One apartment, 90 workers

One apartment, 90 workers

 

The private apartment in Balestier Road is just :1,300-square- foot :big – but it houses some 90 foreign workers.

 

:The 50-year old landlord reportedly charges occupants between $170 and $200 a month, and is believed to run similar lodgings in other parts of Singapore.

 

:When Channel NewsAsia visited the premises with a representative from the National Safety Council, conditions were found to be extremely cramped. Some 30 stuffy, narrow cubicles of various sizes were created using wooden partitions. Power sockets in the apartment were overloaded with up to four plugs each, and there were only two fire extinguishes available.

 

:Said council chairman Tan Jin Thong: :“If something were to happen, like a short circuit, having lots of clothes lying nearby will definitely cause a fire.” :Underscoring the hazard, the CNA news team observed a blackout while there.

 

:Besides the obvious health hazards, the apartment owner could be prosecuted for breaching fire safety regulations. Apartment owners who ignore fire notices and orders can be fined. — Channel NewsAsia

 

Source: Today Newspaper

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Property values updated to match market rates

Property values updated to match market rates

 

I REFER to last Wednesday’s letter, ‘Property tax raised twice in a year’ by Mr Tan Wenfa.

 

Property tax is based on the annual value of a property, which is the estimated market rental of the property if it were to be let out. Annual values of properties need to be updated whenever they have become out of line with prevailing market rentals. Generally, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore reviews the annual values of properties every year.

 

The annual value of Mr Tan’s property was previously updated in September last year. Last month, the annual value had to be revised to reflect the prevailing market rentals for similar properties. The need to update the annual value of Mr Tan’s property is due to the increase in rentals for similar properties in the same estate between last year and this year.

 

We thank Mr Tan for the opportunity to clarify.

 

Deanna Choo (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications Branch

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore

 

Source: Straits Times

FAMILY: WE LOST $290,000 OVER BACK LANE

FAMILY: WE LOST $290,000 OVER BACK LANE

 

When trying to sell house, owners surprised to find out Government acquired their land

 

THEY were offered close to $2 million for their two-storey shophouse and the back lane behind it.

 

By Celine Lim

 

 

18 June 2008

 

THEY were offered close to $2 million for their two-storey shophouse and the back lane behind it.

 

But while trying to retrieve an online copy of the title deed to the back lane, the Goh family found out that the tiny strip of land had been acquired by the Government in an island-wide exercise in April last year.

 

As a result, the buyer, a property developer, slashed $290,000 off the purchase price.

 

The family said they did not receive any letter informing them that the back lane had been acquired.

 

Neither did they get any compensation.

 

Ms Goh G K, 52,said: ‘If it wasn’t for the offer for our house and lane, we won’t have known the Government had taken back the lane.’

 

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the lane was acquired under the Street Works Act and no compensation is due for such acquisitions.

 

It said it had notified the owners by posting a copy of the declaration together with a plan at the site of the Gohs’ back lane on 27 Mar 2007.

 

But the Gohs felt the LTA should have informed them personally by sending a letter.

 

Ms Goh, her five siblings and their mother are joint owners of the property.

 

‘We didn’t want to sell the house or the lane initially due to the sentimental value as all of us grew up there,’ said Ms Goh, who’s in sales.

 

‘In the past, the door to the back lane was always open. It was our ‘backyard’, where our mum used to make bak changs (rice dumplings) and extended family gatherings were held.

 

‘But our mum said, ‘Better sell the property and distribute the proceeds’.

 

‘She had heard about family tussles over property in the news and didn’t want us to end up squabbling after she passed away.’

 

Ms Goh said her parents had bought the house and back lane for about $20,000 in 1950.

 

The 261 sq ft lane is located right behind their two-storey Rangoon Road shophouse and the unit next door. The family owns part of the back lane, stretching from behind their unit to the next door unit.

 

In March 1999, the family paid about $2,000 in legal fees, stamp duties and for a plan of the land area from the chief surveyor to renew the title deeds so as to include the names of all the siblings.

 

Before that, the title deeds had only the names of the mother and the eldest Goh sibling.

 

The family has a physical copy of the title deed to the back lane.

 

When they wanted to sell the property last October, they tried to get a copy online from the Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA) website to show the buyer.

 

They were unable to do so and realised something was amiss.

 

They called the SLA, which told them the lane had been acquired by the LTA.

