The HDB has said in a reply to a Straits Times forum contributor that it does not use the term “tenant” to refer to those who have bought a flat.
But legal documents prove otherwise.
A Mr Larry Leong had written a letter to the ST forum asking why is he required to pay property tax when he is a “tenant”.
He said in his letter:
“While applying to rent out my HDB flat, I noticed that the Housing Board referred to me as a “tenant”, and my potential tenant as a “sub-tenant”. I have paid up my HDB flat fully, and the title deed has been left in the safe possession of the HDB who, it appears, is my landlord. Is that correct or should the wording of these documents be updated? If I am an HDB tenant, why am I required to pay property tax? Can we have some clarity on whether HDB dwellers are tenants or real home owners for 99 years?”
Responding to Leong’s letter, the HDB said:
“Purchasers of HDB flats are owners of their property. Flat owners enjoy rights to exclusive possession of the flat during the tenure of the flat lease. They can sell, let out, and renovate their flats, within the guidelines specified in the Lease and Housing and Development Act. The name of each HDB flat owner is reflected in the title deed, the original of which is kept with the Singapore Land Authority, as part of the central and comprehensive record for all properties in Singapore. This confirms his or her ownership of the property. We would like to clarify that HDB does not use the term “tenant” to refer to those who have bought a flat, as Mr Leong had mentioned. We use the term “tenant” to refer to those who rent public rental flats from HDB.”
But these documents by socio-political commentator Philip Ang show otherwise:
“HDB ‘owners’ should never have paid taxes on property belonging to the state in the first place. What the PAP has done is legally convert our status as ‘lessees’ to ‘owners’ at the stroke of a pen. On top of being forced to pay property tax, we are also required to contribute to a sinking fund for long-term maintenance of assets which continue to belong to the government. The government is the true owner of HDB flats and this is evidenced by its ability to suka suka amend HDB rules. If HDB flats really belong to us, there would be no need to notify HDB on renting out vacant rooms, working overseas, etc. Most Singaporeans have mistaken the little flexibility given by HDB as ownership.”
So are we HDB flat-owners really just long-term “tenants” or “owners”?
Or do both of these mean the same thing in the eyes of the HDB?