sublet subsidised flats illegally

By Jessica Cheam 

 

THE Housing and Development Board (HDB) is clamping down harder on the abuse of its heavily subsidised rental flats.

Enforcement blitzes to identify illegally rented flats will be stepped up and they will be extended across a wider area of the country, said the HDB yesterday.

 

Its response comes amid growing disquiet on several fronts about the abuse of subsidised rental housing.

 

MPs, residents of rental blocks and eligible Singaporeans who feel they have been left in the queue while foreign workers snap up cheap flats have all called for action.

 

The Straits Times reported last week that an increasing number of tenants have been illegally subletting HDB flats to cash in on the demand for low-priced accommodation. The flats are often leased to workers from Malaysia, China and India who are either in the dark about rules or just want the cheapest rental option.

 

Some MPs told The Straits Times that residents had alerted them to the illegal rentals and demanded more enforcement.

 

‘There should be more thorough checks,’ said Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua. ‘Subsidised housing should be given to deserving families. People who do not need it should let it go.’

 

HDB rental flats have soared in demand over the past year, with the waiting list up by at least 30 per cent in recent months. There are about 4,000 applicants in the queue with a waiting time of 15 months – double the wait in 2006.

 

Ms Lee Bee Wah, an Ang Mo Kio GRC MP, frequently gets appeals from Singaporeans who are eligible for rental flats but have been stuck in the queue for several months.

 

The issues concerning rental flats have been raised in Parliament before. National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said in a February session that HDB will increase its supply of 42,000 flats by 20 per cent. It is also reviewing its eligibility scheme.

 

He also said then that enforcement will be carried out to ‘weed out those who do not need or have abused the privilege of a rental flat’.

 

HDB has stepped up enforcement efforts and extended blitzes to areas such as Jalan Minyak, Telok Blangah, Jalan Bukit Merah, Kallang- Whampoa, Mei Ling Street and Clementi this year. These are on top of annual inspections ‘to ensure the tenancy of the flat is in order’.

 

Tenants illegally renting out their home can lose the flat and face a five-year ban from renting or buying HDB property.

 

As of April, HDB had recovered 131 flats since 2005.

 

An MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Mr Teo Ser Luck, said the community could also be roped in to help. ‘There is a greater demand for rental flats and we need everyone’s help to highlight errant cases,’ he said.

 

HDB said that about 30 per cent of the cases of illegal renting uncovered stemmed from residents’ feedback.

 

North West District Mayor Teo Ho Pin, who is also MP for Bukit Panjang, said the problem goes beyond housing demand and touches on the lack of cheap, adequate housing for foreign workers.

 

‘We need to quickly provide solutions to house the foreign workers,’ said Dr Teo, so as not to crowd out needy Singaporeans.

 

Retiree Amy Tan Ai Bee, 75, is one such Singaporean. She has spent 14 months in the queue: ‘I think it’s really unfair that I waited for such a long time, yet there are people who are renting their flats out for a profit. I hope this can be addressed soon.’

 

Source: Straits Times

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