Couples who buy a flat under fiancé & fiancée scheme but break up have to surrender it to HDB

Some cases cited difficulties with going ahead with their marriage during the Covid-19 period.

Hannah Martens | March 21, 2023, 08:45 PM

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79 couples bought new flats from HDB but did not produce marriage certificates after six months in the last 10 years.

This was revealed by Second Minister for National Development, Indranee Rajah, in Parliament on March 21.

Fiancé-fiancée scheme

PAP Member of Parliament Gan Thiam Poh asked about the HDB fiancé-fiancée scheme in Parliament, where he asked how many HDB BTO applicants that were engaged over the past 10 years did not submit their marriage certificate when requested for verification after six months of collecting their keys.

In addition, he also asked how many applicants refused to surrender their flats when informed, which resulted in HDB taking recovery action, and how many have managed to find replacements who are eligible to join applicants to retain the flat as approved by HDB.

Indranee Rajah clarified that HDB flat owners who purchased a flat under the fiancé- fiancée scheme must produce a marriage certificate within three months of taking possession of the flat.

"The three-month period is generally sufficient as most couples would have ample time after the flat application to plan for their marriage," Indranee stated.

HDB may exercise flexibility due to unexpected circumstances

She also clarified that if couples require more time due to unexpected circumstances, HDB may grant a further three-month extension and exercise flexibility on a case-by-case basis.

HDB does not track the number of fiancé-fiancée flat applicants who submitted their marriage certificate after six months of taking possession of their flat, Indranee shared.

"Couples who do not intend to proceed with their marriage would have to surrender their flat to HDB, she said.

However, there are some cases where exceptions can be made where one of the applicants retains the flat with the inclusion of a family member originally listed in the application with the other party's agreement.

Compulsory acquisition

Owners who refuse to regularise the lease will face compulsory acquisition actions by HDB.

Indranee said that as of Dec. 31, 2022, 79 couples bought new flats from HDB under the fiancé-fiancée scheme in the last 10 years and took possession of their flats for more than six months but have yet to produce their marriage certificate.

Out of the 79 couples, HDB allowed three cases which allowed one of the applicants was able to retain the flat with the inclusion of a family member originally listed in the flat application.

HDB initiated compulsory acquisition against two of them. Another five couples have submitted applications to surrender their flats.

The remaining are recent cases that cited difficulties in proceeding with their marriage during the Covid-19 period.

"HDB will continue to work with the owners of the remaining outstanding cases to regularise the lease through the submission of marriage certificate, surrender of the flat or via compulsory acquisition actions," Indranee said.

Only exception to allow one party to retain the flat is with parents who were originally listed in the application

Member of the opposition Worker's Party, Jamus Lim, sought further clarification on why an original application member must be included for one party to retain the flat.

Indranee stated the fiancé and fiancée scheme is the "fundamental eligibility condition of the family nucleus to buy a flat". As such, when the couple breaks up, the retention of the flat is not allowed, and the flat must be surrendered to HDB.

"The only exception to allow one party to retain the flat is with parents who were originally listed in the application for purchase of the flat. And the retaining party, with his or her parents, would have qualified to buy the flat as a family nucleus, even without the couple's marriage," Indranee said.

Applicants not required to provide reason for non-selection of HDB flat when invited

Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that the stricter rules for the non-selection of new flats, that will kick in from the August 2023 Build-To-Order (BTO) Exercise, is a matter of fairness.

This is in response to a question posed in Parliament on March 21 by Yip Hon Weng, a PAP Member of Parliament (MP).

Yip asked why "40 per cent of Housing and Development Board (HDB) BTO applicants do not book a flat when invited to do so at selection exercises", and how the government determines the legitimacy of the reasons provided.

Yip also questioned if applicants must submit proof for failing to select a flat under the tightened BTO selection rules and what measures will be taken to exclude applicants who participate in the BTO exercise for "frivolous reasons".

Applicants do not need to provide or justify non-selection

Faishal clarified that BTO applicants are not required to give or justify their reasons to HDB for not choosing a flat when invited.

He cited common reasons for not booking the flat, namely their preferred units already being taken up, or they have decided to buy a resale flat, or they have changed their minds and would like to apply for flats in other sales exercises instead.

While he acknowledged that there are different reasons for non-selections, Faishal stated, "such applicants will crowd out the home buyers who may have more urgent needs".

As such, the tighter rules for non-selection will kick in from the August 2023 BTO Exercise, where first-time buyers who accumulate one non-selection count will be deemed second-timers for a year in the computer ballot.

Second-time buyers who accumulate one non-selection current will not be allowed to participate in BTO sales exercises for a year.

Faishal also said that to be fair to applicants with limited choices, HDB will not issue a non-selection count to applicants with 10 or fewer BTO flats or five or fewer Sale of Balance Flats to choose from.

"Where there are extenuating circumstances, HDB may exercise flexibility to waive the non-selection count. Each appeal is evaluated on its own merits, and applicants will need to provide documentary evidence to HDB to substantiate their case when necessary," he said.

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