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Property agents fined for selling unoccupied BTO flats in violation of 5-year MOP rule

Two property agents face fines for advertising HDB flats in violation of the five-year minimum occupation period (MOP), as per the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).

In December 2022, unrenovated BTO flats, some never occupied, appeared for sale on property listing portals. A 5-room BTO flat in Yishun Street 51, left untouched for eight years, was listed at S$690,000 on Property Guru’s website.

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SINGAPORE: Two property agents have incurred fines for advertising Build-To-Order (BTO) flats that did not meet the required five-year minimum occupation period (MOP), according to the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).

CEA has stated that Ms Christina Au and Ms Isabelle Loo, both property agents, violated the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care by failing to adhere to the regulations governing Housing Board flats.

The code establishes the performance standards expected of estate agents and salespersons when conducting estate agency work and when interacting with clients and the general public.

As per the CEA website’s public register, both agents are affiliated with ERA Realty Network.

On January 18, Ms Au received a fine of S$1,000 and was censured for her involvement in the marketing of an HDB flat in Yishun Street 51.

Similarly, Ms Loo was fined S$500 and censured on Tuesday (10 Oct) for marketing a flat located at 110A Depot Road, based on disciplinary actions outlined in the public register of estate agents.

According to the CEA’s public register, Ms Au attempted to facilitate the resale of the HDB flat despite being aware that the sellers had not physically occupied the flat and had not met the required MOP.

This action constituted a breach of the provisions outlined in the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care as specified in the First Schedule of the Estate Agents (Estate Agency Work) Regulations 2010.

Meanwhile, Ms Loo marketed the Depot Road flat and conducted viewings for potential buyers, even though the owners were not eligible to sell the flat on the open market at the time.

This is because they had “not physically occupied the flat for the duration of the MOP”.

The Straits Times reported that CEA found no code violations for two other agents who marketed apparently vacant HDB flats in Bukit Batok East Avenue 6 and Henderson Road.

In December 2022,  several unrenovated BTO flats that appeared to have never been lived in were put up for sale on property listing portals.

According to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) website, flat buyers have to physically occupy their flats during the Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP), which is five years for BTO flats.

During the MOP, owners are not allowed to sell or rent out the whole flat or buy a private home. This applies to flats bought from HDB or on the resale market.

5-room Yishun BTO left vacant and unrenovated for 8 years put up for sale

At the time, a 5-room BTO flat at Block 505A Yishun Street 51 was reported to have its whole unit remain in its original condition for eight years before being listed at S$690,000 on the Property Guru website for sale.

Local media outlets also featured additional similar properties listed on the real estate website.

One listing showcased a three-room flat at 110A Depot Road, characterized by Ms Loo as “never occupied before, brand new,” and was priced at $650,000, despite being just over five years old.

Another listing presented a four-room unit at 292B Bukit Batok East Avenue 6, displaying photos of an empty kitchen and bedroom, as well as a toilet bowl wrapped in plastic. The listing described it as a “blank canvas,” and this unit, which reached its MOP in 2022, was available for $688,888.

A separate listing featured a three-room flat at 95A Henderson Road that appeared to have remained unaltered in terms of renovation, except for ceiling-installed lighting.

This property was listed at S$750,000, and a walkthrough video revealed a stash of spare tiles, provided by HDB for free to assist owners with their renovations, stored in the unit’s household shelter.

Minister Lee stresses owner-occupancy mandate for BTO flats During MOP period

The news prompted Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of National Development, to emphasize the requirement that a BTO flat must be owner-occupied for the entire MOP period.

“I was asked whether a family can buy an HDB BTO flat, not live in it or move into it for 5 years, and then sell it as “almost brand new” on the resale market.”

“The answer is no, “he wrote. He explained that If the owners are unable to fulfil the MOP, then the flat needs to be returned to HDB. HDB will then put up as a balance flat for other home buyers to apply for.

For the past 5 years, HDB took enforcement in 53 cases on non-occupancy during MOP period

HDB has taken enforcement action in 53 cases where flat owners did not occupy their units during the MOP between 2017 and November 2022.

Of these, 21 cases involved HDB taking back the flats, with the rest being issued fines or warnings.

It said it carries out about 500 inspections per month to detect violations of housing rules, such as illegal flat rentals.

Should it receive feedback on suspected cases of violations, such as flats being listed for sale without being occupied by their owners, investigations will be carried out.

If investigations show that the flat was not owner-occupied during the MOP, HDB may “compulsorily acquire” the flat, impose a financial penalty of up to S$50,000 or issue written warnings.

Flats that are compulsorily acquired by HDB under these circumstances will also be put up as sale of balance flats.

Under the Housing and Development Act, owners whose flats are compulsorily acquired by HDB will be debarred from buying a subsidised flat.

They will also not be allowed to take over a flat by changing the flat’s ownership and they cannot rent a public rental flat from HDB.

These individuals also cannot be included as occupiers in the application of such flats.

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HDB over paid fat cats have been sleeping on the job for far too long. Not only are these HDB flats selling below MOP taking place but jiu hu kia PR renting out their resale flats and living in jiu hu and locals renting out their entire unit eithier with the ‘lock one room’ concept or below MOP are far more. Just go to Caro-scam…err…i mean Carosell and you can see for yourself. Whole units renting out far below market rate is a dead hint of such things going on. Guess since if the true rental rate are far too… Read more »

Every empty HDB flat could have occupied by a family. Every empty flat is potentially a child never being born because a couple had to wait additional years for the inept ruling government to build another housing estate somewhere else.

All of these social costs will eventually manifest in the economy two or three decades from now. Whatever is left of Singapore’s reserves by then, it will never cover those costs. This is the reality that the 70% have voted for, time and time again.

HDB should take over managing of all the HDB properties.

Why prices still increase if they outsourced cleaning to banglas?

Why $2 Aim company can tender for town council maintenance?

Why invest town council fees in Lehman brothers? Why put our money at risks? What do you think?

Firstly, agents should not be involved in Public Housing. Secondly, the fines are too low as the agents conspired with the owners to deceive HDB. It can be taken as criminal intent. Thirdly, Public Housing should only be for living in and returned to HDB if the occupants decide to move out. HDB should have a valuer assess the renovation with a cap amount and the price should be ascertained with inflation added on. This method will ensure that HDB remains affordable and there will be no need to keep giving grants. The salary ceiling should be capped at $8000/-… Read more »

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