 

Ms Goh said that when they called the LTA, an officer said the LTA was only required to post a notice in the government gazette as well as put up a letter of declaration at the site of the back lane to say it would be vested in the State.

 

The officer added that if no one raised any objections within a month, the LTA would take it as consent to proceed with the vesting of the lane.

 

The answer did not sit well with the Goh family.

 

‘Why didn’t the LTA inform us directly by sending us a letter? How much is the postage? Only 22 cents,’ said Ms Goh.

 

‘After all, they knew that our family had the title deed to the backlane.’

 

She said the LTA sent them a copy of the government gazette listing the back lanes that were vested during the exercise.

 

The Gohs’ back lane was on the list and the words ‘deed title’ written next to it.

 

This showed that the LTA knew her family held the title deed to the lane and should have contacted them, said Ms Goh.

 

The Gohs also insisted they did not see any letter of declaration near their back lane.

 

SEEK COMPENSATION

 

Ms Goh said: ‘We moved out about 10 years ago when everyone got married and started their own families.

 

‘But one of my brothers keeps items for his business in the house so he drops by almost every day.

 

She claimed: ‘He parks his car along the back lane and enters through the back door, but he did not see any notice pasted there.’

 

Ms Goh said the family has tried in vain to seek compensation from the LTA.

 

She said an LTA officer told them that there was ‘no commercial value to back lanes’.

 

But the Gohs pointed to a news article about a back lane off Jalan Bunga Raya in the Balestier area that was auctioned off on 10 Jan.

 

The article noted: ‘Knight Frank has indicated a price of about $750,000 to $800,000 for the back lane, which works out to $80 to $86 per square foot of potential gross floor area.’

 

A check by The New Paper found the Jalan Bunga Raya back lane eventually fetched $1.55m, or $465 per square foot.

 

In the Gohs’ case, the property developer was planning to put up a five-storey building on the site of their house and back lane.

 

The property agent told the family the developer had priced the back lane at more than $1,000 per square foot, the same as for the house.

 

Ms Goh said after they found out the back lane had been acquired by the Government, the property developer extended their option to sell in the hope that the family could work something out with the LTA.

 

The 1,660 sq ft house was finally sold for about $1.5m.

 

They didn’t want to reveal the exact amount.

 

She said the proceeds went to their mother who is in charge of disbursing the money.

 

LTA: Family won’t get compensation

 

A SPOKESMAN for LTA said the back lane was one of 206 lots vested island-wide from December 2006 to July last year under the Street Works Act.

 

A SPOKESMAN for LTA said the back lane was one of 206 lots vested island-wide from December 2006 to July last year under the Street Works Act.

 

Of the State-acquired lots, the spokesman said: ‘No compensation is payable for vesting of back lanes.’

 

The 261 sq ft lot owned by the Gohs had been set aside in 1937 as a back lane. This meant that before the Gohs bought the lane in 1950, it had become part of the Government’s ‘street reserves’.

 

The reserved land can be acquired by the State as and when it is needed for road improvement or construction, according to the LTA website.

 

The spokesman said the relevant authorities will not approve the building of any structure, like building extensions, on land that has been set aside but yet to be vested.

 

So, even if the Gohs still owned the back lane and had sold it to the property developer, the latter would not be able to build over it.

 

If a structure was built illegally, no compensation will be given for removing the structures if the land is vested. The spokesman said the back lanes were vested ‘in the interest of the public’.

 

Acquiring the back lanes ‘facilitates a more orderly and systematic maintenance. .. of these back lanes… by various public agencies’.

 

In a letter to the Gohs, the LTA said the working team had ‘exercised due diligence in the process of vesting’. The Gohs’ back lane was ‘not treated differently from the other cases’.

 

As per the Street Works Act, the LTA had posted a copy of the declaration together with a plan at the site of the Gohs’ back lane on 27 Mar 2007, said the spokesman. A month later, in the absence of any objections, the back lane was vested in the Government on 26 Apr 2007.

 

 

Source: The New Paper

Property tax raised twice in a year

Property tax raised twice in a year

 

IN SEPTEMBER last year, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) revised the annual value of our property and barely half a year later, it has once again revalued it upwards.

 

Is it fair for the Government to increase property tax twice within a year, especially when many people are struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising cost of living?

 

The pain is all the more unbearable for people who are retired and living on their savings.

 

This latest upward revision of the annual value of our property is all the more incomprehensible when recent press reports revealed that some newly launched developments are seeing a slide in prices.

 

Tan Wenfa

 

Source: Straits Times

Subletting illegally not right way to help

Subletting illegally not right way to help

 

I REFER to the letter by Ms Subha Rajaiya, ‘Don’t penalise desperate ones who sublet illegally’ (June 7).

 

HDB rental flats are heavily subsidised and meant as a last resort for low-income and needy families without other housing option. Illegal subletting of these flats is an abuse of government subsidies meant to help such households.

 

One rental flat that is illegally sublet means one less unit to house a needy family. Therefore, HDB takes a serious view on illegal subletting of its rental flats. We have stepped up enforcement since last year. Where there is clear evidence of abuse, we will not hesitate to recover the rental flat and re-allocate the unit to a family in genuine need.

 

We agree with Ms Rajaiya that government agencies and the community need to continue to work together to help the low income among us. But allowing a few to abuse and profiteer from rental flats allocated to them cannot be part of the solution.

 

Mike Chan

Deputy Director (Rental Housing)

For Director (Housing Administration)

Housing & Development Board

 

Source: Straits Times

Many still not aware of housing finance limits

Many still not aware of housing finance limits

 

I WOULD like to highlight an issue on housing finance in Singapore.

 

Through recent conversations, I realised that many of my friends who have bought Housing Board and/or private condominiums are not aware of the policies on the 100per cent Available Housing Withdrawal Limit (AHWL) and 120per cent to 150per cent cap on Central Provident Fund withdrawals if they bought a unit recently.

 

For example, my friend bought a unit for $300,000. After paying for it for 10years at $1,500 a month, he hit the 100per cent

 

AHWL at the halfway mark of a 20-year loan. Because he has insufficient Central Provident Fund (CPF) Minimum Sum, he has to put aside that $1,500 in cash from his monthly income, which requires a big adjustment.

 

If he had been more aware of the policies, he could have lowered his monthly instalments, lengthened his loan period, while saving up cash as early as possible.

 

Over the next few years, those who have reached the 100per cent AHWL and cannot use their CPF to pay, may not have enough cash to pay their instalments.

 

This is especially so for many who bought their flats in the late 1990s, since the ruling came into effect only in the mid-2000s.

 

Most people think they can depend on their CPF, and may not have enough cash savings or income to pay the instalments.

 

I hope the HDB and CPF Board can come together to organise programmes to create more public awareness about the issue, and also review their policies to allow owners to maximise their CPF before they hit the AHWL. This is so that home owners do not inadvertently have to depend on cash, while their CPF remains locked in.

 

Currently, owners get a notice letter only a year in advance, which may not be sufficient time for them to make the necessary adjustments, such as saving up, or even downgrading.

 

Ng Cheow Siang

 

 

Source: Straits Times

Don’t penalise desperate ones who sublet illegally

Don’t penalise desperate ones who sublet illegally

 

WITH a growing number of Singaporeans waiting to be allotted a rental flat from the Housing Board, it is good to know the HDB is taking steps to ensure those who abuse the system are caught and punished.

 

However, the article, ‘Tenants cashing in on rental flats’ (May 29), did not reflect other groups of tenants and unauthorised occupiers who run the risk of being caught for illegally subletting or occupying rental flats. In my work as a social worker, I have come across these groups and wish to bring to light their predicament.

 

Examples of tenants who sublet their units are:

 

·  Single elderly people who find public assistance money insufficient;

 

·  Elderly people who are unable to find employment; and

 

·  Elderly people who cannot depend on their children for monthly maintenance money.

 

It can be argued that there are assistance schemes in place to help these groups. However, the fact that some still resort to illegally subletting their homes indicates that the schemes do not address their actual needs and more needs to be done to reach out to them.

 

A number of unauthorised occupants also includes Singaporean families. These are predominantly families who: <P

 

·  Already face a debarment period, having sold their purchased flat, either because they were unable to settle their mortgage with the HDB or settle housing or renovation loans from the banks; or

 

·  Are on the wait list and have exhausted all other accommodation options.

 

What can be done to address the concerns of these groups without penalising them and pushing them down further when they are trying to stay afloat? What preventive measures need to be taken and how can government bodies work together to address these issues – which may indicate greater problems?

 

If the HDB acts alone, downstream the community- based agencies will have to pick up the pieces with those affected. Without policies in place, our remedial efforts may not be sufficient to assist these client groups.

 

Subha Rajaiya (Ms)

 

Source : Straits Times